Violence against women remains a major global public health and women’s health threat during emergencies.

We had to postpone our workshop on Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls scheduled for 1 April due to the Covid-19 pandemic – we hope to run the event in some form soon.

How COVID-19 can exacerbate risks of violence for women:

Stress, the disruption of social and protective networks, and decreased access to services all can exacerbate the risk of violence for women.
• As distancing measures are put in place and people are encouraged to stay at home, the risk of intimate partner violence is likely to increase. For example:
– The likelihood that women in an abusive relationship and their children will be exposed to violence is dramatically increased, as family members spend more time in close contact and families cope with additional stress and potential economic or job losses.
– Women may have less contact with family and friends who may provide support and protection from violence.
Women bear the brunt of increased care work during this pandemic. School closures further exacerbate this burden and place more stress on them.
The disruption of livelihoods and ability to earn a living, including for women (many of whom are informal wage workers), will decrease access to basic needs and services, increasing stress on families, with the potential to exacerbate conflicts and violence. As resources become more scarce, women may be at greater risk for experiencing economic abuse.
– Perpetrators of abuse may use restrictions due to COVID-19 to exercise power and control over their partners to further reduce access to services, help and psychosocial support from both formal and informal networks.
– Perpetrators may also restrict access to necessary items such as soap and hand sanitizer.
– Perpetrators may exert control by spreading misinformation about the disease and stigmatize partners.
Access to vital sexual and reproductive health services, including for women subjected to violence, will likely become more limited.
• Other services, such as hotlines, crisis centers, shelters, legal aid, and protection services may also be scaled back, further reducing access to the few sources of help that women in abusive relationships might have.

(Source: World Health Organization)

The impact of Covid-19 on families experiencing domestic abuse in Milton Keynes

We are already seeing the government’s advice on self or household isolation is having impact on women, men and children experiencing domestic abuse. Home is not likely to be a safe place for survivors of domestic abuse. Social distancing and self-isolation are being used as a tool of coercive and controlling behaviour by perpetrators and are shutting down routes to safety and support.

Guardian: Lockdowns around the world bring rise in domestic violence
The Canary: The Covid-19 crisis is killing women. But it’s not the virus doing it.

The risks of violence that women and their children their face during the current COVID-19 crisis cannot be ignored.

Domestic abuse victims are allowed to leave home to seek help at refuges despite rules to stop coronavirus spreading, the home secretary has said.

“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,” she added.”

Things to look out for that may indicate domestic abuse:

  • Injuries without explanation (normally people will volunteer an explanation)
  • Injuries which are minimised or concealed
  • A partner who is unwilling to allow a client to be alone with professionals
  • A client who appears passive and dominated by their partner
  • Anxiety, depression and being withdrawn, particularly if this is not usual for the patient or client

Please read our Domestic Abuse Guidance for what to do if you suspect domestic abuse: A quick guide for professionals who don’t work in domestic violence services

I’m being abused – what shall I do?

MK Act is a charity in Milton Keynes which works with over 100 families’ everyday to help them move on from fear and abuse. We have been providing safe emergency accommodation in Milton Keynes for women and their children escaping domestic violence for over 40 years.

For support or to discuss your options, our team of staff and volunteers continue to work and are covering all our phone numbers and email boxes which are listed below as normal so please phone/contact us between office hours of 9am-5pm.

If you need to speak to someone out of these hours you can ring the: National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247

If you are in immediate danger, you should dial 999.

How can I help?

Following Government advice the MK Act team is now working remotely but very much open for business supporting those who experience Domestic Abuse. Because of this, they are currently no longer able to accept food or toiletries.

At this difficult time, they are now appealing for money for our Last Resort Fund, instead if donations of items. The money will be used for:

  • £5 buys someone who is suffering from domestic violence a new sim card so they can keep themselves safe and call for help. Some of the people we work with have never had access to their own phone before
  • £10 buys soap, hand sanitizer, paracetamol and cleaning products to help a family in the fight against COVID 19
  • £35 pays for a family to flee their home where they are experiencing domestic violence and takes them to the refuge
  • £50 buys emergency food for a family fleeing domestic abuse to be delivered at this time through online deliveries
  • £60 pays for an emergency hotel room for families in danger
  • Our Last Resort Fund is currently very low and we do not have the funds that are needed to keep up with the demand.
  • If you are able to donate any amount it would make a huge difference to allowing us to get help to families in Milton Keynes who are suffering from domestic abuse.

Sign the petitions to support those at risk:

Please support those at risk by adding your signature to the petition endorsing the Womens Equality Party’s open letter to the Prime Minister.

Also see the petition on Change. org: Domestic Violence & Covid-19: The UK government must act now to save lives.

If you, or someone you know, have been affected by domestic abuse or violence, these organisations will be able to help.

This information will continue to be updated. If you or your organisation are working in this field or in your community please get in touch with us.

MK Act Helpline: 0344 375 4307 Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm

Sexual Assault & Abuse Support Service (SAASS): Helpline: 01296 719772

National domestic violence helpline – 0808 2000 247, 24 hours
The freephone 24 hour national domestic violence helpline, run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge, is a national service for women experiencing domestic violence, their family, friends, colleagues and others calling on their behalf. The helpline is staffed 24 hours a day by fully trained female workers and volunteers. All calls are completely confidential. The service offers translation facilities for callers whose first language is not English, and a service for callers who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Men’s advice line – 0808 801 0327, Mon-Fri 9am-5pm
A freephone confidential helpline for men experiencing domestic violence from a partner or ex-partner, or from other family members.