Here are some suggestions from SafeLives specialising in domestic abuse, about how to keep yourself safe during the coming weeks. There are also many services still offering specialist support during lockdown.
We know that if you are experiencing or have experienced domestic abuse you may be worried about the increase in frequency or severity of the harm you are experiencing while you are expected to spend extended period of time at home with the person who is harming you will. We want to let you know that you are not alone.
You are a survivor who has learnt and developed the skills and knowledge to keep yourself and your family safe. Below, there are some suggestions that might be helpful for you but remember that you are the expert in your own situation, so only take the advice that you think it is safe and helpful for you. Your own safety is of paramount importance at all times.
Advice during the self-isolation period
Self-isolation means only leaving the house for essential reasons. Unfortunately, this means you and the person harming you could end up spending more time together in the same space.
Can you get support from family, friends or neighbours? – Maybe through video chat, text messages, calls… In case you can find some privacy when the person who is harming you cannot monitor you. Do you have any code words to let your family or friends know that you are in danger or need? Or to let them know it is safe to talk? Can you set up with someone you trust specific times to call you to check on how you are doing? Ideally this should be someone that the person who is harming you considers to be ‘safe’ for you to talk to, so they are not suspicious while you are on the phone to them.
Are you looking after yourself? Are you taking care of your basic hygiene? This includes eating healthy, showering, sleeping, exercising…
Can you take advantage of opportunities to leave the house? Even through the lockdown period, people are still allowed to go out for medical appointments, to buy food and to exercise once a day. Can you take this opportunity to reach out for help? For example to go to the nearest pharmacy/supermarket/GP surgery/police station and explain that you need help?
Safety planning during the lockdown
Think about how things have changed due to the coronavirus. Maybe the person harming you stays at home more, monitors your behaviour more often, has increased control over money…
It is ok to tell your specialist worker that the person harming you is living in the property with you, they will not judge you and can better help you think about your safety.
Are there any professionals you trust and can talk to? Your GP, health visitor, counsellor, support worker?
Do you have a supportive employer? Can you talk to them about what is happening?
If you can, download phone apps which will help you. The Brightsky app (click here for the link to the Bright Sky app) will help you find services and the Hollie Guard app turns your smartphone into a personal safety device.
How has the abuse changed during the lockdown? For example, does it happen more often? Is it more severe?
This might help you think about times when things might be calmer.
What are your main concerns and worries? What are you afraid of? Is it further violence or control?
Is the person harming you threatening you to pass the virus onto you? This might be particularly worrying if you are part of a vulnerable population. To check if you are, please click here for the NHS Inform website with relevant information.
Will the person who is harming you be out of work or working from home? If they lose their employment, is this likely to make the abuse worse?
Will your family income change? How could this affect things?
Does the person harming you use drugs and/or alcohol? How could their use change and what could this mean?
Do you know what your options are if you want to leave? Or what your options are if you want to stay but want the person harming you to leave?
Do you know how they might respond to self-isolation? Think about whether this might increase the sexual violence/ coercive control/ physical abuse.
Do you think there is spyware on your IT? Any listening devices? Cameras in the home? How will this change the way you might get help? There is a lot of information online about how to identify software on your phone or computer that might be used to spy on you. Please only check these links if it is safe to do so. You might want to consider erasing your browser history after using those links to cover your tracks.
- Click here to find out how to check your mobile phone for spyware.
- Click here to find out how to tell if your computer is being monitored.
- Not sure how to clear your browser history?
- Click here to find out how to clear your browser history on Google Chrome
- Click here to find out how to clear your browser history on Mozilla Firefox
- Click here to find out how to clear your browser history on Internet Explorer
- Click here to find out how to clear your browser history on iPhone
- Click here to find out how to clear your browser history on Android phones
Here you can find some safety plan suggestions:
Do you have any safe places you can go if you need to leave? Consider a trusted friend or relative’s home or a homeless shelter?
If you had to leave in an emergency do you know where you would go and how would you get there? Can you drive or use public transport? Is there anyone who can transport you there? Remember many shops/restaurants/pubs will be shut.
If someone you trust is doing your shopping for you could you write a message on the shopping list asking for help?
Have a bag packed and ready and if you can, leave this at a trusted friend/family/ neighbour’s home, or a secret location in your own property:
This should contain medical essentials, important documents including passports/driving license. Maybe if you are in touch with a service they could keep copies of these documents-to do this you would need to make sure that the service is operational and able to offer you face-to-face support.
Have a code word/sign to signal you are in danger – set this up for family and friends to let them know by text/FaceTime/skype. The code will need to alert them to contact the police if you are in danger, and it should be something that would not raise suspicion, for example ‘Happy birthday’ or ‘I need a haircut’.
Teach the code to children who are old enough to understand what you are asking of them and why. You might also want to explain to them what 999 is for and how to use it. Make sure that children are mature and old enough to understand that this number is only for emergencies and not to tell the person who is harming you about this conversation.
Have a little bit of money hidden away in case you need this to leave.
Is there a separate, secret mobile phone which you can use just to call for help? Are you able to obtain one?
If there are times you know you can talk, share this with your specialist worker and agree how you will reach each other. You might want to establish a code word with your worker as well, so that they know you are the person calling or texting-this is just in case the person harming you takes control of your phone. Keep this code word secret and invisible to the person who is harming you.
Use the fact that there are no online shopping slots available to go to the shop and speak to someone.
Now would be a good time to consider whether there is someone else you could move in with e.g. a vulnerable family member who will need your support. Consider that you will be self-isolating for long periods.
Silent calls to police – dial 999 – then 55 if you can’t talk.
Do you have children?
The person harming you may use child contact to further control and abuse you. If you have court orders in place which are not being followed please contact your solicitor or the police to enforce them.
If you have children living between two family homes this counts as ‘essential travel’ according to the Scottish Government.
The Scottish Courts have guidance on child contact orders.