Leaving home to escape abuse is not a breach of lockdown restrictions

Leaving home to escape abuse or violence is not a breach of lockdown restrictions, West Sussex County Council has confirmed.

Thursday, 21st January 2021, 5:29 pm
West Sussex County Council has highlighted the support available to anyone suffering from domestic violence or abuse

Residents are being reminded that they can still seek help and support if they are experiencing domestic abuse, even if it means leaving home.

For many living with domestic abuse, the pandemic has made life immeasurably harder, with increased risk, and reduced opportunities to seek help.

One domestic abuse victim explains the impact of the pandemic on her situation: “Him being home all the time has meant that there has been no break, every single day, he breaks me that bit more. My mental health is at rock bottom. I don’t know how much more I can take.”

Faye Mills May, Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse Community Safety Lead Officer at West Sussex County Council, said: “The lockdown restrictions can present additional challenges and risk to those experiencing domestic abuse. Many people will have been waiting for children to return to school in January, which would have given them the time and opportunity to get help and support.

“This further period of lockdown will mean reduced opportunities to reach out, whilst potentially spending greater time with their abuser, which is extremely frightening. If you are experiencing domestic abuse, lockdown restrictions do not apply if you need to flee or leave the house to access help. You are not alone.”

Duncan Crow, West Sussex County Council’s cabinet member for communities, added: “The government has made it very clear that escaping an abusive or violent situation is a reasonable excuse to leave your home during the lockdown. Whilst it is vital we all continue to follow the COVID-19 restrictions and stay home to keep West Sussex safe, for those experiencing domestic abuse, home will not be a safe environment at the moment. I would urge anyone living in a dangerous, abusive situation to seek help – please do not suffer in silence.”

Anyone who believes they are experiencing domestic abuse, or is worried about a friend, neighbour or family member should contact West Sussex County Council’s WORTH service by calling 0330 222 8181 or emailing [email protected] You will speak to a trained adviser who can find out more about your situation and the best way of offering support.

In an emergency, please call 999. If you are unable to speak, cough or tap the headset, you will be prompted to press 55 to signify that you need help, this will put you though to the police

Residents can also seek help from local pharmacies which have remained open during the lockdown.

The Home Office has launched the ANI (Action Need Immediately) scheme which provides a discreet way for anyone experiencing domestic abuse to signal they need emergency help.

Anyone can use the codeword ANI in participating pharmacies (including all Boots stores and participating independent pharmacies) to let staff know that they require an emergency police response or help contacting a helpline or specialist support service.

Participating pharmacies will display posters in their window and around the pharmacy to let customers know that they can approach their staff to seek help. Any information shared will be treated confidentially.

The member of staff will ask you to accompany them to the consultation room. They will then check whether you are in danger and want the police to be called. If so, the staff member will offer the use of a phone to dial 999 or make the call on your behalf.

If you are not in an emergency situation, the staff member will support you to contact a national domestic abuse helpline or local support service. They may also contact the police via 101.

For more information, visit: www.westsussex.gov.uk/da