Violence against women and girls is under-reported yet very common. This guide offers information and links to organisations that can provide help and support.

Coronavirus (Covid-19) update: The Gaia Centre is open and accepting referrals to support Lambeth residents who are survivors of gender based violence, including domestic and sexual violence. Get the latest updates on Lambeth Council’s response to coronavirus.

Sections in this guide (click title to view)

1. Coronavirus (Covid-19) and VAWG

This section of the website outlines some useful VAWG related information for Lambeth residents and practitioners during current public health measures to manage the impact of Coronavirus. This will be regularly reviewed and updated.

Key messages:

  • Survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence may feel particularly alone & at risk during self-isolation. If you’re in Lambeth the Gaia Centre can help. Confidential advice & support by phone, text or email – whatever’s safest. Gaia can support with options around safe housing and legal advice for survivors. Tel: 020 7733 8724 Email: lambethvawg@refuge.org.uk The Gaia Centre Website
  • For 24/7 advice for yourself or someone else contact the freephone National Domestic Abuse Helpline. Tel: 0808 2000 247. National Domestic Abuse Helpline
  • The Lambeth MARAC is operating remotely during isolation and the conference is now every two weeks. For more information or to make a referral contact lambethmarac@lambeth.gov.uk

Support for survivors:

Domestic abuse and sexual violence affects many people and can affect anyone, regardless of their background or gender identity. Domestic abuse isn’t just physical violence. It’s a pattern of behaviours used to control a current/ex-partner or family member & can include emotional, psychological, financial & sexual abuse.

  • If you are in immediate danger, always call the police on 999. If you are unable to speak on the 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. Police Conduct Silent Solution Guide
  • The UK Government have created a new webpage with advice for survivors during this time and are running a nationwide campaign to let survivors know there is support available #YouAreNotAlone. UK Government - Domestic Abuse: How to Get Help
  • The Home Office has published guidance on getting help for domestic abuse during the coronavirus crisis for people without English as a first language. The guidance is currently available in 15 languages. UK Government - Domestic abuse: get help during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak (translations)
  • Refuge have released a series of safety tips for survivors during isolation. Including their tech abuse chatbot function if the perpetrator is controlling your devices. Refuge COVID-19 Survivor Tips
  • SafeLives have released a series of resources and information for survivors during isolation including helpful podcasts by survivors, for survivors. SafeLives Domestic Abuse and Covid-19 SafeLives Survivor Podcast
  • Chayn provides online tools, information, courses and support for people experiencing abuse, all free to access. Their Soul Medicine courses provide bite-sized support, delivered in disguised emails at a time that you choose. Chayn Website Chayn Soul Medicine
  • Surviving Economic Abuse have released guidance for survivors, friends, family, neighbours and practitioners regarding the impact of Coronavirus on those experiencing economic and financial abuse. Surviving Economic Abuse Website
  • For information on welfare benefits, immigration and housing advice please see Lambeth Council's information page. Get benefits advice
  • Rights of Women continue to provide free legal advice to women affected by gender based violence, the opening hours of their advice lines are subject to change. Rights of Women Website.
  • The Women and Girls Network Freephone Sexual Violence Helpline provides a safe and confidential space for women and girls to explore the impact of their experiences and access specialist emotional support and advice. Open Monday-Friday 10am-12:30pm and 2:30-4pm and Wednesday evening 6-9pm. Tel: 0808 801 0770. Victim Contact Scheme Website
  • Support is available to victims and witnesses involved in the Criminal Justice System during isolation. Contact the London Victim and Witness Service (LVWS) from 8am-8pm Monday to Friday and 9am-5pm on Saturday. Tel: 0808 168 9291. Outside of those hours, you can call Victim Support’s Supportline for free. Tel: 08 08 16 89 111. London Victims and Witnesses Service
  • The Government has announced new measures to limit Coronavirus risks in prisons and is releasing selected 'low-risk' offenders, who have served over half their sentence and are within two months of their automatic release dates. This excludes those with a history of domestic violence, however, survivors who are not part of the Victim Contact Scheme who wish to check if the offender in their case has been given early release should contact the helpline on 0300 060 6699 or email victim.helpline@justice.gov.uk.
  • Sign Health are providing remote support to survivors of domestic abuse who are Deaf. They also have a range of other psychological and social support services available. Sign Health Website
  • Income support benefits have been changed temporarily a result of the current public health measures. For more information please see this guide from Rights Net. Rights Net Website
  • The laws related to asylum seekers have been relaxed during this time. The Refugee Council have put together a summary of some of the key changes affecting those in the asylum system. Changes to Asylum & Resettlement policy and practice in response to Covid-19
  • The Government have released new guidance on how to apply for domestic violence injunctions during the Coronavirus outbreak. Applying for a Domestic Violence Injunction for Unrepresented Applicants
  • The free "Bright Sky" app is available for anyone can download on their phone. It poses as a weather app on the phone but it is actually enables a survivor of domestic abuse to access all local and national domestic abuse support services and helplines as well as calling 999 in an emergency. Please consider the potential risk of downloading the app if the perpetrator has access to your electronic devices. Hestia Bright Sky Website
  • Boots Pharmacies are displaying domestic abuse support information in their stores and allowing customers to use a confidential room to make a call. This is in partnership with Hestia on their Safe Spaces campaign. Hestia Safe Spaces Campaign
  • Citizens Advice have guidance on coronavirus and you can contact your local office by phone, email and some provide a web service. Check your local office website for the most up to date information on contact details. Citizen's Advice Coronavirus Guidance Find Your Local Citizen's Advice Office

