Violence Against Women and Girls

It is not unknown that in situations of crisis, violence against women and girls rises. This should not come as a shock to anyone. However, first responses to Covid-19 overlooked the needs of women and there was a total oversight towards how an enforced lockdown would impact victims of domestic abuse.

Additionally, in the initial release list of ‘key workers’, domestic violence professionals were left off, and only added following the calls of Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, Dawn Butler. State response has been purely reactive. It has taken this crisis for the work of these professionals to be recognised as vital for keeping people safe and protected. Another example of a key-worker’s role jumping from invisibility to heroism within a capitalist framework, waiting to see if they will be disregarded as quickly as they were enunciated.

One member of our Sheroes team, is an independent advocate for victims/survivors of domestic violence, working to increase their safety and mitigate risk through emotional and practical support. Here she shares a small reflection on how her role has been impacted, and how she has adapted during Covid-19.

As frontline workers supporting women and girls impacted by violence and abuse we have now all taken to home-working. The services that have helplines are all being diverted to workers’ mobile phones, that they will answer within their homes in shift patterns. Our service is still operating at full capacity, with our advocacy and emotional support unchanged. However, much of this also relies on the capability of other public agencies such as the police, social services, housing, local authority and healthcare, as we work together to safeguard victim/survivors of abuse. We are taking things day by day. We are safety planning extensively with women who are co-isolating with their abusers and looking at creative ways to ensure safety, such as suggesting apps that can be used as safety planning tools, or identifying code words that can be used with friends in times of emergency. Whilst reminding women that although it should never be their responsibility to safety plan to prevent domestic abuse, if they are not ready to leave their situation a safety plan can help to increase a sense of control and support them to manage. Women have been patient and understanding, and I have been so inspired by those who are confronting adversity with resilience and rational. Their strength gives me strength and motivates us all to continue on in our support for them.”

In London

Domestic violence rise by 24%

and there’s been over 4,000 arrests by the police due to domestic violence since lockdown started.

That is, 100 a day.

(BBC, The Guardian)

There has so far been 25% of an increase in referrals (Refuge)

There has so far been 41% of traffic to website (Women’s aid)

Stay Home |Video Monologue| NFS

Stay Home

“ ‘Stay Home’ is a short monologue trying to humbly represent what a day in the life of a victim of abuse may be like during the lockdown in the UK. It intends to promote awareness of what these silent heroes are enduring by staying home and risking their own lives, suffering in the hands of their abusers in a time in which cases of domestic violence and femicides are on the rise due to the forced COVID-19 quarantine. As an artist and a survivor, I feel it is now my duty to give voice to those who can’t yet speak for themselves. During this time of forced quarantine many women are in danger and there aren’t enough resources to protect them. I would like to help raise awareness so that the government takes action to help these vulnerable women during this global pandemic.”

Child abuse and quarantine

“I suppose there are as many ways to spend a quarantine locked up at home as there are children on our planet. Once a child is locked up in her house, nobody has to know what happens inside, what that space is like and who accompanies her during that involuntary isolation. Most likely, no one will knock on her door and ask her if she is okay, if she is happy, if she needs love, attention and listening, if she feels lonely, if she is afraid of the dark, if she eats three meals a day in a balanced way and gets enough rest, if she has the means to continue with her schoolwork, if she needs someone to read her a tale, and much less if she is being abused or mistreated. These days, we adults are very worried about the economy, about the victims of the hospitals, about the lack of health resources, about the speeches of our politicians, but nobody talks about these young girls. They too are worried and afraid.”

Mask Nineteen

‘Mask Nineteen’ raises consciousness of the fact that ‘staying home’ is not a level playing field. Since lockdown and social distancing measures have been put in place, the widely accepted government message ‘stay home save lives’ has put those who live with an abuser on a perilous edge. ‘Mask Nineteen’ echoes the ambivalence of national policy for public health by juxtaposing the UK Prime Minister’s announcement with the songs that have a connotation with domestic violence. The title ‘Mask Nineteen’ is borrowed from the code used by the victims in France for covertly asking for help when visiting the pharmacist, a good example of activating everyday space into a vigilant point of contact.  


* Songs used: He Hit Me (The Crystals, 1962), Stone Cold Dead in the Market (Elle Fitzgerald, 1961).

* Accompanied image: a quilted pharmacy sign with embroidered word ‘MASK19’, made as part of the initiative ‘Quilting in Quarantine’ set up by Youngsook Choi and Mary Hearn.

Related content

Domestic abuse surge in coronavirus lockdown could have lasting impact, MPs say
Government urged to introduce emergency measures to protect women trapped with abusers amid concerns violence could soar
For some people, social distancing means being trapped indoors with an abuser

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Susana Millán

Susana Millán is a Spanish actress and theatre maker who has been living and working in the UK for over five years. She is passionate about theatre and people and wants to create work that has a positive impact on society. She is also a survivor of abuse. Susana has vast experience as a stage actress, starting at age 15. In 2016, she joined Gauntlet Theatre, with whom she’s premiered two shows, ‘The Night Blogger’ (2016) and award-winning play ‘My Life Closed Twice’ (2018/2019), the last one performed at different festivals, including Brighton, Hastings and Gothenburg Fringe Festivals throughout 2018 and 2019. Susana has recently finished her Master of Arts in Acting at University of East London. For her dissertation piece she created, wrote, directed and starred in ‘Breaking The Cycle’, an auto-ethnographic feminist performance that explores transgenerational trauma and gender violence.

Cecilia Gallerani Busti

Cecilia Gallerani Busti studied civil engineering at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and has developed her professional career in this field in private companies for the past twenty years, with a focus on engineering associated with the energy sector for the improvement of the environment.

She is also an artist influenced by her concerns about social issues affecting children. Her other interests and source of inspiration include history, philosophy and literature and she is continuously developing her knowledge of these subjects. Her practice explores different creative mediums and techniques such as collage and pastel.

Youngsook Choi

Youngsook is a London-based artist and researcher with a PhD in human geography. Youngsook’s practice relates to her subjective position as a woman, mother, and migrant of Korean Heritage coming from a working-class background. Exploring Foucault’s concept of ‘political spirituality’ her works often develop narratives of ‘non-fiction fantasy’, a mixture of research evidence, mythology and performative instructions for audience participation. Youngsook’s works have been shown in various institutions such as Barbican Centre, Milton Keynes Art Centre, and MK Islamic Arts Heritage and Culture. She is currently on a residency with Asia Art Activism at Raven Row.

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