Blog: Supporting domestic abuse victims during lockdown
Published: 4 Jun 2020
Since lockdown began, I have been offering free mentoring online for young women who are suffering from domestic violence, through my abuse prevention social enterprise Living Liberté.
"The current situation and my experiences in mentoring have further confirmed to me the desperate need that our country has for the provision of relationship education opportunities." - Helen Victoria, Fellow
Through Living Liberté I share a safe, confidential space for victims to release some of the pressure they’re under. I do this via e-mail and secure online messaging, while also offering signposting to further support organisations. I have found that primarily each of these women seek only to be listened to, without judgement. They want to be heard and to feel validated in difficult circumstances, as we all do.
I recently had a conversation with a young woman trapped in an abusive situation in her home. She had spent her morning tiptoeing around her home, for fear of waking her partner. She had to tell her three-year-old that he must only play with toys that wouldn’t make noise. She told me they are running out of food, but she daren’t ask him to go to the supermarket in case he loses his temper. This is the daily reality for many of the women I am currently supporting.
Every young woman who I am mentoring feels trapped and unable to leave. In some cases, these women feel they would be a burden to their friends and family if they reached out for help. They are acutely aware of the difficulties caused by the pandemic and don’t feel able to seek emergency help during this time. For others, they have been entirely isolated by their abusive partner and getting in touch with loved ones is no longer even an option.
During the pandemic crisis we are facing, domestic violence is more prevalent than ever. The cases of recorded relationship violence have spiked since national lockdown in the UK began. Lifeline support services are battling to cope with the sharp rise in the numbers of victims seeking help and are struggling with a critical lack of funding. As a relationship educator and abuse survivor, I personally and professionally recognise the impact of an abusive situation.
I deeply believe in the power that education can have in preventing future domestic violence. My work focuses on informing young people about the risks of abuse and teaching them the skills we all need to form healthy relationships. I share blog articles and downloadable resources on the Living Liberté website which can be used as educational tools for young people.
Living Liberté is the social enterprise founded by Helen that empowers young women who are suffering from domestic absue
Recently I spoke with The Huffington Post about the risks that come with lockdown for abuse victims, and the risks to victims once lockdown restrictions are lifted. The heightened threat is not just physical. Coercive control and emotional violence are extremely impactful on mental wellbeing and these can lead to a wide range of trauma-induced mental health issues. At the age of 23, I was highly suicidal as a result of the domestic violence I suffered for 8 years with my previous partner. I was eventually able to leave and recover. Many are not so fortunate.
In 2020 I was incredibly honoured to be offered a Churchill Fellowship. I will travel to New Zealand and America, to learn from the global leaders of relationship education. New York’s OneLove has paved the way in pop-up relationship education workshops in USA high schools and colleges, while New Zealand's curriculum-based programme Mates and Dates has embraced abuse prevention as a standard element of secondary schooling.
I look forward to learning more from each of these pioneering programmes and discovering innovative ways that relationship education can be introduced in the UK, as soon as it is safe to do so. Much of my work is currently delivered through online resources and digital products. I would love to be able to expand my impact by creating educational workshops and live online training sessions in the future.
The current situation and my experiences in mentoring have further confirmed to me the desperate need that our country has for the provision of relationship education opportunities. I am motivated by the knowledge that future cases of abuse might be avoided if relationship education was possible, and I am dedicated to continuing to do all I can to make that happen.