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What can we do if we are concerned about family or friends living with domestic abuse?

I have continued to consider the plight of those living with domestic abuse in these difficult times and I remain extremely concerned for the risks that they might be facing whilst self- isolating. I guess we all have a responsibility to try to be aware of those who may be under threat of harm and to offer whatever support we can, even though we can’t meet with them face to face.

If we have any concerns about family members or friends, what action can we take? I think just being there and available to have a conversation about any worries they may have is really relevant. In my professional experience, many of those experiencing abuse or coercive behaviour directed towards them, may tend to minimise or downplay what they are undergoing. As a friend or family member who is speaking to someone they are concerned for, try to recognise any signals that they may be trying to justify a partner’s unacceptable behaviour, remain curious whilst trying not to exacerbate any defensive responses – I fully accept that this is not easy to do, but a listening empathetic ear will be just what they need. Maybe encourage them to start reflecting on what is going on in the relationship and wonder if they feel it’s acceptable.

If there are concerns that someone is at extreme risk of harm and that person for whatever reason has not or cannot inform the police, then don’t be afraid of making a call to the police yourself; 999 if it is an emergency or 101 for some professional advice to see if further steps are necessary and if so, what they might be.

Other ways that you might offer support is to advise that if the person feels unsafe in any way, they could maybe have a small bag packed and hidden somewhere in which there could be some cash and passport(s) as a form of ID, just in case they needed to leave home quickly. The Government has said that the rules of self-isolation do not apply if someone feels in danger, so if they have to leave their home to get to a place of safety, that is perfectly acceptable. Another way to offer help to someone who is feeling at risk is to suggest they send to a blank text if they feel danger is imminent, you can then contact the police on their behalf to go to their aid. You can also do the same if they ring you and don’t/can’t speak.

There is advice and guidance available from the Government on the internet: Coronavirus (COVID-19): support for victims of domestic abuse

Please do read it if you are someone who is experiencing domestic abuse or direct anyone to this website who you feel may benefit from seeing the information stored there.

Brethertons LLP have very experienced lawyers with a wealth of knowledge around power and control issues in relationships, if you would like some confidential, professional advice please contact the family team today.