Support lines for those who suffer from domestic abuse can feel difficult to maintain at the best of times, and the new constraints placed on the UK with lockdown during the Coronavirus pandemic will understandably make seeking help and support harder.
The risk of domestic abuse will be much higher during lockdown and here at Tees, we hope to reassure you that there are still ways to safeguard yourself and your children: You are not without help or support.
For an overview of domestic violence, please refer to our article: Domestic violence and controlling or coercive behaviour.
If you need urgent help
If you or your children are in immediate danger, first call the police – dial 999.
Once you have spoken with the police, consider seeking urgent legal advice on emergency applications for occupation and non-molestation orders (see further information below).
Freephone 24h National Domestic Abuse Helpline, run by Refuge on 0808 247 2000, or visit https://www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk/
Refuge shelters remain open.
Leaving the house in the current lock down
Priti Patel clarified on 29 March that victims of domestic abuse can leave the home to seek help during lockdown. “Whilst our advice is to stay at home, anyone who is at risk of, or experiencing, domestic abuse, is still able to leave and seek refuge. Refuges remain open, and the police will provide support to all individuals who are being abused –whether physically, emotionally, or otherwise.”
- For phone calls
It may seem difficult to have private conversations at the moment, especially if you are trapped in a house with your abuser. However, the relaxations of government restrictions in May and June have increased your opportunity to leave the home. Make sure that you make full use of this time, and take the moment of privacy to call others for help and support.
- If you are suffering or at risk of suffering domestic abuse
One of the exceptions to the old ‘Stay at Home’ rule was being able to leave the house where necessary to avoid or escape risk of injury or harm, and this remains the case with the new Stay Alert rules: This includes those suffering or at risk of suffering from domestic abuse. If you have someone else you can stay with during this time, we suggest that you make any necessary arrangements to move as soon as possible. If this is not practical or feasible, check whether your local refuge center is open and if it has capacity, as they may be able to offer immediate housing support.
Can I get someone removed from the house with the current restrictions?
You can still apply to the Court for urgent Non-Molestation and Occupation Orders.
Therefore, if you feel that you or your children are suffering or at risk of suffering significant harm if they are not removed from the household immediately, contact our specialist team who will advise you of your rights and prepare the necessary application to see you and your children are safe in your home.
Along with your and your children’s safety and welfare, the Court will also need to consider the risk of significant harm if an order is not made immediately, and the viable options in the circumstances for rehousing anyone needing to be removed from the home. Every case is different, and we can talk you through how we think the Court will view your case in your particular circumstances and the various options available to you.
How will this affect existing Non-Molestation or Occupation Order proceedings?
The Courts have advised that in most cases they will put the onus on the Respondent to apply to discharge or vary non-molestation orders, rather than set a return date. This will reduce the number of hearings, and communications between you and your abuser.
Service, in most cases, will have to be remote.
The Courts intend to make use of the police for contact and service, if necessary.
Occupation order applications will also have to be considered on a case by case basis, but a realistic approach will need to be taken on the viability of moving locations at this time, and the viability of excluding people from their home.
It is unlikely that trials will be able to proceed in person, but a minority that are trial-ready may do. Most Court cases are now held remotely, which means by video call or phone call.
Seeking advice and planning next steps
If you need to take urgent action to protect yourself and your children – call 999, leave the house if possible, and seek urgent legal advice about emergency non-molestation and occupation orders.
If you do not need to take urgent action, it is important that you take this time to prepare:
- Keep a diary of incidents of abuse – this will be useful should you seek legal action in the future
- Keep photos or other records of the abuse where possible
- Make sure you keep your GP informed, and seek advice and assistance with mental or physical health if needed. Most GPs will have a telephone contact number, and an out of hours service.
Finally, seek specialist legal advice. At Tees, our specialist team will be able to give you advice pertaining to your particular situation, and let you know what steps you need to take to position yourself for any necessary legal action.
What is domestic violence?
Domestic violence can include any incident of threating behaviour or violence and is a criminal offence. Types of domestic violence include:
- Physical abuse/violence
- Emotional abuse
- Financial abuse/control
- Psychological abuse
- Sexual abuse
What is controlling or coercive behaviour?
Controlling or coercive behaviour in intimate or familial relationships is a criminal offence, as is domestic violence. Examples of controlling or coercive behaviour can include acts of domestic violence, but also includes:
- Isolating a person from their friends or family, which could include preventing a person from contacting family online
- Depriving them of basic needs
- Monitoring their time
- Monitoring them via online communication tools
- Taking control over aspects of their everyday life
- Repeatedly putting them down
- Enforcing rules and activity which humiliates and degrades
Your abuser could be your current partner, former partner or someone else you know. Abuse can be directed against another adult or even a child. Children can suffer from abuse directly or indirectly if they witness, hear or experience the aftermath of the abuse.
What is an Occupation Order?
An occupation order is a type of order that the court can make that regulates who is entitled to live in a property
An occupation order can:
- Exclude someone from the home altogether,
- Restrict the right of someone to live in the home
- Regulate how the home is used – setting out who can use which parts of the home and when
- Define who is responsible to maintain the home
- Who should pay rent, mortgage instalments, other outgoings and bills
- Who is should keep the home and contents secure.
What is a Non-Molestation Order?
A non-molestation order prohibits someone from behaving in a certain way towards another person.
Each non-molestation order will be tailored to the individual circumstances. If you have applied for a non-molestation order it can:
- Forbid violence against you
- Under normal circumstances, prohibit someone coming within specified distance of you, your home or your place of work
- Prohibit someone from communicating with you, except through your solicitors