As lockdown measures continue, for some members of the community the mounting pressure of staying largely at home can be dangerous.
Domestic abuse victims across North Yorkshire face an extra risk factor at being isolated with controlling or violent partners for longer.
North Yorkshire County Council is urging anyone who needs support – either for themselves or their friends and families – to contact The Independent Domestic Abuse Service (IDAS) as a first port of call.
IDAS is a local organisation with resources to help anyone in need – from video calls to emailing.
It is the largest domestic abuse service in Yorkshire and during the pandemic, has worked quickly to adapt to changing circumstances resulting from the spread of Covid-19.
Staff in North Yorkshire have been working around the clock to support people at risk and victims of abuse during this extremely challenging period.
This includes Charlotte (name changed), a Domestic Abuse Practitioner working in Hambleton.
During the coronavirus outbreak, the challenges have been to try and continue to deliver a safe and productive support service to clients in the community. So much of our role is about face to face interaction; the benefits of which are multiple. Face to face contact allows us to read body language and develop trust.
Adapting to the restrictions of the lockdown has been a learning curve. Telephone support can feel very intense and requires a different skill set, which can take time to develop. Our helpline works this way with success but face to face contact helps us to establish a strong working relationship for longer-term work.
We have adapted by using various platforms to help facilitate our services including WhatsApp and Zoom which are proving to be successful. I have introduced ‘coffee morning chats’ with a couple of clients who agreed to link in to support in this way. The sessions have enabled them to discuss general ‘lockdown’ issues including how to keep the children pro-active, and the ongoing issues with court proceedings.
We are also planning to begin a new virtual support group based on our ‘Moving On from Domestic Abuse’ (MODA) group in the next couple of weeks.
I hope this will continue once we all go back to ‘normal’ as connection with my colleagues has never been stronger.
Despite the challenges, we have adapted and continue to offer a high standard of support. When we can return to offering face to face appointments we will also be equipped with additional skills and support options for anyone affected by domestic abuse.
Sarah Hill, Chief Executive of IDAS, has warned of the risks of people being isolated with abusive partners as lockdown measures extend further.
We are really worried about the risks of people being isolated with abusive people whose behaviour may escalate due to increasing uncertainty, pressure on finances and cramped conditions.
Many people who face controlling, violent or abusive behaviour from a partner or family member are likely to be feeling very scared about being isolated with them for long periods of time.
We want them to know that there is support available. Over the next few months, we will work creatively and flexibly to provide vital services in very difficult circumstances.
We are immensely proud of our teams who are pulling together during this difficult time to ensure that there is a way for people to get help.
If you are facing isolation with an abusive person, IDAS offer some safety planning advice on their website. In addition, you could consider the following:
- Get a spare phone and store emergency contact numbers in it and hide it in a safe place or with a trusted person
- Keep your ID documents, emergency funds, bank cards and children’s birth certificates to hand
- Speak to your neighbours and ask them to ring the police if they hear or see anything
- Set up safe words with friends so they know to call for help on your behalf
- Plan to check in with people regularly so that they can raise the alarm if they don’t hear from you
- Plan to escape to the garden or to a room that you can exit from easily if abusive behaviour escalates
- Avoid rooms where there could be weapons if the abusive behaviour escalates
Family and friends can also help the person by:
- Check in with them regularly, if it is safe to do so
- Ask if there is anything that you can look out for that might indicate they need help
- Set up a safe word to indicate that help is needed
- Call the Police if you hear or see anything that could indicate a potential risk
- Look at the safety planning advice on our website
IDAS offers further support for victims in the form of online video sessions, calls, WhatsApp messaging, online chats and email.
Neil Irving, Assistant Director for Policies, Partnerships and Communities, said:
During this pandemic we are working closely with specialist support services within the county, the Police and health colleagues to ensure that everyone who is experiencing domestic abuse can access support and help when they need it.
We ask people to reach out for support so they can be given help to plan for their safety and be supported to a safe place if required.
IDAS is available on