On the 6th October, the Government announced an ‘expression of interest’ that sought for applications from organisations for those with no fixed abode in the Isle of Man. Minister for Policy and Reform, Ray Harmer, referenced domestic violence as one of the circumstances that can lead to homelessness or sofa surfing. While the suggested emergency housing plans may be necessary and sufficient for those requiring emergency housing due to substandard accommodation, victims of physical and emotional abuse have different needs- meaning the plans set out by the Government are unsuitable for domestic abuse victims.
“While the emergency housing plans are well-meaning”, Women’s Aid spokesperson, Thelma Lomax MBE, “they have the potential to be incredibly dangerous to domestic abuse victims as the housing will not be in a secret location”.
Thelma also noted that “the housing requirements for victims of physical and emotional abuse are very different from those who may require emergency housing due to substandard accommodation. Domestic abuse victims may be fleeing physically dangerous and frightening conditions as well as other equally abusive environments involving emotional controlling and coercive situations and it is essential that they are directed to accommodation which is unidentifiable, secure, and supportive.
Victims of abuse are extremely vulnerable, so when escaping their environment it is crucial that their accommodation is free from fear. Perpetrators of abuse often attempt to contact their victims when they leave, so it is essential that women have access to specialist refuge accommodation.”
While it is vital that refuge is always available for the female victims of domestic violence and their dependents- something that Women’s aid has provided for over 32 years- there is also the potential for increased demand for refuge post-lockdown. In August, Victim Support reported a 59% increase in domestic abuse referrals to the charity. The Isle of Man Constabulary attributed the increase of domestic to a few reasons, including people being stuck together in their homes, and “people that have never been in a domestic incident situation until they were thrown together and tensions and pressure and stress coupled with the impact lockdown had on people’s mental health”.
The Women’s Aid refuge exists to meet the specific needs of domestic abuse victims. They are stocked with emergency clothing, food and children’s toys. It is funded largely through charitable donations, and the operation is supported by a large network of dedicated volunteers.
If you are experiencing physical or emotional domestic abuse, you can contact the women’s refuge for advice and support without judgment, 01624 677900.