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Inverness Women's Aid preparing for possible increase in cases during coronavirus Covid-19 crisis

By Alasdair Fraser

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The coronavirus lockdown could increase problems of domestic violence.
The coronavirus lockdown could increase problems of domestic violence.

Inverness Women’s Aid (IWA) is "hoping for the best, preparing for the worst" after the coronaviurus lockdown was extended for a further three weeks.

Executive manager Elaine Fetherston said the organisation is actually experiencing a lower workload than normal at the moment, but was taking nothing for granted.

Many of the charity’s clients live separately from abusers, but still experience problems related to coercive, controlling, threatening or violent behaviour by former partners.

The current lull during social-distancing measures is a source of cautious optimism, but evidence from other nations in lockdown suggests there could be an upturn.

Calls, texts, emails and Facebook Messenger support is being provided from home by a team of 10 IWA staff, who also work on rota at supported refuge accommodation.

Ms Fetherston stressed: “There is a lot of sensationalism about the examples of China and Italy, where there have been upturns in referrals for domestic abuse.

“But we feel we cannot make any assumptions. We’ve been slightly quieter in the last three weeks, but that’s not to say contacts and referrals won’t increase.

“The vast majority of our current clients are away from their abusers, having come out of the relationship, but are still having problems with them.

“Relatively few are actually living with a perpetrator during the lockdown.

“It is those we don’t know, those who might be having problems now, that provide the worry.

“All we can do is make sure we are prepared and have enough capacity within our organisation to deal with whatever enquiries come in, in whatever quantity.”

Ms Fetherston is concerned the current quiet spell could be reflective of a pattern often seen over Christmas and New Year festivities.

She added: “We are only three weeks into the lockdown. It is very strange for everyone and we are all bedding in.

“Psychologically, people have dealt with the initial period as best they can. We will see if the extension changes that in terms of numbers of referrals.

“The fact is a lot of women live like this in their normal lives, regardless of coronavirus. They can be living in a degree of lockdown already, with very controlling partners.

“We have to be careful in talking about what is attributable to the current crisis and what would be happening anyway.

“It is very important that the current circumstances aren’t given credence as some kind of excuse for abusive behaviour.

“It might well be that our workload increases after we return to relative normality. After the festive period, it generally gets a bit busier for us in January and February when normal life comes back into play.”

Anyone requiring help from Inverness Women's Aid can contact them on 01463 220719 or by email at info@invernesswa.co.uk

They are also on Facebook.

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