Hackney domestic violence charity warns Covid-19 lockdown is pressure cooker for abuse

Sistah space was founded after the brutal murder of Valerie Forde and her baby daughter after Valeri

Sistah space was founded after the brutal murder of Valerie Forde and her baby daughter after Valerie had reported a threat to kill to police. - Credit: sistah space

The founder of a Hackney domestic violence charity has warned about the escalating effects the Coronavirus lockdown could have on victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence.

Sistah Space’s Ngozi Fulani said the situation is like a “pressure cooker [that’s] going to blow” and offers advice on reducing the risk of violence and seeking help safely.

She told the Gazette: “Being in a household with somebody for an extended or indefinite period - no matter how close you are to them [or] what relationship you have with them - can be a real test.

This whole episode is unprecedented and with domestic abuse you have triggers like football or Christmas. Pressures cause people to lash out physically, emotionally or otherwise on each other.

We need to get a message out there to survivors of domestic violence showing them how they can minimise the risk and also how to stay safe until help can get to them.”

China was the first country to implement a lockdown and activists, like retired police officer and domestic violence charity founder Wan Fei, say quarantine measures have had an impact on increases in domestic violence in the country.

Greater Manchester’s deputy mayor for policing and crime has also contributed a recent rise in domestic abuse incidents to the pandemic and subsequent lockdown.

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According Metropolitan police data, the number of abuse offences in London has increased by 63% since 2011 and 2.4 million people experienced domestic abuse last year.

Ngozi’s advice:

Be conscious of the people around you and the change in their energy and mood.

Ngozi says: “If you see someone’s getting short-tempered you can’t do anything about them but you can do something about yourself – so withdraw from the conversation or be mindful about it.

Pack a bag with your essentials in it and place it with a neighbour or somewhere hidden and safe to be accessed easily.

Ngozi says: “In my culture we call it vex money or a vex bag. It means pack your essentials in one bag or even a coat pocket so if you must shift at any one moment you can pick up your bag and go.

The Sistah Space founder says the bag can be placed with a neighbour, left in the front garden behind bins or even in the bottom of a bin bag - someplace where it won’t be found.

If you think you are in danger leave the situation, go somewhere safe and call for help.

Keep your phone battery fully charged and you’re phone nearby.

Ngozi says the first thing perpetrators will try and do is take a victims phone so they can’t get help.

She advises perpetrators of domestic violence to take a few moments if they find themselves getting frustrated or angry.

“Don’t take it out on the people who are in the same situation as you,” she said.

Sistah Space is providing online support and resources that can be dropped off during the lockdown.

They encourage anyone dealing with domestic violence to get in touch here.

Sistah Space is also looking for local landlords or hotels with empty rooms to house displaced people escaping domestic abuse.

Ngozi offers advice in a video she made during the lockdown - watch it here.

For the latest coronavirus news from Hackney and across London follow our live blog here, visit our corona virus page, or join our Facebook group here.

Or to find more groups, networks and organisations like this in Hackney providing support during the Coronavirus lockdown visit our There With You Essential List.