While pre-COVID, two women a week in the UK were murdered by their partner or ex-partner on average, this particular statistic escalated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recorded data in the first three weeks of lockdown in the UK revealed that 16 domestic abuse killings of women and children took place. In addition, global data suggests that reported domestic abuse (DA) incidents went up by almost 20 per cent during the same time frame.
In fact, such is the enormity of this problem, that the UK government is planning to implement the Domestic Abuse Bill in 2020. It will create a statutory definition of domestic abuse, emphasising that domestic abuse is not just physical violence, but can also be emotional, coercive or controlling, and economic abuse.
We invited Christiane Sanderson, senior lecturer in Psychology at the University of Roehampton, and the author of Sexual Violence and Domestic Abuse as well as Counselling Survivors of Domestic Abuse, to conduct an online seminar that considers the extent to which the stress of lockdown and lack of accessible help has contributed to promoting coercive and controlling behaviour, as well as physical violence. During this online course, which is now available as a video recording, we looked at the range of power and control dynamics that are used to control partners in intimate relationships– and reviewed how the severity of these dynamics increased during the COVID outbreak. The aim was to enhance our understanding of DA, its impact and long-term effects on survivors. The seminar discussed the spectrum of DA, including the dynamics of control and coercion in emotional abuse through to physical and sexual violence; and the role of shame and humiliation that silences those who are being domestically abused.
Specifically, the seminar considered:
- The nature and dynamics of DA, such as the role of charm and enticement, the use of control and coercion, the cycle of abuse, the nature of thought blindness that facilitates the trauma bond and the role of silence, secrecy and shame
- The intergenerational transmission of DA through attachment and relational deficits
- The characteristics of male and female perpetrators
- The impact and long-term effects of DA on partners and children
- Obstacles to leaving an abusive relationship
- The importance of developing safety plans when leaving
- The need for safety and multi-agency collaboration
- The need for longer term therapy using a trauma informed practice model when working with survivors of DA
More details of this online seminar, which is now a video recorded course, can be found here