As we return to lockdown, many people face increased risk of domestic violence, cyberbullying and online harassment.
 
Organisations such as Women’s Aid, Refuge and Respect have raised concern about the impact of lockdown on those experiencing domestic abuse.  
 
Domestic abuse can affect anyone.  The UUK briefing on responding to domestic abuse during the covid-19 pandemic highlights that the extreme physical proximity and emotional strain of lockdown means that abusive behaviours, including physical and sexual violence, verbal abuse, coercion, threats and financial control between intimate partners or family members, may escalate.  
 
Abusive behaviours can also take place digitally, via abusive emails, texts or phone messages, as well as incidents of online harassment, such as cyberstalking, cyberbullying and image-based abuse such as ‘revenge pornography’
 
Despite the challenges of lockdown, domestic abuse and online harassment is never acceptable, in any situation, no matter what stresses someone is under.  We all have the right to feel safe wherever they are.  Staff and students, if affected by any of these issues, can still make a report to Queen Mary for investigation and can still access support services.
 
Accessing support
External specialist services
Specialist support services are still open and available for referrals.  Report + Support includes a directory of specialist services, for all of the issues highlighted in this article.

For specialist support for domestic violence, specifically:
  • The government has laid out Support for victims of domestic abuse and information on Domestic abuse: how to get help, which sets out how to recognise domestic abuse, report it, seek help, help a friend if they are being abused, get help from police and further support materials.
  • The Bright Sky app provides support and information to anyone who may be in an abusive relationship or those concerned about someone they know.  It offers a UK-wide directory of specialist domestic abuse support services with contact details and is available in English, Urdu, Punjabi and Polish.
  • Women’s aid have produced some useful safety information for anyone experiencing domestic violence. 
If you, or someone you know, needs help leaving an abusive environment
During lockdown, those experiencing domestic abuse are allowed to leave the home and seek help at refuges and should not be fined by police for travel under these circumstances.

Leaving an abusive environment can be dangerous - if you need to leave an abusive environment, please reach out to a specialist domestic violence organisation who can advise and support you to manage this safely.  You can find a directory of services near you at Women's Aid.  Men can also experience domestic violence and may wish to contact Mankind for confidential advice for men.
 
Women, men and their children travelling to refuge accommodation while coronavirus lockdown measures are in force can apply for free train travel through a partnership between train companies and Women’s Aid. Tickets can be accessed through the member services of Women’s Aid Federation of England, Welsh Women’s Aid, Scottish Women’s Aid and Imkaan (addressing violence against Black and minoritised women and girls), once an offer of a refuge place has been received. 
 
Making a report to the University
Although our work and study environments have had to change this year, Report + Support is still available to all staff and students.  Any reports will be processed as usual, and assigned to the relevant internal team at Queen Mary (HR for staff; Advice and Counselling and/or Academic Appeals, Complaints and Conduct team for students).  Telephone or Teams appointments will be available to anyone requesting contact from a staff member about their report.  The Advice and Counselling service are currently offering some face to face appointments for students.

Internal support at Queen Mary
Staff can still put in a report via Report + Support to request contact with an HR Partner to discuss their report, or may access the Employee Assistance Programme.
 
Students may put in a report via Report + Support to request contact with Advice and Counselling.
 
These services are also available to contact directly, for anyone who does not wish to submit a report.  
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