Marion is one of our Outreach Workers working from home. Read her article for The Times about the challenges she is supporting women to face.
Being an outreach support worker for Women’s Aid during the lockdown has been a strange experience. No more face-to-face visits in women’s homes or the community and with new referrals, I have to imagine what the person on the other end of the phone might look like. I worried that home working would be difficult, that I would struggle to fill my time and questioned how effective I could be.
After safety, one of the biggest issues has been child contact. Women are expected to facilitate this during lockdown and are tasked with arranging video or telephone calls and visits with dad. Many of the calls I receive are from mums who are scared to challenge this and worried about the repercussions if they do. One is being asked to facilitate a video call with her two-year-old — the child has only met her father once and getting a toddler to sit still for more than two minutes is almost impossible. This is very intrusive; would you like someone who had abused you seeing the inside of your new home?
Another mother fears her son will not be returned after her ex-partner threatened to self-isolate for 14 days claiming he had symptoms of the virus. Her son was taken to visit several households while on overnight contact with the father and was left in the care of another adult from another household.
Another mother, feeling pressured by her partner and his family to allow contact, had to defend herself to social services after her son came home saying his dad had slapped him. Women fear their children are not safe during contact when some dads continue to flout the social distancing guidelines.
Child contact has always been a way in which men who abuse their partners continue to try to control them after they have left. Every day brings new challenges to the women we support, and their strengths and coping skills are inspirational. We may be locked down, but we can still reach out and be a support to each other.