Campaigners are warning that the lockdown will result in an increase in domestic abuse cases, as vulnerable people are being forced to spend all day with their abuser.
This grim news is supported by police who have confirmed that they have seen a drop in the number of calls they are receiving, confirming that victims may be suffering in silence.
It is important for anyone suffering from abuse to know the government has confirmed that victims can leave their homes during lockdown if it is to find help.
Stacey Powney, family lawyer at Atherton Godfrey, said: “Vulnerable people will feel more isolated than ever. Prior to lock down, victims may have had the opportunity to spend some time apart from their perpetrator, giving them much needed breathing space. However, many families in isolation are more at risk now than ever and unfortunately, the ‘stay at home’ rule is likely to lead to a spike in the number of abuse cases. The National Domestic Abuse Helpline reports that it has seen a 25% increase in calls and online requests since the lockdown began. It is important to know that our local domestic abuse services are still operating to support those that are able to reach out.”
Police forces throughout the UK have issued warnings to perpetrators that they will not be able to hide behind the lockdown.
South Yorkshire Police has said it is taking a “zero tolerance” approach to dealing with abusers. Superintendent Paul McCurry wanted to offer some reassurance to victims, he said: “ The isolation period, in most cases, will mean that you have little or no respite from your abuser and you may be concerned that your reporting mechanisms are now limited. I’m writing this to let you know we are here for you and will remain here for you throughout. We have the resources to support you and we will take your report seriously. “
Police in Humberside echoed the message, saying they don’t want vulnerable victims to think they’re alone. Assistant chief constable, Chris Noble commented: “Anyone who thinks that the social isolation is a free pass for them to behave how they like to people within their household needs to know that we are taking a firm and proactive approach to ensure that this does not happen. You will not be able to hide behind the lockdown.”
Stacey, added: “These are difficult times and it’s important that victims know that the law is still there to protect them. In addition to police support, our legal team are liaising with courts and can secure orders to safeguard them and their children.”
It will come as a welcome relief to many to know that they can leave their homes to seek help despite lockdown but we need the government to go further. In France, the government is providing funding for victims to be safely housed. Whilst in the UK, spending cuts have seen one in six refuges have to close their doors.
Silent calls warning
There is a myth that silent calls to 999 will automatically bring help. The National Police Chiefs Council warns that this is not the case. If someone in need of urgent help dials 999 but cannot speak, pressing 55 will divert their call to police call handlers who will ask a series of questions that can be answered by tapping on the handset. Callers must not rely on police being able to trace their location, especially if they’re calling from mobile phone.