Updated: Dec 19, 2021
Over the last (nearly) two years, to stay safe many of us have spent more time at home than usual but staying home does not equate to staying safe for everyone, particularly for those who experience domestic abuse.
Thanks to Maid, the recent hit series from Netflix, a representation of domestic violence and its’ impact has generated more household discussion. It explores how emotional abuse can be just as destructive as physical assault and the repercussions of poverty, homelessness and battling the system can be just as devastating. The series is a dramatization of Stephanie Land’s memoir Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive and though some critics doubt the decisions made by the main character Alex (Margaret Qualley), others are calling it powerful and important. What is particularly important, is the series’ representation of how survivors of DV leave their homes and, without friends or familial support, may have to face the difficulties of bureaucracy and obtaining social housing to avoid homelessness.
Maid is the story of a mother who manages to escape her abusive partner. Alex flees her home and takes a bumpy path through the system to retrieve help. Now imagine the difficulties facing women who live with an abuser and have been forced to stay at home with them during the pandemic. The lockdowns intensified abuse and made it harder for women to leave, seek help and know where to go. Therefore, while restrictions were implemented to limit the spread of the virus, they simultaneously restricted women’s ‘ability to respond to their violent perpetrators.’ As such, there has there been a worrying increase in reports of domestic abuse worldwide, as well as a rise in homelessness among women. According to Women’s Aid Survivor Survey, 67% of survivors who already experienced abuse said that it got worse, while 72% ‘said their abuser had more control over their life,’ 80% said they had difficulties accessing informal support and 78% reported that covid made it harder to them to leave their abusers.
Homelessness organisations such as New Horizon Youth Centre, are reporting an increase in the number of young women seeking help because of DV, but also issues such as employment since women were more likely to be furloughed. This reinforces how women are most impacted by pandemics. To support survivors, many organisations ensured they were in reach of women during lockdowns, for example, through the National Domestic Abuse helpline website which saw a 700% rise in traffic or Women Aid’s Live Online Chat.
The statistics gathered since the start of the pandemic clearly show the correlation between domestic violence, covid and homelessness. More women have been in a situation where they either continue living with their abuser or risk being on the streets where they are also in danger of being abused. Many survivors spend time sleeping rough until they receive refuge space which highlights the imperative need for safe accommodation for women such as St Mungo’s Green Rooms and the Respite Room programme which was announced in March 2021.
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