Published: 12:07, 29 April 2020
| Updated: 12:39, 29 April 2020
A Kent MP has slammed domestic abusers using the Covid-19 lockdown as an opportunity to control partners and family members.
During a powerful speech in Parliament yesterday, Rosie Duffield - herself a survivor of domestic abuse - branded such people "almighty cowards" as she urged the government to ring fence millions of pounds for charities.
The Canterbury and Whitstable MP received a standing ovation in the Commons in October, when she bravely spoke out about her own experience of abuse.
Speaking to the House yesterday, she said: "I had no idea then how much impact those eight minutes would have on my life.
"Within a couple of hours, my speech had gone viral on social media, was all over the globe.
"I chose to speak about something extremely personal because I felt it was important to remind others - the vast majority who are, of course, women - that they are not alone.
"After my speech, I received hundreds of emails. They still arrive every day, as reminders of the grim reality in many households across the UK."
Ms Duffield said the majority of the letters she receives are from survivors, telling of "shocking" past abuse.
"The ones I don't hear from as much are those who are right in the middle of this reality, right now," she said.
"They are living locked down, locked in, locked away. Threatened and terrorised by someone who thinks it's okay to use his wife, partner or family as an emotional or physical punchbag.
"What almighty cowards they are - bullies who seize the opportunity of a global crisis to show those smaller and weaker than them that they are in control.
"Whether you're a manual worker or a magnate with millions, if you use your fists or your fury to frighten those closest to you, you are certainly not in control, and you need to stop."
Ms Duffield paid tribute to the police officers, counsellors, refuge workers, and others working tirelessly throughout the pandemic to help abuse victims flee from domestic situations that "pose more of a threat to them than a potentially deadly and incurable virus".
She highlighted a woman named Elaine from Canterbury-based domestic violence and abuse charity Rising Sun. "(She) is in my phone if I need to talk to her, or to have a boost, as she is for many other women around my part of Kent," said the MP.
During the debate on the Domestic Abuse Bill, which had its second reading in the Commons yesterday, Ms Duffield called for the government to ring-fence £75 million to help fund domestic abuse charities like Rising Sun, which are experiencing cuts to their funding.
Dr Liza Thompson, chairman of the Medway Domestic Abuse Forum, said: “For some, the home is a dangerous place, and the Covid-19 lockdown has, in effect, isolated victims of domestic abuse from supportive and protective relationships, by locking them down with their abuser.
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"We don’t expect to see a rise in calls straight away - due to the surveillance abusers adopt, victims will find it hard to contact us. However this doesn’t mean that domestic abuse isn’t happening right now.
"We would urge victims to only contact us if it is safe to do so, and once they do contact us we can work with them on a safety plan.
"We fully expect an avalanche of calls once the lockdown is lifted - we are therefore working hard behind the scenes to ensure we are still available for victim/survivors to call as soon as they can."
If you are in danger please call 999 immediately or 101 for non-emergencies. If a victim calls 999 from their mobile phone but is unable to speak as the perpetrator is nearby, dial 55 and the operator will direct your call to the police rather than terminating it.
Domestic abuse charity Child's Vision is available via telephone 01622 244537 or 07561 426203 or email email@example.com. Alternatively NSPCC Childline is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week 0800 1111.
Other agencies which can also be contacted if you need help are:
Kent Integrated Domestic Abuse service: 0808 168 9111
Choices Domestic Abuse Services: 0800 917 9948 (covers Medway)
National Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247
The Men’s Advice Line, for male domestic abuse survivors: 0808 801 0327
The Mix, free information and support for under 25s in the UK: 0808 808 4994
National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0800 999 5428
Victim Support: 0808 1689 111
Or Women's Aid by clicking here