Women with abusive partners say their situation became even worse during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Women’s Rights Foundation says it has received calls from mothers whose children have been used to spy on them, while others say they have had their internet access cut off or limited as a means of control.

“We’ve seen a trend where women are feeling more trapped than ever,” says director and lawyer Lara Dimitrijevic.

“Home is meant to be a safe space and when that becomes your nightmare, it is even more difficult to cope with. Some have described feeling like prisoners in their own home because they are constantly being watched.”

Some describe it as being in a black hole and they seem incapable of coming out of it

Like thousands of other organisations, the foundation temporarily closed its doors and drop-in service and instead launched a freephone helpline on May 3.

In just two days, eight women called the helpline asking for support.

“Many who have reached out told us their perpetrators are becoming more aggressive, not necessarily physical but more emotionally and verbally abusive,” Dimitrijevic says.

“They are feeling broken and some described it as being in a black hole and they seem incapable of coming out of it. They are concerned – not only about their safety – but the impact it is having on their children. Others have complained that their children are being used to spy on their every movement and report back to their father.”

As well as limiting or cutting off internet access, some women say they have no access to money because they have lost their jobs or have had to stop working to look after their children who are no longer at school.

“The lockdown is making it even more difficult for them not only to have some sense of independence and freedom, but in that they cannot even reach out to family and friends for comfort and support.

“Our moto is ‘information empowers’. While we fully understand that you may feel powerless, helpless and trapped, get in touch to find out more about your rights, because you do have rights no matter what your abuser may say to.”

Those needing help can contact the foundation on Monday, Wednesday or Friday between 2-6pm on helpline 8006 2149.  

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