Part Two: Chief Executive of WillisPalmer “The window to seek help narrows further”
The impact of Covid-19 on victims of domestic abuse, is perhaps best summarised in a recent speech given by the Duchess of Cornwall, who said: "This is a hard time for everyone, as we are all asked to stay at home to stay safe. But for some of you it is even harder, because home is not a safe place.” In the second part of an exclusive series for The Parliamentary Review, Chief Executive of WillisPalmer, Mark Willis, investigates the knock-on effects of lock down on already over stretched social work and NHS departments.
Firstly, take domestic abuse. An estimated 2.4 million adults – 5.7 per cent – of all adults experienced domestic abuse in the last year, according to the Crime Survey for England and Wales year ending March 2019. The police recorded a total of 1,316,800 domestic abuse-related incidents and crimes in the year ending March 2019 and, of these, 746,219 were recorded as domestic abuse-related crimes, an increase of 24 per cent from the previous year. It is important to remember that this is likely to be the tip of the iceberg as domestic abuse crimes often go unreported.
Prior to the lockdown measures being introduced, the National Domestic Abuse Helpline run by Refuge, logged on average 270 calls and contacts per day.
However, during the week commencing 30 March, calls to the helpline increased by an average of 25 per cent, while hits to the website increased by 150 per cent during the initial stages of Covid-19 lockdown.
By 6 April, calls and contacts to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline were up by 120 per cent compared to the previous day while traffic to this website, rose by 700 per cent on Monday compared to the previous day. In fact, the website visits on Monday alone were greater than the combined number for the previous five days.
Adults are experiencing stress about the health of their family, financial pressures and families are cooped up in unprecedented circumstances. As stress increases this exacerbates abuse in existing abusive relationships and the measures can even act as a catalyst in families where there has previously been no hint of violence.
Sandra Horley CBE, Chief Executive of national domestic abuse charity Refuge, said: “Ordinarily, the window for women to seek help is extremely limited. During periods of isolation with their perpetrators, this window narrows further. It is critical that women have alternative, digital ways of accessing help.”