Supporting Children

  • If you are worried about a child in Lambeth contact Lambeth Children's Social Care. Lambeth Children's Social Care Website
  • Lambeth Council has a webpage with a range of information about supporting children and families during this time including information about support available from children’s centres via an online form and helpline. Lambeth Children, Young People and Families website
  • All families within Children’s Social Care on a plan are entitled to a free food parcel. There is a public helpline number to contact operating between 8am and 8pm every day including weekends and families can self-refer. Tel: 020 7926 2999.
  • The Lambeth Safeguarding Children's Partnership (LSCP) has information about safeguarding children during the Coronavirus pandemic on their website. LSPC Website
  • Rights of Women have published guidance for women trying to work out child contact arrangements during this difficult time. Rights of Women Child Contact Arrangements Guidance.

Support to change abusive behavior:

Stresses caused by Coronavirus are not an excuse for domestic abuse – abusing a partner, ex-partner or family member is always a choice.

  • The Respect Phoneline can help those who perpetrate abuse change their behaviour and is operating as usual. Tel: 0808 802 4040. Respect Phoneline Website

Support for friends, family, colleagues and neighbours:

Most of us know someone affected by domestic abuse as their friend, family, neighbour, carer, colleague or key worker. Check in with someone who you are worried about, but assume the perpetrator is listening. To so do safely;

  • Always begin conversations by checking whether it's safe to talk
  • Use closed questions to allow one word answers from the survivor. For example "Is it safe to talk?" "Are you in danger?"
  • If you suspect the survivor isn’t able to talk safely, give them a line to end the call, e.g. “If it isn’t safe to speak repeat after me - I’m sorry Sam isn’t here you’ve got the wrong number”
  • When it’s safe to talk, agree a code word/phrase/emoji with the survivor to use if they are in danger or it is unsafe to speak
  • When it’s safe to talk, remind the survivor that they should always call 999 if they are in immediate danger
  • When it’s safe to talk, remind the survivor that they can access specialist support. If they’re in Lambeth the Gaia Centre can help by phone, text or email. Tel: 020 7733 8724. Email: lambethvawg@refuge.org.uk
  • Always reassure the survivor that you believe them and that the abuse is not their fault
  • Now is a time to be extra vigilant. If you overhear a neighbour or believe an adult or child is in immediate danger due to domestic abuse, call the police on 999
  • If it is not an emergency, you can tell the charity @CrimestoppersUK what you know 100% anonymously. Tel: 0800 555 111 or online.Crimestoppers Website
  • For more advice on supporting a loved one who is experiencing domestic abuse see Refuge's helpful guidance. Refuge Guidance - 1 in 4 Campaign
  • SafeLives have produced guidance and a podcast to help neighbours, friends and family members concerned about a survivor of domestic abuse. SafeLives Guidance for Friends and Family SafeLives Podcast for Friends and Family
  • Galop have developed guides for friends and family who are worried that the LGBT+ person they know is being victimised by their partner, and for friends and family who are worried that the LGBT+ person they know is using violent/abusive behaviour towards their partner. Galop Guidance - LGBT+ Survivors Galop Guidance - LGBT+ Perpetrators

