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Reaching for help

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With first-hand experience of domestic abuse, Councillor Rosa Gomez (Churchfields, Labour) knows only too well how important Redbridge Council’s Reach Out service is

It all started in a subtle way – criticisms regarding cooking, how I dressed, my hairdo – and progressed, so that before I realised it, I had been physically abused and was running for my life with the help of the police.

Somehow, in between, I had slowly got used to the drama in my life, struggling to remember living without an abusive relationship. Dependent upon my abuser, I struggled to escape. My home had become a prison where I was not safe and my children were silent victims. I lived in an abusive relationship for too long, afraid that peace and safety would never exist for me.

We have been in lockdown to keep us safe and to protect ourselves and our communities from the COVID-19 pandemic. But as I know, lockdown may be forcing some of us closer to a danger we can’t shut the front door on.

The Met Police recently reported making an average of 100 arrests a day for domestic violence under lockdown, a 9% rise on figures from the same period last year. In addition, they are receiving a third more domestic violence calls.

As well as violence and threats of violence, there are victims who are being controlled financially or emotionally, so these increases represent the tip of the iceberg.

I am proud Redbridge Council has worked proactively to address this side effect of COVID-19. Our Reach Out service was launched in April, designed to help families and couples struggling in abusive situations. It offers support not just to victims but also to perpetrators, helping both to break free from the cycle of abuse.

If you feel the fear I felt all those years ago, please don’t allow yourself to be isolated. Share any concerns you may have with friends or the local agencies. Never put up with words that put you down. Like me, you can make it alone and discover a world out there which will recognise your worth and potential.

Government legislation allows you to leave, and to use public transport to do so if necessary; just take the first step. Reach Out is available Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm and Refuge can be contacted 24 hours a day for support. If you are in immediate danger, please call 999 for help.

I know how great the communities of South Woodford and Wanstead are at supporting each other, having seen the care shown for those vulnerable and in need during lockdown. If you have a concern about possible domestic abuse, please share the details of Reach Out so those who need help can get it and stay safe.

To contact Reach Out, call 0800 145 6410 or email reachout@redbridge.gov.uk. To contact Refuge, call 0808 2000 247
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