The clear advice of the government is to stay at home at this present time during the coronavirus pandemic, but what should you do if home is not a safe place? Sadly, home for many men, women and children can be a place where fear, violence and abuse prevail. In these scary and unprecedented times, we at SA Law remain here to help protect you and your children.
What is domestic abuse?
The government defines domestic abuse as “any incident of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of their gender or sexuality.” These are extremely broad categories that cover behaviours such as, but not limited to, psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional abuse.
It is often extremely difficult for an individual to recognise the behaviours of someone close to them as being abusive, to accept that those behaviours constitute domestic abuse and to find the strength to seek help.
I am a victim of domestic abuse, everything is closed, how can I get help?
Despite the impact of Covid-19 on our day to day lives, there are still plenty of support services available who can support you through this difficult time.
If you are looking for someone to speak to or emotional support or you just want a bit more information there are many domestic violence charities who remain open and who are able to assist such as women's aid or Herts Domestic Abuse Helpline or Man Kind . These charities often offer both a telephone helpline, email and webchat, which should allow you to seek support whilst in the home.
If you believe that your life is in imminent danger then please do call the police immediately on 999, or if it is not an emergency on 101. Domestic abuse is a criminal offence and the police are there to help protect you.
I can’t continue to live like this, what can I do?
When all the government advice is telling you to stay home, planning to leave can be incredibly daunting but there are options available to you:
- Go to a Refuge
Men, women and children can in some circumstances look to be housed in a refuge. This will be an unmarked property with a confidential address so that the abusive party cannot locate you. The Refuge will provide you with temporary housing until, with support, you are able to rehouse yourself and your children in safe accommodation. A Refuge can usually be located with the assistance of a specialist domestic abuse charity, like those listed above.
- Seek help from the Police
Domestic abuse is a criminal offence and the assistance of the police should be sought. If the police are able to charge the abusive party, then bail conditions can be put in place for a period of time to prevent them from contacting you or returning to your home. The police can also put in place Domestic Violence Protection Notices which last 48 hours and requires the abusive party to leave the home and not to contact you. These can be extended by 28 days by the magistrates who can grant a Domestic Violence Protection Order.
- Injunctions and Court Orders
The Family Court can grant you a Non Molestation Order and/or Occupation Order (see more below).
What are Non Molestation and Occupation Orders?
A Non Molestation Order is an injunctive order that can be obtained from the Family Court. The order is used to stop someone from pestering, attacking, threatening or harassing you or your children. The specific terms of the order can be catered to your individual situation and often can prohibit (among other things) the abusive party from perpetrating the abuse, contacting you or coming within a certain distance of you.
An Occupation Order can also be obtained from the Family Court, usually alongside a Non Molestation Order. An Occupation Order will state who can live in the home. Again, these are tailored to each specific situation and therefore can exclude the abusive party from the home or can put in place provisions for use of the home, should you both continue to reside there.
Both of these applications can be made to the court on an emergency basis and in certain circumstances, can be obtained without the knowledge of the abusive party. This is still possible despite COVID-19 and the courts at present will hear such applications, albeit in a remote way.
If you require further information or advice on either of these orders please do contact us. We remain open and here to help you.