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'Stay home, stay safe' coronavirus message can be a danger for people facing domestic abuse

While official government advice to fight the coronavirus outbreak is to stay home and stay safe, it can be the opposite for people facing abuse.

David Challen knows exactly what domestic abuse can lead to. In 2010 his mother, Sally, killed his father Richard after years of coercive control.

She was jailed for life. Then last June, after 9 years in prison and a relentless campaign by her family and supporters, Sally walked out of court a free woman when a landmark ruling overturned her conviction.

Sally Challen pictured with Richard Challen

David now spends his time campaigning for families trapped in similar relationships.

It cannot be a more traumatic time for children and families who are facing being stuck inside with their abuser and nowhere to escape to.

We need to get the message out there, that there are still services out there and the police are still tackling the perpetrators.

But we have to recognise that the longer this period of isolation goes on, the longer the effect for victims of domestic abuse. We need to acknowledge that.

– David Challen

Charities who offer shelter and advice are also concerned more women will be in danger during the lockdown. They’re urging women in trouble to find a way to contact them.

If women are able to call us when they are out of the property or in a safe place, the National Domestic Abuses helpline, which Refuge runs, is open every single hour of the day, every day of the week.

We would urge women to call us and be reminded they are not alone. We are there around the clock to offer support.

– Lisa King, Refuge
Sally Challen with her son David after she was told she will not face a retrial over the death of her husband Richard Challen

David Challen also appealed to the public who he says can also play a part in keeping families safe. He also wants to see new media offering help.

Everyone’s in front of their screens right now. So, a mass public awareness campaign on social media, broadcast, television. Being mindful of your neighbours, friends and family who might be in abusive relationships to reach out. Just be there for them and let them know there is help.

– David Challen

No one knows when the current measures will come to an end - for those in abusive relationships it can't come soon enough.

More information and support on the Refuge website. You can also contact the Refuge National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247.

Details of government help and support here.