Traffic and calls to domestic abuse charity surge during lockdown

Traffic and calls to domestic abuse charity surge during lockdown

Calls to the National Domestic Abuse helpline rose by 120 per cent overnight on 6 April while traffic to Refuge’s website rose by 700 per cent from the previous day.

The charity Refuge which runs the domestic abuse helpline found that contacts to the helpline and its website had risen considerably since lockdown measures were introduced, although the charity stated that “it is important to recognise that lockdown itself is not a cause of domestic abuse”.

The increase in calls and contacts to the helpline demonstrates that more than ever, women need access to immediate help and support. However, Refuge’s concerns remain that women may find it more challenging to call for help during periods of protracted isolation and therefore the true number of women experiencing domestic abuse is likely to be much higher.

Sandra Horley CBE, Chief Executive of Refuge said: “On Monday, Refuge released the first set of statistics which indicated an average increase in calls and contacts to its National Domestic Abuse Helpline of 25% since the UK entered lockdown measures. After significant media coverage directing women to Refuge’s Helpline, our statistics show that the number of calls we logged increased by 120%.

“This is an enormous increase which underscores what we already know – domestic abuse is a scourge on society and must be addressed. Two women a week are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales. Domestic abuse is a crime and it must be addressed.

“We know that some forms of abuse are not as widely recognised as others. Domestic abuse is not just physical violence – it can be misuse of technology, economic abuse and coercive control. We hope that women seeing our public communications will feel reassured and supported and recognise that what they are experiencing is against the law and not acceptable. Women are not alone and Refuge is here to provide support.

“Domestic abuse is a crime, and it is a choice a man makes. Only he is responsible for changing his violent behaviour,” she said.

Traffic to Refuge’s website which contains valuable information for women on how they can access life-saving support rose by 700% on Monday compared with the previous day. The website visits on Monday alone were greater than the combined number for the previous five days.

Sandra Horley added: “What this shows us is, as we anticipated, women under lockdown who are experiencing domestic abuse are finding the window in which to call us – already ordinarily very limited – has further reduced, and are seeking support online.

“Whilst we have also seen calls and contacts to our National Domestic Abuse Helpline sharply rise, the spike in visits to ‪‪ have been phenomenal and shows us that women are turning to Refuge’s digital tools and resources as a way to get in contact with us and access critical information.

“We hope that around the country women will be reassured to know that even during these unprecedented times, Refuge is there for them,” she said.

However, when WillisPalmer spoke to frontline social worker Rita Long, she told us that while domestic abuse and the ‘toxic trio’ of mental health, substance and domestic abuse were on the rise during lockdown measures, this had not transferred into an increase in referrals to children’s services departments yet in her experience.

“Normally, when we are dealing with families where there is domestic abuse, we find out through the schools. Women don’t want to tell their friends what is going on and so we usually find out if a child goes into school and tells a friend or a teacher and we get the referral that way,” explained Rita.

“The problem at the moment is that there are so few children going to school as they are just open for key workers’ children or those children already known to us, so there is no outlet for a child to say something which is a massive worry for us,” she added.

“You can imagine what is going on, there are families experiencing the toxic trio, their mental health is getting worse during lockdown, substance abuse is likely increasing and families are cooped up – there is no outlet. It’s great that the helpline is there, but we are not getting any referrals from them,” she added.

The Home Secretary launched a new public awareness raising campaign highlighting that if anyone is at risk of, or experiencing domestic abuse, help is still available. The campaign, under the hashtag #YouAreNotAlone, will aim to reassure those affected by domestic abuse that support services remain available during this difficult time.

It will encourage members of the general public to show their solidarity and support for those who may be suffering, by sharing government digital content or a photo of a heart on their palm, and asking others to do the same, to show victims that they are not alone and to convey to perpetrators that domestic abuse is unacceptable in any circumstances.

The Home Secretary also announced that the Home Office is working with charities and the Domestic Abuse Commissioner to provide an additional £2 million to immediately help fund domestic abuse helplines and online support.

The government has also announced greater access to legal aid for domestic abuse survivors.

National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247


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