Could viral domestic abuse ‘code word’ posts be doing more harm than good during lockdown?

Solace, the leading domestic abuse charity in London, voices concerns over recent viral social media posts that claim to offer support to those experiencing domestic abuse while confined to their homes. 

It’s clear there has been a surge in awareness about domestic abuse and concern for survivors who are suffering in silence, more than ever before, as abuse escalates during the coronavirus pandemic. The horrors that women suffer behind closed doors has rightly been put into the spotlight and there is greater understanding about the barriers to seeking support while isolated. Isolation is certainly not new for survivors, and we must not blame the virus for the actions of abusers. But the coronavirus pandemic and conditions of lockdown allows abusers to amplify their tactics. The frequency and severity of abuse will be increasing.  

We’ve seen the community coming together to recognise and try to support those experiencing abuse  - a colleague, friend, or someone living next door - and asking ‘what can I do?’

And while we welcome the good intentions of the public we have real concerns about certain advice being put out to survivors through viral social media posts about code words and text help. Are they who they say they are? What happens if that person is in imminent danger? How do they signpost, manage risk and safety plan? And perhaps most importantly, once a ‘code-word’ has gone viral could it actually become more dangerous if an abuser finds that text.  

Women experiencing abuse need specialist support - those specially trained in domestic abuse that understand the risks involved, which may escalate when a survivor seeks to support or plans to leave the abuser. Specialist services, like Solace, are open and adapting to continue to help 1000s of women and children every day. Our helpline is open, our refuge doors are open and are staff here to help. We provide expert advice by phone or online to help survivors stay safe at home or help create a safe plan to escape the abuse.

What can I do to help? 

Everyone can have a role to play, so if you’re asking yourself ‘how can I help?’ we’ve listed some suggestions below:

  • - Keep in contact with anyone you are worried about – a friend, neighbour, colleague or relative can play such an important role in keeping lines of communication open.
  • - Think of a code-word unique to you and the individual - to alert you if help is needed.
  • - Encourage anyone you are worried about to seek specialist support (see below for numbers)
  • - Share domestic abuse helpline numbers  & Silent Help (link) across your social feed to reach those you might not be in direct contact with.
  • - Challenge the behaviour of someone who is acting abusively or recommend support (Respect)

If you want to find out more about how to help, Solace is running a webinar for the public so they can understand what to do if they are worried about someone they know.

Join the webinar 

We also have more advice and resources available for the public and professionals here: 

Help & resources