Covid-19 has been devastating for many, though increased isolation has posed particular problems for women.
Social stress coupled with restricted movement and social isolation measures have seen gender-based violence increase exponentially, stated a UN report, with many women being forced to stay at home with abusive partners. This is worsened by the disruption to vital support services.
In the first month of lockdown, a case of domestic abuse against a woman was recorded by West Midlands Police every 17 minutes.
With stricter measures being put in place once again, many fear the impact this could have.
Accessing help remotely
Anawim, a women’s centre based in Balsall Heath, Birmingham, has taken measures to tackle this crisis by introducing a new helpline and live chat feature, both of which are open to all women, allowing those in need to access help remotely.
In addition, Anawim are continuing with Covid secure face-to-face support, providing a Drop-in service from Monday to Friday, 10am-2pm. Caseworkers can support women with mental health, finances, relationships and families, housing issues, or just be there to listen.
The Drop-in service also provides women with an opportunity to access much needed food, clothing and sanitary products, as well take a shower.
Anawim has seen an increase in the number of women accessing services who are experiencing domestic abuse compared with this time last year. In addition, limited resources means some women have had to be placed on a waiting list.
Multiple and complex
Along with the increase in domestic violence, the economic impacts of the pandemic have compounded pre-existing inequalities, states the charity Agenda, with women more at risk of destitution than men due to generally earning less, saving less and often holding jobs in the sectors most affected, such as hospitality.
As a result, several services have reported that increased poverty is driving some women in to ‘survival sex’. Women who had successfully escaped prostitution have now felt forced to return to selling sex and others becoming involved for the very first time. Sex for rent is not uncommon, with unscrupulous landlords taking advantage of the situation.
The pandemic has served to highlight the very real need for women’s centres and the vital work they do in providing a holistic, gender-specific service.
“There is a national network of women’s centres but most are operating hand to mouth with precarious funding,” states Joy Doal, CEO of Anawim, “a few centres have recently worked on a report with Women’s Budget Group highlighting the state of the sector.”
Anawim is a registered charity and is reliant on donations to be able to provide sometimes life-saving services. Fundraising is becoming increasingly difficult with many grant making trusts having closed at the moment and events cannot be held. If you would like to make a donation, you can do this here. Please use code ‘NEWS1’ if possible. Any donation, however large or small, is greatly appreciated.
If you need help, support or a listening ear, contact Anawim’s free, confidential helpline on 0800 019 8818, or click on the chat button to talk with a specialist female caseworker.