Support for practitioners:

Key messages in a range of languages:

  • We have translated our key message about service delivery during this time into a number of languages. Gaia is open translated

2. The Gaia Centre

In an emergency call the police on 999

If you are ready to seek help, you can contact Lambeth Violence Against Women and Girls hub – The Gaia Centre (run by Refuge)

Telephone: 020 7733 8724
Email: lambethvawg@refuge.org.uk

Opening hours: 8am - 6pm (with additional out-of-hours on-call service provided via the same contact number)

The Gaia Centre provides confidential, non-judgemental and independent support services for those living in the London borough of Lambeth who are experiencing gender-based violence. Our services support women and girls aged 13 and over and men aged 16 or over – including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or are unsure of their sexuality. The Gaia Centre also supports transgender clients who identify as male, female, as another gender, or are questioning their gender identity.

Who can access support from the Gaia Centre?

Anyone living in Lambeth who has experienced or is at risk of gender-based violence and is one of the following:

  • Women and girls aged over 13
  • Men aged 16 or older
  • Young people of all genders from the age of 11 who have witnessed or experiences domestic violence
  • Transgender and identifies as male, female, as another gender, or is questioning their gender identity

Our services are available to the above clients and their children. We provide support tailored to your individual needs.

What support is available from the Gaia Centre?

Everyone’s needs are unique and we will work with you to create a support plan that helps keep you safe. For example you may need to:

  • Talk to someone who understands what you are going through
  • Receive support with contacting the police
  • Move away from the area
  • Access a refuge
  • Stay at home but want to find out how you can keep safe
  • Receive support if you are considering going to court
  • Access legal advice
  • Manage your financial situation
  • Find out about support networks in your community
  • Get specialist support for your children

What services are available from the Gaia Centre?

  • One-to-one confidential, non-judgmental, independent support
  • A specialist independent gender-based violence advocacy (IGVA) team to support you if you are at risk of serious harm
  • A specialist service for 13-17 year-old girls
  • A sanctuary scheme to help you remain in your home safely
  • Group support
  • A peer support scheme to help break your isolation; to help build social networks and to support you while you regain control of your life
  • Volunteering opportunities

The service is free and staffed by female members of staff only. Children are welcome.

3. What is violence against women and girls (VAWG)?

VAWG is both a form of discrimination and a violation of human rights. It is both a cause and consequence of gender inequality in society. The United Nations (UN) defines VAWG as "any act of gender-based violence that is directed at a woman because she is a woman, or acts of violence which are suffered disproportionally by women".

In Lambeth we are committed to working to end violence against women and girls. We will do this by raising awareness of the issue and impact of violence against women and girls, providing a holistic support service to those who experience gender violence and holding to account those who commit violence.

In Lambeth, as with the HM Government and the Mayor of London’s Violence Against Women and Girls strategies, our approach focuses on women and girls as the vast majority of victims of reported gender-based violence in Lambeth are female. However, we recognise that men and boys can also be victims of violence and we view all forms of violence and abuse as completely unacceptable, regardless of the gender of the individual who is experiencing the violence.

