Monday, 23 March 2020

Coronavirus: Why "Stay Home" Is Not a Safe Option for Everyone

The author has asked to remain anonymous.

At this time of nation-wide uncertainty, many of us are preparing to spend the foreseeable future isolated at home with our families, hoping to make the best of the situation surrounded by those we care about.

However, isolating at home can be a frightening prospect for those members of our community who do not feel safe at home. This includes people living with a loved one suffering from addictions such as drugs or alcohol, and those subjected to domestic violence. I have lived with an addicted partner and know first-hand how this impacted my quality of life, as well as that of his children. Anger and frustration used to lead to domestic violence issues worsening if he could not obtain what he wanted or persuade me to get things for him immediately.

Families are advised to isolate, and with good reason, but does this leave our vulnerable neighbours less likely to be taken in by those who are “socially distancing” from the rest of the community? I was extremely lucky during the time I was going through this. Despite pushing people close to me away, I am forever grateful to the friends and neighbours whose doors I could and did knock on – sometimes at all hours of the night – if I needed somewhere safe to hide. I worry this may not be available for others when we are all in lock down.

I also had the option of hiding in cafes and pubs if I didn’t want to disturb anyone. At times I would wander the streets or 24-hour shops to give myself time to think. I used to visit a local casino and pretend I was playing on the screen machines. I really didn’t have the money to play but took advantage of the free hot drink and sandwich that was available, when I had no financial means to buy basic things like food. These options are less available to people going through this now.

The coronavirus is clearly a threat to us all, but to those seeking safety from a violent partner, the threat is very much more real at those moments when they may need to flee the danger quickly. Will they, and possibly their children, have somewhere to go on the spur of the moment? These situations often occur suddenly without time for planning.

Uncertainty about jobs means there is also less opportunity to save money in order to plan to leave or get a break from the home situation by being at work. The same applies to children now that schools are closed. People at risk may also feel less able to reach out for help and support for fear of burdening the emergency services at a time when they are already struggling to cope with increased demand.

There have been suggestions of prisoners being released early from prison. This may shorten the period of separation and “relief” a partner may be relying on, either to provide valuable headspace or to facilitate plans to leave the relationship.

Maybe not everyone we see out in the streets is deliberately defying the government social distancing advice, and it’s easy for us to judge them without knowing their story. As we prepare to spend quality family time together, please spare a thought for those unfortunate enough to not have a safe place to call home.

Useful Links

SODA: Survivors of Domestic Abuse.

Gov UK: Find out how to get help if you or someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse.

NHS: Domestic violence or abuse can happen to anyone. Find out how to recognise the signs and where to get help.

Women’s Aid: Information and support on domestic abuse.

Women’s Aid: Violence against women and girls (VAWG) sector statement on COVID-19

A message from CHILDLINE about support during the coronavirus outbreak

 

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