6th May 2020   •   article
The Coronavirus lockdown is making life harder for Asians in abusive relationships too

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There have been numerous reports that due to the COVID-19 lockdowns, domestic violence is on the increase. How are South Asians affected by it?

Meena Kumari is the founder and director of H.O.P.E. Training & Consultancy and delivered training on issues including domestic abuse, forced marriages & FGM since 2009. Mindy Mahil is a police officer from West Midlands.

I asked them some questions.

What kind of cases are currently being reported in the South Asian Community?

Meena: Women who are in coercive and controlling relationships are being subjected to even more isolation due to the lock down. We also need to consider children who are at home. Men can also be subjected to domestic abuse and some may not report due to feeling shame. Unfortunately, if language barriers are an issue or if they live in extended families, this may prohibit some reaching out for help. Campaign groups such as Southall Black Sisters and Compassion in Politics have written to hotel chains asking them to open up rooms to those fleeing abuse, including domestic abuse and sexual violence."

Mindy: "We have had a couple of reports in the last month, victims being in UK but being threatened to be taken abroad once lockdown is over."

What are some common signs of domestic abuse during this time for people to look out for?

Mindy: "If victims are stuck in houses with the perpetrators it will be difficult for them to make phone calls and use social media. Non-contact from them is a sign of abuse happening. A safety plan would be a good idea in these circumstances. A simple password or a silent call or message with no text."

Meena: "You may not hear from a certain friend via FT, Zoom, Skype as much; you may see their demenour change through social media; they may send you a text message with some subtle signs they are feeling low. If you are a neighbour and you hear excessive screaming, shouting, children crying these all may be signs."

What advice would you give to somebody on how to help a suspected domestic violence case?

Freephone: 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline number – 0808 2000 247 – run by Refuge
nationaldahelpline.org.uk website for friends and family.
In an emergency I would always say call 999.
If it’s not an emergency and you’d prefer to stay anonymous, call crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 (100% anonymously).
If you are on a marriage visa and there is domestic abuse you can access specialist support. If you are a YP or adult concerned about being forced to marry you can contact the Forced Marriage Unit, police and Karma Nirvana.

Mindy: "Give them emergency contact details. Arrange a safety plan with them and agree an action plan if they seek help."

What do you think would stop abusers from abusing?

Family counselling is dangerous we do not suggest this for DA perpetrators. There are national and local domestic abuse perpetrator programs that people can access for further information on this check out the RESPECT helpline. Also we have domestic violence protection orders (DVPOs) and domestic violence disclosure scheme (Claires Law) , forced marriage protection orders and female genital mutilation protection orders available in the UK.

Mindy: "This is a very difficult issue. There are many underlying issues such as alcohol, drugs, mental health, peer group pressure, cultural practices etc. Awareness is important and alcohol/drugs courses already exist. In my opinion education is key."

The responses have been edited for clarity and brevity. You can contact Meena Kumari on Twitter.

Now, victims of domestic abuse will be able to access safe spaces at Boots pharmacies, where they can get help with domestic abuse services. Click here to read more.
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Mita is a newspaper columnist, Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapist, Acupuncturist and expert in other healing techniques.
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