Domestic abuse victims ‘trapped in a living hell’ during coronavirus lockdown

Domestic abuse victims ‘trapped in a living hell’ during coronavirus lockdown

In a series of horrifying accounts, women revealed their violent ex-partners have “hunted” them down during the lockdown, used their children as weapons to create fear and exploited their anxiety and isolation during the lockdown. Experts warned that the most dangerous times for women in abusive relationships are when they first leave their partners or threaten to leave.

Victims’ Commissioner Dame Vera Baird told this newspaper: “We anticipate a tsunami of reports when victims are freed from lockdown, having experienced an intolerable concentration of abuse over weeks and realising that they cannot live their lives like that forever.

“The Government must not be caught lacking when lockdown ends.”

Fiona, not her real name, in her mid twenties from east London, said she had been in a relationship with her ex for almost a decade.

They didn’t have any children together, but she endured brutal beatings during the relationship.

She said: “I know people will judge me reading this but everyone craves love whether you want to admit it or not. I just happen to have chosen badly.

“Lockdown has placed me in isolation and has allowed my ex to torment me even though we are no longer living together.

“I have had to call the police three times since going into lockdown and because I feel as if I am going mad because I feel trapped in a living hell.

“My ex found me through mutual friends the first time, so now I barely speak to anyone.

“He then located me on social media so I don’t post my pictures or anything that can identify me anymore. I feel like I am the one who is being hunted whilst my abuser is laughing.

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Dame Vera

Dame Vera anticipates a ‘tsunami of reports’ of abuse (Image: GETTY)

“There is nothing in the community at present and I know they say you can ring the charities but I have tried so many times. Some days I have been able to get through and leave my details, but then no one will ring me back.”

Jennifer, not her real name, in her 40s and from London, divorced her husband just before the lockdown after suffering a decade of cruelty.

She said the abuse at first was “subtle”, with her partner blaming many of the arguments on her, before it escalated into physical violence.

She said: “Since lockdown things between my ex husband and I were getting tense.

“The divorce was only recently finalised and I had agreed to let him see the children, although I had a bad feeling about it.

“He knew my hours of work and the children were still able to go to school because I am a key worker.

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Abuse victims

Victims are feared to have experienced intolerable abuse since lockdown (Image: GETTY)

“During my shift on the first Monday of lockdown, I got a telephone call from the school to say that their father had removed the children due to my abuse.

“My hands were shaking and obviously my mind was exploding with fear.

“My ex had threatened many times to take the children and that I would never see them again, getting back at me for daring to leave him and telling everyone about the abuse, but I never thought he would actually do it.

“I was allowed to leave work and I drove home. I was crazy with fear.”

Jennifer’s ex had told police she had been abusing the children “and actually got them to say that they didn’t love me and I was mean to them.”

After nine distressing days in lockdown, police and social services dropped their investigations into the malicious allegations.

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Dame Vera Baird

Dame Vera Baird warned there has not been a rise in abuse calls (Image: GETTY)

She told the Daily Express: “Everything seemed to be moving so slow.

“The police were only telling me that my children were alive.

“The day I finally made up my mind to leave my husband, even though I was always imagining it, was after another argument, where the children were once again caught between us.

“I think we were arguing about money, I think I had bought something without passing it by him first.

“He was shouting and prodding me and my eldest was shouting at him to stop hitting mummy.

“I hadn’t even realised that he was hitting me, which sounds ridiculous now. It was my child saying it that shocked me.”

Calls to the National Domestic Abuse helpline rose by 49 per cent and killings have doubled since restrictions on public life were introduced.

Refuges providing sanctuary to victims of domestic violence are running out of space, with many full or effectively closed amid an “epidemic inside this pandemic”, Dame Vera told MPs this week.

Sandra, not her real name, 25 from Birmingham, fled to a refuge over a month ago after enduring seven years of abuse.

She said: “My second was just turning 6 months and I could see what was happening in China and seriously wondered how I would cope if I went into lockdown with my ex.

“There is no doubt in my mind that one of us would have ended up dead.

“I started to think about what I would do, where I would go with the children and how I would survive for the first couple of days.

“I couldn’t stay with my mum as he would simply come and get us.

“I am very scared and am desperate to go home. I know that victims return to their abusers and I really don’t want too, but I can see how it feels easier to.

“I don’t know what is going to happen to me, but I know there is a possibility that I could lose my children and they could be taken into care if I don’t stay away from my ex.

“But staying away from my ex means staying away from my mum.

“I’m being made to feel as if I am in the wrong rather than him.”

Victim’s Commissioner Dame Vera Baird warned that while reports of domestic abuse to police are increasing, they are not mirroring the surge in calls to domestic abuse charities and services.

She added: “Victims are even worried that they may be turned out on the street and catch the virus or that they will get in trouble with the police for going out at all.

“Usual bolt-holes and support networks are no longer available as people are prohibited from visiting families and friends.”

Lawyer Paula Rhone-Adrien told the Daily Express: “Those suffering know and the research confirms, that threatening to leave your abusive partner or in the recent days and weeks after you leave, is the most dangerous time for a sufferer.

Domestic abuse

ational Domestic Abuse helpline calls have risen by 49 per cent (Image: GETTY)

“I am currently in contact with a number of sufferers who are in lockdown with their abusive partners.

“They are all very scared, knowing that the statistic of 2 women killed by their abusive partner each week has more than doubled since lockdown commenced.

“However, they are too scared to leave, believing that the safety net simply won’t catch them and I cannot be certain that it will.

“So I tell these women to prepare themselves mentally, to understand that they are not on their own and that when the restrictions are lifted, to be ready.

“To their family members who no longer see them and to the neighbours who hear and or who have a suspicion I say, when the sufferer is ready to leave, just be there to catch them.”

Published at Thu, 07 May 2020 15:42:00 +0000