Jewish Women’s Aid said this week that it was offering safety advice “tailored” to women and children who may be experiencing the lockdown with a domestic abuser.
The charity has echoed the dread of others working in the field, with JWA chief executive Naomi Dickson saying: “Our main concern is that lockdown could cause abusive behaviour to get worse.”
She said: “Women are scared of being trapped at home with the person abusing them. They want clarification and more support about what to do in this situation. We are offering tailored safety advice and reassurance, but are very concerned about how these measures will impact our clients, who are already very vulnerable.”
Dickson said the domestic abuse sector was “expecting a surge in demand” and that the charity was “preparing for that” as JWA client services manager Karen Lewis said caseworkers were already receiving calls “specifically as a result of self- and household-isolation”.
Lewis said: “Now that shuls and schools have closed, an abuser will be in the house more, and children will witness abuse more frequently.
“In cases where the abuser is no longer in the home, they might refuse to return the children to their mother, falsely citing lockdown. There are lots of ways for an abusive man to take well-intentioned measures meant to keep us all safe, and misuse them to coerce and control a woman.”
JWA services, including its domestic abuse and sexual violence helplines, continue to operate, as does its domestic abuse service, counselling and children’s therapy, while the charity said it was accelerating development of its web chat service.
This will “give women affected by self-isolation the option of communicating with JWA in a less detectable way than speaking on the phone”.
JWA said it was also organising financial support for clients to help them with the additional cost of Pesach, adding: “Our children’s therapists are continuing phone calls with the children they are supporting and we have provided the children with notebooks and other resources to help them to continue therapeutic activities”.
The organisation has applied for funding to offer laptops for children so they can access home schooling resources, but had to cancel its annual dinner in June.