The National Board of Catholic Women (NBCW) has welcomed Bishop John Sherrington's statement on domestic abuse following reports of a sharp rise in requests for help during the Coronavirus pandemic lockdown.
Following last week's announcement from domestic abuse charity Refuge that the National Domestic Abuse Helpline has seen a 25% increase in calls and online requests for help since the lockdown, Bishop Sherrington, of the Bishops' Conference domestic abuse working group, commented:
"At this time of national emergency, we are being asked to stay at home to save lives, but for those who are experiencing domestic abuse, the home is far from being a place of security, self-fulfilment and health. Too often it is a place of pain, fear, degradation and isolation. There are many for whom the call to stay at home will be dangerous and potentially life-threatening.
"The abuse inflicted includes many forms of violent and non-physical intimidation such as persistent verbal abuse, emotional blackmail and enforced social or financial deprivation. There is a risk that such abuse, which usually occurs behind closed doors, could grow and worsen during this time that we are being asked to be socially distancing from others.
"I applaud the organisations and individuals who are continuing to work through the Covid-19 pandemic to support women, men and children who are suffering domestic abuse, and to ensure that nobody has to stay in an abusive home.
"Last year, the Day for Life appeal highlighted the scourge of domestic abuse in our society, and called for Catholics in England and Wales to support existing groups and projects working to help the most vulnerable, and to assist in spreading awareness and information about domestic abuse. I reiterate this call now and urge us to continue to come together as a nation to support those who are most vulnerable during this pandemic, including those suffering domestic abuse.
"Every person has a right to live their life free from violence, abuse, intimidation and fear. Please join me in praying for the women, men and children who are experiencing suffering due to domestic abuse during this pandemic, asking the Lord to give them hope and courage in the knowledge that there are places of safety for them during this pandemic."
Celia Capstick and Freda Lambert, co- coordinators Social Responsibility Committee said: "Families are often now in confined spaces for long periods of time exacerbated by worries about jobs and money that are unprecedented. Domestic abuse can occur in any setting and can be not only physical violence but psychological, emotional, financial, spiritual abuse and also be caused by the effects of coercion and control.
"The safety of the woman and child are paramount in this situation and the NBCW would like to point out that the church already has a network of people ready and able to listen and help: the parish Safeguarding Officers. Attached to Bishop Sherington's statement is the policy statement of the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission. This sets out the role of the safeguarding officers,a role which includes vulnerable adults as well as children. It also provides a comprehensive list of helplines for the many different victims of domestic abuse in its widest sense, such as elderly, disabled, mental health sufferers and men.
One of the ways the Catholic community can be encouraged to raise awareness of domestic abuse is to ensure that the name and contact number of the parish Safeguarding Officer appears on the parish website and explain the reason for this in the newsletter. A quick trawl through three parish websites showed no mention of the Safeguarding Officer yet it is obligatory that their name appears on the parish noticeboard. (Few people are looking at those at the moment!). This could be a life saving measure."
Information and support on domestic abuse:
Police: 999 press 55 when prompted if you can't speak
Refuge UK wide 24-hour helpline: 0808 2000 247
Welsh Women's Aid Live Fear Free 24-hour helpline: 0808 80 10 800
A Catholic response to domestic abuse: www.dayforlife.org/article/a-catholic-response-to-domestic-abuse/
Guidance for supporting people who may be experiencing domestic abuse: www.dayforlife.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/CSAS-NCSC-Guidance-Supporting-people-who-may-be-experiencing-domestic-violence.pdf
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