The vast majority of gender based violence is perpetrated by men against women and girls. VAWG brings together eight strands of policy under one umbrella:

  • domestic abuse
  • sexual violence
  • forced marriage
  • 'honour'-based violence.
  • prostitution
  • trafficking for sexual exploitation
  • female genital mutilation
  • stalking/ harassment

Domestic abuse

Domestic abuse is any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. The abuse can encompass, but is not limited to: psychological, physical, sexual, financial, and/or emotional abuse. For more information see Refuge's website

Sexual violence

Sexual Violence is any unwanted sexual act or activity. There are many different kinds of sexual violence that exist on a continuum including, but not limited to rape, sexual assault, child sexual abuse (CSA) and sexual harassment. Perpetrators range from total strangers to relatives and intimate partners. It can happen anywhere - in the family/household, workplace, public spaces, social settings, during war/conflict situations. For more information see Rape Crisis' website

Forced marriage

A forced marriage is a marriage in which one or both spouses do not (or, in the case of some adults with learning or physical disabilities, cannot) consent to the marriage and duress is involved. Duress can include physical, psychological, financial, sexual and emotional pressure. For more information see Refuge's website

'Honour' based violence

So-called ‘honour’-based abuse is a collection of practices used to control behaviour within families in order to protect perceived cultural and religious beliefs and/or ‘honour’. It is often linked to family members or acquaintances who mistakenly believe someone has brought shame to their family or community by doing something that is not in keeping with the traditional beliefs of their culture. For more information see Refuge's website

Prostitution

The practice of engaging in sexual activity in exchange for payment, in which those involved may be forced, coerced or deceived to enter into prostitution and/or to keep them there. For more information see Refuge's website

Trafficking for sexual exploitation

Trafficking involves the recruitment, transportation and exploitation of adults and children for the purposes of sexual exploitation across international borders and within countries ('internal trafficking'). For more information see Refuge's website

Female genital mutilation/cutting

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a procedure where the female genitals are deliberately cut, injured or changed, but where there's no medical reason for this to be done. It is also known as "female circumcision" or "cutting", and by other terms such as sunna, gudniin, halalays, tahur, megrez and khitan, among others. For more information see Refuge's website

Stalking/ Harassment

Stalking is unwanted, repeated, obsessive and/or controlling behaviours that make someone distressed or scared. There are many ways stalking can be perpetrated and it is most likely to be someone the recipient already knows well such as an ex-partner. The law states that harassment is when a person behaves in a way which is intended to cause distress or alarm. The behaviour must happen on more the one occasion. It can be the same type of behaviour or different types of behaviour on each occasion. For more information see the National Stalking Helpline website

4. Helplines

Telephone numbers and opening hours of helplines that you can call to get tailored advice and support.

  • The National Domestic Abuse Helpline
    The Freephone 24 Hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline, run by Refuge, is a national service for women experiencing domestic abuse, their family, friends, colleagues and others calling on their behalf.
    0808 2000 247.

  • Rights of Women
    London family law advice line open on Mondays from 11am to 1pm, Tuesdays from 2pm to 4pm, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10am to 12pm and 2pm to 4pm.
    020 7608 1137.

  • Forced Marriage Unit
    Helpline for people who are worried they might be forced into marriage or are worried about a friend or relative.
    020 7008 0151.

  • Galop
    Helpline providing specialist confidential support to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (LGBT+) communities, their family and friends, and agencies supporting them.
    0207 704 2040.

  • Men's Advice Line
    A confidential helpline for any man experiencing domestic violence and abuse from a partner (or ex-partner), open Mondays and Wednesdays 9am to 8pm and Tuesdays, Thursday and Fridays 9am to 5pm.
    0808 801 0327.

  • Respect phoneline
    Confidential helpline offering advice, information and support to help you stop being violent and abusive to your partner.
    0808 802 4040.

  • **Modern Slavery helpline**
    24 hour helpline for adult victims of modern slavery in need of assistance, or if you are a nominated First Responder.
    0300 303 8151.

  • Rape Crisis
    Helpline for people who have been raped or sexually assaulted, open midday to 2.30pm and 7pm to 9.30pm.
    0808 802 9999.

