Volunteer writer, Natalie Doyle, speaks about the rise in domestic abuse cases during the Covid-19 lockdown and self-isolation period.
T/W mention of domestic violence, abuse, murder and suicide throughout.
For most of us the current lockdown is an invitation to spend quality time with those we live with; a time for us to rally together and support the NHS and our frontline workers. This isn’t the case for all.
According to the Office for National Statistics, “in the year ending March 2019, an estimated 2.4 million adults aged 16 to 74 years experienced domestic abuse in the last year”. In one year in the UK, more people suffer from domestic abuse than currently have COVID-19 in the whole world.
What is even more shocking is that helpline calls are up 25% since lockdown was announced. Due to this lockdown, many escape routes for survivors have been stripped away. For many, everyday tasks such as the school run or going to work gives a much needed rest-bite from mental, physical and sexual abuse. Now these routines have been changed. Not only are victims spending more time being abused but, they have significantly less chance of reaching out for help. In addition, due to the lack of social interactions, there will be less chance of friends and family noticing the signs of abuse.
The above might sound like a contradiction. More calls to helplines but less chance for victims to be noticed. A reasonable suggestion would be the intervention of neighbours, a more sinister suggestion simply being there is significantly more abuse to be noticed. This thought however, comes with some shocking outcomes.
It may come as no surprise that the more time spent with an abuser, the more likely a victim is to die. The National Suicide Prevention Alliance says that usually thirty women each day make an attempt to end their own life. Imagine how many more will be affected during lockdown. In 2018 there were 173 domestic homicides, equating to two women each week being killed. Domestic abuse survivor Rachel Williams said in an interview with the BBC;
The homicide rate is going to go through the roof, and this is what we’re anticipating and bracing ourselves for.
This rise in abuse comes as there is a dramatic drop in support available. Man-hours are lower, funding is reduced and, the public attention is focused on the international pandemic response. Charity Women’s Aid is attempting to fundraise £200,000 to ensure that they can continue to provide services to survivors. Without the additional funding, many charities will not be able to support some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
The public resources are also distributed differently. Though a domestic abuse 999 call will be high on the priority list, due to on the ground police being deployed to patrol roads, break up gatherings and talking to people on the streets – the response time could be greatly affected. You might think that breaking the COVID-19 lockdown rules is a victimless crime, but the knock-on effects could cost multiple lives and not just because of the spread of the disease.
For information and support on domestic abuse, contact:
Police: 999 press 55 when prompted if you can’t speak
Refuge UK wide 24-hour helpline: 0808 2000 247
Welsh Women’s Aid Live Fear Free 24-hour helpline: 0808 80 10 800
Scotland National Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriages 24-hour helpline: 0800 027 1234
Northern Ireland Domestic Abuse 24-hour helpline: 0808 802 1414
Online webchats and text services are also available.
Featured image by Sarah Hannaford.