This is a challenging time and we know that victim-survivors of domestic abuse will be concerned about their physical safety, as well as their economic well-being.
Social distancing and isolation measures (such as working from home) necessary to control the spread of the virus may, inadvertently, reinforce the power that an abusive partner holds. We know that 95% of domestic abuse victims experience economic abuse and that the current context will provide abusers with more opportunities to control/exploit/sabotage their partner’s economic resources, thereby further curtailing their freedom and choices. For instance, an abuser may interfere with their partner’s ability to work from home by refusing to share childcare, or preventing them from accessing the equipment they need, such as a laptop or phone. They might also use the current uncertainty to suggest that their partner ‘cuts back’ on heating, food and other essentials.
Not only will it be harder to stay socially connected with others, but the challenges linked with reaching out for help may seem even greater. For many victim-survivors of domestic abuse, work might be the only space in which they feel safe. These new restrictions may also shut down other routes to safety and support. The financial repercussions may be devastating for those who are already experiencing economic abuse and may represent new barriers to leaving and being able to access the resources (such as accommodation and an income) needed to leave an abusive partner and live independently. Since economic abuse commonly occurs alongside other forms of abuse, many victim-survivors will inevitably experience more harm as a result.
The Government has announced a Coronavirus Bill which will cover five key areas, including “supporting people”. We are pleased to see that economic well-being is addressed within these measures, including access to sick pay and mortgage holidays. At the same time, the government needs to recognise the specific needs of victim-survivors of domestic abuse as a fundamental priority, understanding that economic stability underpins immediate and long-term safety, and ensuring they have access to life-saving services, including refuges and community based support across the UK.
Meanwhile, Surviving Economic Abuse (SEA) has developed and is sharing information on what support is available to safeguard economic well-being. We are working with our partners to develop our understanding over time and will use this to regularly update the information we are sharing.
If you, or someone you know, are experiencing abuse, please visit our resources page: www.survivingeconomicabuse/resources. This includes a section specific to the COVID-19 Outbreak.
**SEA does not provide direct support or advice to victims. However, if you are experiencing economic abuse within the context of domestic abuse or are supporting someone who is in that situation, immediate help is available. Contact the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247 or the Men’s Advice Line on 0808 801 0327. If you are in immediate danger, call the police on 999.