This week marked National Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week, and at Reclaim the Campus we dedicated our social media channels to sharing information and UK-based resources on the topic. We chose to focus on domestic violence. This has increased during lockdown, leaving survivors even more isolated with fewer opportunities to access support services. Below we’ve summarised what we shared and hope that it may help some of you.
It’s never ok, it’s not your fault and we believe you.
By sharing the signs of abuse, we hope to raise awareness of the different forms it can take, ranging from coercion and emotional torment to rape. Women's Aid lists detailed examples of these behaviours, including insults to your appearance, jealous accusations of flirting and controlling behaviour such as tracking your movements and personal accounts/information. We understand that during this time, it is even more important to share information and support for survivors of sexual violence and assault, as people are cut off from their usual support systems.
The Shadow Pandemic
With the UK being asked to stay at home, the coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on domestic violence. National lockdowns and tier restrictions have meant that survivors may have no other choice but to remain within an abusive household, unable to seek refuge from their partners. Police statistics illustrate the severity of this, with a 9% increase in domestic violence offences from April - June 2020 compared to the previous year. This only scratches the surface of the issue and speaks volumes for the incidents that are unreported.
Whilst all aspects of life have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a worrying theme emerging in data regarding violence against women. This has been apparent through the increase in calls to domestic violence helplines, particularly over the Christmas period, as charity First Light reported. The impact of coronavirus has created a ‘shadow pandemic’, restricting the support and services that are accessible to survivors.
In December 2020, the UK government responded to the growing number of domestic violence cases, and concerns raised by charities such as Refuge and the National Domestic Abuse helpline by creating the Ask for ANI scheme. Survivors can ask for “ANI” (Action Needed Immediately) at a pharmacy to alert staff that they require discreet help. The staff member will be able to offer a private space to discuss the help that is available, including domestic violence helplines and the police. The government is asking every pharmacy to sign up to the programme and access the resources available on the Government website, including training toolkits and posters to display. This is a way of giving survivors a lifeline in such challenging restrictions. With the number of incidents of domestic violence increasing every year, it is clear that the government must continue to address the issue of domestic violence beyond the pandemic.
During this week, we felt it necessary to document what we saw from UK universities and how they have addressed the event, if they have at all. An example of good practice we found was by Nottingham Trent University, using both their website and social media accounts to publish information and support regarding sexual violence, including events they were hosting such as talks and self defence classes and wearing an item of denim clothing to show solidarity to survivors. We feel it is important to mention examples of good practice such as this, as many other universities fell silent during this time. We urge universities to address this sexual violence awareness week. Universities emphasising what student support services they have available should be the bare minimum at a time like this.
Websites and helplines:
Helplines for male survivors:
For male survivors of domestic violence:
The ManKind initiative has a confidential helpline: 01823 334224
Find more information and resources at https://www.mankind.org.uk/
For male survivors of sexual violence:
Survivors UK runs a live chat from 12pm-8pm and they offer support by SMS, if you text 020 3322 1860.
Find more information at https://www.survivorsuk.org/
Please note that the following information is taken directly from the Women’s Aid website:
Silent Solution: When you call 999, the operator (the person on the phone) will ask which emergency service is required. Listen to the questions from the 999 operator. If you cannot say ‘police’ or ‘ambulance’, respond by coughing or tapping the handset if you can. If prompted, press 55 on your phone. This lets the 999 call operator know it’s an emergency and that you aren’t safe to speak.
Advice for someone concerned about a friend/family member who may be in an abusive relationship: https://www.firstlight.org.uk/for-someone-else/
Women’s Aid: live chat service and help by email email@example.com
Safe online browsing: https://www.womensaid.org.uk/cover-your-tracks-online/
Specialist lesbian, gay, bixsexual and trangender (LGBT) support:
Galop: 0800 999 5428 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Specialist ‘by and for’ support for Black and minoritised women:
Imkaan’s Directory of Services.
Southall Black Sisters Helpline: A national helpline for Black and minoritised women and migrant women, including women with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF): 0208 571 9595 – Monday to Friday 9:00 am to 5:00 pm / Online outreach advice surgery – every Wednesday 10am-12pm
Latin American Women’s Right’s Service – Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0771 928 1714 (Monday to Thursday 10 AM – 1 PM)/ 0759 597 0580 (Monday to Friday 10 AM -1 PM) / email@example.com
Specialist support for Deaf and disabled survivors:
Sign Health: Supports d/Deaf people experiencing domestic abuse, including a pilot online support project –
Call 020 3947 2601 / (Text or WhatsApp/Facetime) 07970 350366 firstname.lastname@example.org
Stay Safe East: Supports d/Deaf and disabled people experiencing domestic abuse and hate crime (London only) email@example.com