There’s been a 20% increase in reports of domestic abuse since the UK lockdown.
In our blog last week we wrote about the fears that domestic violence charities across the UK were facing with the nationwide lockdown resulting in victims of domestic abuse finding themselves indoors with their abusers.
Sadly, it would appear that those fears have come to pass after nine recorded killings have been made in the UK in the first week of the Covid-19 lockdown. Full details of each case are limited at this stage, but reports have confirmed that the deaths were as follows:
- The bodies of two adults and two children, as well as a dog, were found dead in a house in Sussex;
- A man was charged with killing his wife of 45 years in South Wales;
- A husband was arrested adter his wife, an NHS nurse, was stabbed to death in the street in South Yorkshire; and
- A married couple and their daughter were found dead in what was described as a murder-suicide in Hertforshire.
Lucy Hadley, of Women’s Aid, has reported that an online chat service, which is open for two hours, attracts between 200 to 400 users a day and that demand has been increasing over the last few weeks. Similarly, Avon and Somerset Police have reported a 20% increase in domestic abuse incidents in the last two weeks.
The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, confirmed that the country will crack down on domestic abusers during the UK lockdown. Speaking to the media, she stated that abusers would be hunted down and punished.
Patel stated that: ‘I am acutely aware that the necessary guidelines about social distancing and self-isolation may leave the victims of hidden crime, such as domestic abuse and child sexual abuse, feeling especially isolated, vulnerable and exposed… My message to every potential victim is simple: we have not forgotten you and we will not let you down. And my message to every perpetrator is equally simple: you will not get away with your crimes.”
It was further confirmed that victims of domestic abuse may leave home to seek refuge during the UK lockdown: “I also want to make clear – whilst our advice is to stay at home, anyone who is at risk of, or experiencing, domestic abuse, is still able to leave and seek refuge. Refuges remain open, and the police will provide support to all individuals who are being abused – whether physically, emotionally, or otherwise.”
Across the globe, there are similar reports of increases in domestic abuse during the Covid-19 epidemic:
A state-run domestic abuse centre has seen a large increase in cases which it has attributed to the Covid-19 situation, the Brazilian broadcaster Globo has said. “We think there has been a rise of 40% or 50%, and there was already really big demand,” said Adriana Mello, a Rio de Janeiro judge specialising in domestic violence. “We need to stay calm in order to tackle this difficulty we are now facing.”
In the Hubei province, the centre of the initial Covid-19 outbreak, reports to the police involving domestic violence tripled during the February lockdown, rising from 47 in the previous year to 162. A retired police officer, Wan Fei, who founded a charity campaigning against domestic abuse, told Sixth Tone website that “the epidemic has had a huge impact on domestic violence” and that “according to our statistics, 90% of the causes of violence [in this period] are related to the Covid-19 epidemic”.
Calls to a domestic abuse helpline rose by 30% in the week after 9 March when the country reported its first confirmed case of Covid-19. “It’s been a dramatic rise and it has only gone up,” said Annita Draka, of the association for the prevention of domestic violence, “It’s a 24-hour helpline and the calls come in all the time.”
The German Green party’s parliamentary leader, Katrin Göring-Eckardt, has reported fears for the lives of thousands of women trapped with their violent partners, and called on the government to free up money for safe houses: “The spaces in safe houses for women are tight even during normal times. She went on to urge authorities to utilise empty hotels and guest houses, and lift conditions on leaving home for women who are vulnerable.
Police in the Uttar Pradesh state have initiated a new domestic violence helpline due to a surge in new cases. The police have promised a female officer will handle each case and that they will arrest the perpetrator of any violence.
Domestic abuse charities have reported a drop in the number of telephone enquiries which have been replaced by a surge in text messages and emails asking for help from victims. Lella Lalladino from EVA Cooperativa states that “One message was from a woman who had locked herself in the bathroom and wrote to ask for help… For sure there is an overwhelming emergency right now. There is more desperation as women can’t go out.”
The Catalan regional government has reported that calls to one of its domestic abuse helplines has risen by 20% in the first few days of the confinement period.
Do you need help?
In the UK, the domestic violence helpline is 0808 2000 247. Alternatively, if you would like to discuss your legal options please call the Maguire Family Law Team and we will do everything possible to help you today.