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Lockdown pressures have seen abuse torments resurface

Wednesday, August 12th, 2020 2:59pm

By Eddie Bisknell, Local Democracy Reporter @EddieBisk

The past torments and psychological damage caused by abusive relationships have resurfaced for many women across Derbyshire due to the pressures of lockdown, a charity has said.

Vicky Bee, chief executive of Crossroads Derbyshire, says 50 per cent more women than usual approached the charity for support during lockdown.

She says many women felt trapped due to lockdown conditions and unable to flee their abuser – even for a brief respite.

Alongside this, she says, women who have previously successfully left abusive relationships have seen issues such as depression, PTSD, self-harm and suicidal thoughts return due to the isolation and anxiety of lockdown.

At the start of lockdown, Ms Bee told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the pandemic presented the “perfect storm” for domestic abuse, with victims trapped with their abusers.

This week she said: “It has been a busy few months for our staff, busier than ever before.

“Our refuge until three or four weeks ago was full for the entire period of lockdown so we didn’t have any bed space left, so there really wasn’t anywhere for women in Derbyshire to come for refuge for the majority of lockdown.

“That has eased off now and there are some spaces in refuges locally but for a long time that just wasn’t the case. Women who were willing to move on could not because of lockdown because housing offices were shut and they couldn’t rent anywhere.

“It has been a very tough few months through until the end of July.”

Crossroads Derbyshire runs a refuge for women aged 16 to 24 and their children.

It enables them to escape domestic abuse, forced marriages or even gang behaviour.

The charity has helped 100 women with this refuge since 2013.

Ms Bee said: “In terms of abuse, we have seen a real change because while we haven’t got the pressure of appointments, the courts aren’t really operating as normal and we haven’t got face-to-face appointments and everything is being done remotely.

“For some of our clients it has been a really intense period of time with the difficulty of being at home with an abusive relationship and with schools not open there is no access there for support for them either. When schools reopen we are hoping to work with them to provide support.
“We have got a big backlog of work as a service and that is a big concern.

“Our staff have been amazing and have gone above and beyond and we are supporting people the best we can.

“Fortunately we have not had to struggle financially, we have benefited from government grants and have recruited a number of new staff to bring down our huge waiting list. We are very lucky to be well supported financially. People have held fundraisers and donated masks, personal protective equipment and even furniture, we have been bowled over by the support of the community.

“While we see a lot of the darker side of it all we have also seen a lot of the light, people have really thought of victims of domestic abuse during this period and they are often forgotten in the good times, but these are not the good times.

“Sometimes there are immediate risks that are more urgent than coronavirus that we have had to deal with.

“Physical abuse never happens without some level of coercive control and psychological abuse and often that happens on its own and can be some of the worst abuse.

“Somewhere around 80 per cent of our clients seek mental health support from us after they have left their abusive relationship. This can be depression, anxiety, PTSD and sometimes clients have more long-term conditions too, particularly those who stay in our refuge, such as self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

“It is a huge problem and takes quite a lot longer to recover from rather than with any physical injuries.

“As a service we offer counselling to our clients and we are seeing so many problems, particularly with children being affected by domestic abuse in their homes which can be something that becomes a lifelong after effect.

“There are also fewer sessions available in the NHS for adults with mental health concerns and it can often take clients a few sessions to truly open up about the problems they are facing.

“People trapped in abusive relationships can often turn to coping mechanisms such as drink or drugs.

“Through lockdown all the escapes and things people do to relieve their stress and mental health were gone. People would have gone to see friends or go away or to the gym and haven’t been able to do it.

“For people living in abusive relationships there isn’t much of an escape and people who have left abusive relationships, whose mental health may have been up and down anyway, have seen their mental health deteriorate through this period.

“I don’t think this is an issue exclusive to those suffering domestic abuse but if you don’t have those support networks around you once you have fled from abuse, you can suffer more.

“We know that because our staff have had their own mental health issues who are all working remotely and are hearing about a huge amount of trauma every day from clients.

“People are finding it really tough.

“A lot of our clients are single parents and have been financially struggling during lockdown. Not all of them but a huge number are and we have spent time during lockdown working with foodbanks to make deliveries to our clients.

“We have also worked with High Peak Borough Council to get extra funding for extra locks and for security cameras for some of our clients because when you are at home and on your own and can’t have anyone over to help and are worried somebody is going to come to the door – there was a real fear that police wouldn’t come – and we put those in as deterrents to help our clients.

“When you know there is someone out there and trying to find you, you feel very vulnerable.”

If you’re experiencing domestic abuse or know someone who is, call 08000 198 668 and you’ll get help from someone close by.

You can also email the support line and give a number you can be contacted safely at derbyshiredahelpline@actionorg.uk

If you’re deaf or hearing impaired, text the Derbyshire Domestic Abuse Support Line on 07557 800313. Emergency SMS – text: 999.

For the National Domestic Violence 24-hour help line tel: 0808 2000 247.

Non-emergencies can be reported to the police via Facebook or Twitter, including the 101 service. If there is a threat of harm call 999.


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