We are in the privileged position that we are able to work directly with Asian women affected by domestic abuse and feel that it is really important that we are able to advocate for them and share the themes and experiences that families are having to deal with. At present this is even more crucial as the true extent of the impact of lockdown is yet to be seen. We are running all services remotely during the covid -19 pandemic and are speaking directly to clients about the challenges they face day to day.

Please see below for a summary statement from our Director, Catherine Skinner, about some of the experiences of our clients during covid-19 and our response to the rise in domestic abuse reported by many charities.

Statement in full:

Maa Shanti supports single Asian mothers who are fleeing domestic abuse. We provide advocacy, emotional support, signposting and activities that reduce isolation, promote peer support and enable women to access opportunities for themselves and their children. We are running services during the covid-19 pandemic remotely. We would like to share some of the experiences of our clients and their families during this critical time and respond to the increase in cases of domestic abuse during the current crisis. 

The Prime Minister recently noted during a coronavirus briefing that the increases in domestic abuse may be due to increased “tensions at home”. The experiences of our clients tell us that this narrative over-simplifies and misunderstands the dynamics of domestic abuse. Domestic abuse is not just about violence. Current approaches in law and society focus on the need to reduce risk from violence. The aim being that if women and children can be made safe from physical harm, and risk is therefore reduced, that the work is done. Risk assessments and legal interventions are often about the physical presence of a perpetrator and the onus is often on the “victim” to find strategies to make herself and her children safe. To be clear; domestic abuse is a gendered crime where the majority of victims are women and perpetrators male.*1) In fact, domestic abuse does not end when a family is forced to leave their home, school and community. In reality we know that risk increases at the point of separation.*2) We also know that women can end up in refuges or other accommodation including temporary social accommodation in new areas miles from their friends and support networks. 

However, even if the perpetrator does not stalk the family which in many cases he will *3), the perpetrator does not stop being father to his children, nor do his parents cease to be grandparents. The debts that have been taken out in a woman’s name don’t go away because she has moved away. The trauma that women and children have experienced due to the relentless coercive control in their home doesn’t disappear overnight. Even when families have reached a situation when they are assessed to be safe, they are still dealing with the impact of financial, emotional, psychological, sexual and physical abuse. They may have poor credit, PTSD, difficulty sleeping, poor relationships with their children, anxiety and depression, just as a few examples. 

The message however, that women, particularly women from BAMER backgrounds, receive is that there are others who are more in need than they are. There is always someone more deserving, waiting longer on the housing list, more at risk, more unwell. The response to poor mental health, overcrowded accommodation, poor employment prospects or even uncertain immigration status is to just put up with it. Even when our clients and their families do everything that they are asked for by authorities or agencies, they still feel that there is someone else more deserving. At present the challenges women already face, are even more acute. Our clients tell us that in addition to their financial worries, constant anxiety and trauma, they are also unable to access devices for home learning, have trouble applying for school meal vouchers, need to use foodbanks, must deal with the perpetrator trying to gain access to children and in some cases attempting to gain access to the family home as they have become unemployed during lockdown. 

In 2018 171 women were murdered by their partner or ex-partner, that equates to 3 a week. 14 women and two children were murdered between 23rd March and 12th April 2020.*4) However, the numbers are likely to be much higher as these are only cases where the perpetrator was immediately identified. There is also no data on women who have killed themselves as a result of domestic abuse since lockdown.*5) Nor is there any data on the prevalence of honour-based violence*6) or forced marriage*7) during this time. 

There is a clear focus on homicide by the media. There is little interest in the numbers of domestic abuse cases which is estimated to be far higher than the numbers reported which before the lockdown was 100 calls a minute to the police.*8) The prevalence of domestic abuse was previously estimated at 1 in 4 over a lifetime.*9)  Now it is likely that there will be increases much higher, which could impact on families for a generation. Those affected by domestic abuse are not “those families” they are our families, our friends, our neighbours. We have to act, and we have to act now. 

We would therefore urge the government, local authorities, MPs and all agencies supporting domestic abuse cases to:

  • acknowledge that domestic abuse which was previously a significant, social and public health issue, has now become a global crisis,
  • support agencies working at the frontline with women and their families beyond the immediate crisis point, 
  • engage with the real-life experiences of living with domestic abuse 
  • and respond by funding and supporting all agencies working with domestic abuse clients to help families now – before it is too late. 

When the names of women and children are included in the shameful list of those who have needlessly and avoidably lost their lives, the system has let them down in the most horrific way. We are asking for urgent action now.

*1) Women were around twice as likely to have experienced domestic abuse than men (7.9% compared with 4.2%). This equates to an estimated 1.3 million female victims and 695,000 male victims. ONS 2018/CSEW; 1% of male victims (of homicide) aged 16 years or over were killed by their partner or ex-partner (seven homicides). Year ending March 2018; Men were most likely to be killed by a stranger, with over one in three (35%, 166 victims) killed by a stranger in the year ending March 2018; Most female homicide victims were killed by a partner or ex-partner with males most likely to be killed by a stranger England and Wales, year ending March 2018

*2) Women, Danger, and Criminology (From Women, Crime, and Criminal Justice: Original Feminist Readings, P 13-26, 2001, Claire Renzetti and Lynne Goodstein, eds. — See NCJ-197570) Stanko, 2001

*3) SRP – Stalking Risk profile Paul Mullen, Michele Pathé and Rosemary Purcell , 2009

*4) Coronavirus doesn’t cause men’s violence against women, Karen Ingala-Smith, 15th April 2020

*5) The numbers of women who commit suicide as a result of domestic violence are unknown but it is estimated that 3 women a week take their own lives. Refuge, 2019

*6) Current numbers before lockdown are unknown, however, UK Police Force Reported 11,744 HBV crimes recorded between 2010 and 2014

*7) Between 2011 and 2017 Forced Marriage Unit supported an average of 1,338 cases per year; Forced Marriage Unit Statistics 2018