Chayn, a global volunteer network that addresses gender-based violence has started an online trauma support group to help people experiencing abuse during self-isolation.
The support group is available on Telegram, a secure messaging app, where survivors can get the support they can no longer get in person.
Rosie Maguire, originally from Stockport and on the Executive Team at Chayn, expressed her concerns for people being forced to stay home with an abuser.
“We know from working with survivors that when those experiencing abuse have less freedom, space, resources and support to remove themselves from the situation, they are more at risk.
“Everyone working in the frontline – from women’s organisations to the police – are concerned there will be an increase.
“In Manchester, there have already been reports of domestic abuse linked to the outbreak, although police are not yet reporting the rates of increase.”
Greater Manchester’s deputy mayor for policing and crime says authorities are preparing for serious incidents during lockdown.
Baroness Beverley Hughes speaking after a regional COVID-19 emergency committee meeting said: “I think we are beginning to see a rise in domestic abuse incidents.
“We anticipated this might happen in the very stressful circumstances for many families.” There has already been increases around the world.
In Cyprus, calls to a domestic violence helpline has risen by 30% between the first coronavirus case on March 9 and March 17.
In Ohio local advocates and local police agencies are seeing a similar increase in the number of calls regarding domestic violence.
Domestic violence cases have also climbed in Israel and crisis provision such as shelters are expected to be full within days.
In China statistics from an anti-domestic violence nonprofit said 90% of the causes of violence are related to the COVID-19 epidemic.
Chayn’s Telegram group will be available for anyone, anywhere who is able to understand English.
As they get more users – and hopefully more support with resources – they hope to create channels for more specific communities, to reflect their different needs.
With lockdowns, we know how tough it is to feel trapped & unsafe. We’re here to share tools, tips & comforting words to make the next few months easier. Chayn’s run by volunteers. Many of us are survivors. Join our daily support group here: https://t.co/APjxbkgCYx #covid19
— Chayn (@ChaynHQ) March 15, 2020
People being stalked can also be at an increased risk because their location is fixed and they may be anxious their stalker will find their address.
If someone is worried that they are being stalked, the first thing Chayn recommends is contacting National Stalking Helpline or the police if they are in immediate danger.
One way Chayn helps is by offering an online guide which contains step-by-step instructions on how to assess risks and take action.
Rosie Maguire said: “We developed our DIY online safety guide years ago and it continues to be one of our most popular resources.”
‘HOLDING THE PERPETRATOR RESPONSIBLE’
During these tough times people who are still healing from abuse or sexual trauma may not be able to attend their trauma group or therapy.
They might feel like their recovery will stall or that they don’t have the right coping mechanisms to work through this period.
Chayn’s trauma support group aims to be there for survivors during this difficult period of isolation, particularly when other services may not be able to run as usual.
Rosie Maguire said: “It won’t replace a therapist, but it will offer support in understanding the anatomy of abusive relationships, develop skills to build their own self-esteem and change attitudes away from blaming the survivor to holding the perpetrator responsible.”
Whilst COVID-19 is undoubtedly putting more people at risk, domestic abuse is prevalent in most societies around the world.
In Manchester, the number of domestic abuse related crimes reported to the GMP has dramatically increased over the past five years.
The current situation is making people realise the challenges people face in acute situations, but the risk is always there.
Rosie Maguire said: “We know that there is always demand – both in the UK and other countries – for online support as statutory and other services are cut back and overwhelmed, or vulnerable groups don’t feel safe to access them.
“So our plan, as always, is to create resources that can be there for survivors, as and when they need them.”
Chayn ask everyone to be mindful of their friends, family and neighbours, and to use their Good Friend Guide to learn how to be supportive without putting either person at more risk.
Anyone who needs support can download Telegram from the App or Play store and then follow this link to join the group.
Chayn, which means ‘solace’ in Urdu, the official language of Pakistan, was started in 2013 by Manchester resident Hera Hussain.
Chayn started after she helped two friends escape abusive marriages and experienced significant challenges in finding basic information like their rights and how to cope with trauma.
She thought if she could just put together critical information in easy language online, it could change lives and solve real problems.