Sunday, 14 April 2024
Sunday, 14 April 2024

Why the cost-of-living crisis will prolong cycles of abuse

THE economic climate in the UK has put millions of people in an untenable position, and inevitably it will be the most vulnerable that are hit the hardest. The obvious uncertainty of food and warmth aside, the cost-of-living crisis could have potentially devastating consequences for anyone who finds themself in a cycle of abuse or who has recently managed to escape from a dangerous domestic situation. 

The primary issue is this – spiralling inflation is creating difficult decisions for those who are already at risk. 

Take university students for example. Over the past three years, NAPAC has seen the number of 18-24-year-olds accessing its website for support grow from around 4,500 per annum to more than 10,000. We know that many of the young adult survivors we support are only able to disclose due to a move away from an abusive or controlling domestic situation. 

However, with recent data from the National Union of Students indicating that 12% of all students have experienced homelessness since starting their studies, rising to one in three amongst estranged and care-experienced students, it is evident that vast numbers of survivors are having to choose between potential homelessness and returning to an abusive situation. 

This is also reflected in Women’s Aid’s research into domestic abuse, which states that two-thirds (66%) of the survivors surveyed confirmed that abusers are using the cost of living increase as a tool for coercive control.

As financial worries increase, support networks shrink, and there are fewer opportunities for disclosure. Social activities are often the first thing to go, so survivors may stop seeing friends in safe spaces where they can speak freely. Private therapy is expensive at the best of times, and with huge waiting times for NHS services, many survivors will be without access to vital therapy that facilitates recovery. 

Support provision will no doubt be negatively affected too. Rising costs mean that scores of charities are experiencing both a drop in donations and a restricted supply of volunteers, as some volunteers must return to paid work in order to support themselves. This may in turn affect the ability of charities to meet the demand for their services. 

So what is the solution? 

In short, safe spaces and diversity of support. As illustrated in the above statistics, survivors from all walks of life are affected and there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to support. 

The support that a university student might need when making a disclosure for the first time could be completely different to the needs of a domestic abuse survivor who is looking at potential litigation options. There will be those who are experiencing re-traumatisation when engaging with public services, those who were emotionally abused, those who were sexually abused, and even those who were not aware until recently that they had experienced abuse. 

Free-to-use, safe spaces such as the IICSA benches are imperative for disadvantaged survivors to be able to carry out these conversations at a time when many other avenues for disclosure are unavailable, and a range of support services will be required to support survivors through a time of external and internal upheaval.


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