The impact of 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 ‘lockdown’ at home with abusive partners. This has been 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.
Anawim 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. More information about these services can be found here.
In addition to remote services, Anawim are continuing with face-to-face support, providing a Drop-in service from Monday to Friday, 10am-2pm, open to all women. Case workers can provide support with mental health, finances, relationships and families, housing issues, and anything else that women need to talk about.
Anawim’s Drop-in service also provides women with an opportunity to access much needed food, clothing and sanitary products, as well take a shower.
Towards the end of lockdown, Anawim’s caseworkers helped a woman named Gemma whose partner had become violent. A support plan was implemented, enabling Gemma to report her abusive ex-partner to the police, as well as practical advice around how to protect her physical and emotional well-being. Through advocacy and support, Gemma was able to move away from abuse and feel safe again.
This type of situation is not uncommon. Furthermore, the impact of COVID has seen women facing a multitude of difficulties.
Multiple and complex needs
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 holding insecure jobs.
As a result, several services have reported that increased poverty is driving some women in to ‘survivial sex’. They noted cases of women who sold sex in the past and have now felt forced to return to selling sex and others becoming involved for the first time.
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.