  • London Survivors Gateway
    Support for victims and survivors of rape and sexual abuse help to access specialist services in London. You can complete an online form or call them for free.
    0808 801 0860.

  • Revenge Pornography helpline
    The Revenge Porn Helpline is the UK’s only service dedicated to supporting all adults who have been victim of intimate image abuse. Open 10am to 4pm, Monday to Friday.
    0345 6000 459.

  • National Stalking Helpline
    Helpline that provides guidance and information to anybody who is currently or has previously been affected by harassment or stalking. Open 9.30am to 4pm weekdays except for Wednesdays when it is open 1pm to 4pm.
    0808 802 0300.

  • NSPCC Helpline if you are worried about a child or would like information on abuse, positive parenting or child safety.
    0808 800 5000.

  • Solidarity in crisis Out of hours telephone and in-person support service to help you through your crisis and find the right support for you. Open Monday to Friday from 6pm to midnight, Saturday and Sunday from 12pm to midnight.
    0300 123 1922
    Text 07889 756 087
    Text 07889 756 083
    or email: outofhours-solidarity@certitude.org.uk

5. Information for Lambeth Practitioners

This section provides resources for use by practitioners working in Lambeth:

VAWG Briefings

VAWG Campaigns' materials

Please contact us rparker1@lambeth.gov.uk if you have any further questions.

6. Using these pages - covering your tracks

If you are worried about someone knowing you have visited these pages please read the following information on covering your tracks. If you want to get away from this page please use the ‘Leave this page quickly’ link at the top of the page.

It is possible for someone to view which sites or pages you have visited. Your browser may store the address as well as any images from websites you visit, and also words you have entered into search engines. The advice below should help you to remove any evidence of the sites you have visited. The instructions are given for several of the most popular browsers.

How to find out which browser you are using

To find out which browser you have, use the 'help' link at the top of your browser and one of the links will be called ‘About’ followed by the name of your browser.

Private browsing

We recommend that when you are using the internet on your computer (or a computer that people you know may have access to) you do so using 'Private Browsing'.

As you browse the web, your browser remembers lots of information for you: sites you've visited, files you've downloaded, and more. Private Browsing allows you to browse the Internet without saving any information about which sites and pages you have visited.

Click on the below link for your browser to learn how to privately browse.

If you create new bookmarks while private browsing your browser will keep them when you stop. So avoid creating bookmarks during private browsing.

Anything you download to your computer will not be deleted when you finish private browsing (any files, documents, pictures, images etc that you save), so avoid saving any files unless you are sure you will remove them yourself.

I haven't used private browsing - what do I do?

Deleting your internet usage history

You can delete all of the history of your browsing, or just the pages you want to remove. It may be less noticeable if you only remove selected pages.

To delete selected pages in Internet Explorer and Netscape/Firefox hold down the Ctrl key on the keyboard, then press the H key (Crtl, Alt and H for Opera). Find any entries that you want to remove, right click on them and choose Delete.

Deleting cookies

Cookies are small text files which track your on-line sessions. They may also contain login information for websites such as shopping sites or email. If you delete all of your cookies this login information will no longer appear. It may be less noticeable to delete individual cookies.

To delete individual cookies find your cookies file by searching for cookie using the find or search option in Windows or Finder on a Mac. The file will be called Cookies or cookies.txt in Windows and cookies.txt or magiccookie on a Mac. You can then open the file and delete any cookies you want to remove.

Email

If you receive abusive emails you should save them or print them out and keep them as evidence. If you want to hide emails you have sent or received, go to your sent items folder and delete the email, then delete it from your deleted items. Remember that if you started an email and didn’t send it, it will be stored in your drafts folder.

If someone replies to your email, the text of your email may be at the bottom of the email you receive. To remove it scroll down and delete all of the text below their response and delete it then save the email.

General computer safety

This information may not completely hide your tracks. Many browser types have features that display recently visited sites. The safest way to find information on the Internet could be at a local library, a friend's house or at work.