Protecting women from domestic abuse

The Merseyside Community Rehabilitation Company has implemented a range of measures to help protect women from domestic abuse during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Services across the United Kingdom have reported a rise in domestic abuse. The National Domestic Abuse Hotline has reported an increase in demand and the medical journal The Lancet has also references an “impending crisis of domestic violence” because of “movement restrictions, loss of income, isolation, overcrowding, and stress and anxiety, all of which put women and children at a disproportionally increased risk of harm”.

The Merseyside Community Rehabilitation Company (M CRC) supervises men convicted of domestic abuse but also works with victims via the service’s Partner Link Worker project.

Partner Link Workers (PLW) ensure that victims feel safe throughout the offender’s period on probation by speaking with victims on a regular basis and ensuring their fears are addressed. In Merseyside the PLW currently supports in the region of 70 female victims.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, M CRC sent 589 letters to women the service had worked with during the last two-years to check on their safety. The letters also included information about foodbanks and agencies that can provide a range of support with issues ranging from drug misuse through to finances and wellbeing.

John Quick, Director of Operations at M CRC, said: “Across the country professionals working to support victims of domestic abuse have reported a worrying increase in attacks and we therefore wanted to move quickly to do everything we could to support women who we thought could be at risk.

“The PLW role is such an important aspect of the services M CRC delivers and as part of the response to COVID-19 the team has played an invaluable role in protecting vulnerable people.”

Ordinarily once a man is sentenced for domestic abuse related offences the PLW meets the female victim at their house to introduce themselves and describe the service.

Trish Haselden, PLW, said: “Responses to our letters have ranged from identifying women who urgently needed police protection through to supporting women who desperately need food to help them make ends meet.

“In some instances, women are having to self-isolate with violent men. It is a hugely difficult time, but by working together with our service users, the police and other charities we can provide a range of measures to keep people safe.”

In one case a woman’s ex-partner’s alcohol consumption had escalated and while drunk he was sending her threatening messages and saying he would visit her house – thereby breaching his restraining order.

John Quick, Director of Operations at M CRC, said: “Our PLW immediately contacted the police. We were still supervising the offender and started breach proceedings because the behaviour she described showed that he had broken the terms of his licence.

“The police placed a ‘treat as urgent’ marker on the woman’s property, her home was made secure and emotional support services made available to her.

“This proactive approach makes a massive difference because it stops things from escalating and provides an extra layer of protection.”

M CRC has also created a domestic abuse checklist for victims so probation can identify at the earliest opportunity when dangerous behaviour starts to occur so that appropriate action can be taken.

John Quick, Director of Operations at M CRC, added: “I am proud of the services my team is carrying out during this challenging time to safeguard vulnerable people in our community.”