Lockdown has been a pretty gruelling affair for almost all of us.
The ever-present fear of the virus, long periods of isolation for many, disruption to schools and colleges and the need to adjust to new working practices or being on furlough has taken a toll across the nation.
But for the millions of people who have been – and are – the victims of domestic abuse, being locked down with their abuser is almost unimaginably awful.
The National Domestic Abuse helpline, run by charity Refuge, says it saw a 25% increase in calls and online requests for help during the first lockdown nearly a year ago.
Behind each of those calls is a desperate story of individual pain. And if it is an issue which affects you, it is something that your employer should be able to offer help with.
Guidance from the CIPD – the chartered body representing HR and personal development specialists – calls on all employers to have policies in place to create a supportive workplace culture that encourages the recognition of health and well-being needs and supports employees to seek help.
A good employer will be able to recognise the problem, be able to spot the signs and ask open and empathetic questions to encourage you to discuss your difficulties if possible.
They will be able to respond appropriately – believing you and offering support – and agreeing with you what they should (and should not) tell your colleagues.
Importantly, you should also be able to discuss what the company should do if your abuser tries to contact you at work – whether on the phone or in person – and help keep a log of any incidents.
And you should also be able to agree a line of communication with them so that you can raise any new concerns – something which is particularly important whilst so many of us are working from home.
At the same time, information about professional support and helplines should be shared across the workplace so that all staff can find professional and specialised support should they need it.
And you should be able to turn to your HR department for external sources of trusted support. Examples include:
National Domestic Abuse Helpline
The National Domestic Abuse Helpline website provides guidance and support for potential victims, as well as those who are worried about friends and loved ones. They can also be called, for free and in confidence, 24 hours a day on 0808 2000 247. The website also has a form through which women can book a safe time for a call from the team.
Women’s Aid has provided additional advice specifically designed for the current coronavirus outbreak, including a live chat service.
Men’s Advice Line
The Men’s Advice Line is a confidential helpline for male victims of domestic abuse and those supporting them. It can be contacted on 0808 801 0327.
Galop - for members of the LGBT+ community
If you are concerned about how coronavirus may affect your finances and leave you vulnerable to economic abuse, please see the advice provided by HM Treasury on what support is on offer. The charity Surviving Economic Abuse has also provided additional guidance and support.
Hestia provides a free-to-download mobile app, Bright Sky, which provides support and information to anyone who may be in an abusive relationship or those concerned about someone they know.
Chayn provides online help and resources in a number of languages, ranging from identifying manipulative situations and how friends can support those being abused.
Support for professionals
SafeLives is providing guidance and support to professionals and those working in the domestic abuse sector, as well as additional advice for those at risk.
Support if you are worried about hurting someone
If you are worried about hurting the ones you love while staying at home, call the Respect Phoneline for support and help to manage your behaviour, 0808 8024040