COVID-19/Coronavirus: Safety tips for survivors

Q. How do I know if I’m experiencing abuse?

Domestic abuse isn’t always physical – it’s a pattern of controlling, threatening and coercive behaviour, that can also be emotional, economic, psychological or sexual. Abuse is a choice a perpetrator makes and isolation is already used by many perpetrators as a tool of control. If you need help recognising the signs of abuse, you can find information and resources on Alternatively, you can call the Freephone 24h National Domestic Abuse Helpline, run by Refuge, on 0808 2000 247 or visit

Q. Who can I contact if I am living with an abusive partner and I’m worried about myself and/or my children?

Refuge staff are working round the clock to make sure our services remain open and available for everyone that needs them. This includes our refuge accommodation up and down the country, our Freephone 24h National Domestic Abuse Helpline, and our digital resources. Visit to source information and also to access a form to arrange for our expert staff to call you back at a safe time. Rest assured that you are not alone – it may take us slightly longer than usual to return your call, but will do everything we can to get back to you.

If you are self-isolating with a perpetrator you may be worried that he is monitoring your devices. Please remember that if you are unable to call our Helpline you can also seek support online, by filling in our webform.

Try to keep your phone charged and with you at all times and contact our services listed below if it is safe for you to do so:

For information and support:

  1. Call the Freephone 24h National Domestic Abuse Helpline, run by Refuge, on 0808 2000 247. Our team of highly-trained female staff can offer you confidential and non-judgmental support, and information on your rights and options. Translators are available if English is not your native language.
  2. If it is not safe for you to call the Helpline, you can visit our website at You can use the contact form to register your details and tell us when is a safe time for one of the Helpline staff to call you back when your partner is not around.
  3. If you are concerned that your partner is monitoring your devices, including your phone or laptop, you can access our tech abuse chatbot (look for the pink speech bubble bottom right of the screen). Here, you can find simple step-by-step instructions in video form that you can use to safeguard your devices. Only access this service if it is safe for you to do so, and use our ‘quick exit’ button if you are in the vicinity of your abusive partner.

If you are in immediate danger:

Always call 999 in an emergency; if you are unable to speak on the phone, there are systems in place to connect you to the right service:

  • If you are calling from a mobile phone, you can use the ‘Silent Solution’ system. Press 55 and the operator will transfer the call to the relevant police force as an emergency. The police call handler will then ask you a series of simple yes/no questions. If you’re still not able to speak, listen to the instructions you are given so the handler can assess your call and send help. Please note that calling from a mobile does not allow the police to track your location.
  • If you are calling from a landline, pressing ‘55’ will not work. If you can’t speak you should stay on the line and the operator will connect you to a police call handler. If you need to put the phone down, the line will stay open for 45 seconds. If you pick it up again during this time and the operator is concerned for your safety, they will put you through to a police call handler. Calling 999 from a landline means the police may be able to retrieve information on your location to send help.

Q. What steps can I take to protect myself and my children in the home, and how can I prepare to flee if I need to?

Protecting yourself in the home:

If your partner becomes violent, try to avoid the kitchen, garage or anywhere that might have potential weapons.

Try to keep your mobile charged and on you at all times. Agree on a code word with trusted friends or family so that they can call the police if you text or call them. For instance, you could agree that a certain word or a blank text means you need the police urgently. If your neighbours are aware of the situation, let them know that they should call the police if they hear a disturbance.

If you have children, talk to them about where they can go to keep safe if the perpetrator becomes abusive. Emphasise that in this situation their priority is to get to safety first and then call for help. Tell them not to intervene as this could put them in further danger.

Preparing to leave:

If possible, keep your bank cards, a little cash and car keys (if you have them) in a safe and accessible place. If you are able, leave an overnight bag with friends or family. Include your Id, Driving license and passport in the bag, or copies if you have them.

Agree on a code word with your children as a way to instruct them safely to leave the home. It is a good idea to plan possible escape routes from each room that you can use both day and night. If you are unable to leave, lock yourself in a room and call the police. Use the Silent Solutions process if you need to by pressing 55 (see above for more detail).

Important messages for survivors:

Remember – you are not alone. Refuge is here for you and you can access help and support. Abuse is not your fault. It is a choice that a perpetrator makes; your partner is responsible for his violent and abusive behaviour. It is a choice he makes and he alone is responsible for changing this behaviour.

Domestic abuse is a crime and help is available. Do not suffer alone. Refuge is here for you. Pick up the phone, or if you are unable to do that, access us online. We stand with you today, tomorrow, and in the future. You are not alone.

Concerned friends and family members

Q. What should I do if I am concerned about a friend, family member, colleague or neighbour?

If you are concerned about someone you know, call the Freephone 24h National Domestic Abuse Helpline, run by Refuge, on 0808 2000 247. Or visit to use our contact form for a call back from one of the Helpline staff. They can offer you confidential support on how best to help the person you are worried about. If you are worried about their safety, call 999.

Do not approach the perpetrator, as this could escalate the abuse and put you and the victim at risk of harm.