by LAUREN CODLING
CAMPAIGNERS have warned of a spike in domestic abuse cases in the UK after the government implemented a nationwide lockdown last week in light of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Prime minister Boris Johnson announced the restrictions on movement of people to halt the spread of the coronavirus infection last month.
The new measures mean many are unable to leave their homes unless they have a necessary reason to do so. Those in self-isolation have been told not to leave their home for 14 days.
Activists have raised concerns that domestic abuse cases will increase and many victims will not have access to support. Aneeta Prem, founder of Freedom charity, described the problem as a “pressure cooker situation” and warned that cases could “exacerbate ten-fold during this crisis”.
“We know that anytime there are people staying at home together, such as over the Christmas holidays, domestic abuse cases go up,” she told Eastern Eye. “We are absolutely expecting a spike of cases.”
Sharan Project founder Polly Harrar said she expected to see a significant increase due to people being in isolation. There are concerns around controlling behaviour and honour related abuse, she added.
“A key challenge many victims will face is gaining the opportunity to safely access support. The workplace could have provided a safe space, this is no longer available for many,” Harrar told Eastern Eye. “With the closure of schools, vulnerable children are also likely to witness or be affected by abuse within the home.”
Recent statistics released by Avon and Somerset Police revealed a 20.9 per cent increase in domestic abuse incidents in the last two weeks from 718 to 868.
Baroness Beverley Hughes, Greater Manchester’s deputy mayor for policing and crime, also admitted they were expecting to see a rise in domestic abuse incidents. “The potential for tension to arise in the home as a result of what we are asking people to cope with, in order to suppress the virus, is going to increase,” she said. “Therefore we would be right to think this might display itself in an increase in the number of domestic incidents we are called to.”
Justice secretary Robert Buckland also warned the Commons Justice Committee last month that the UK may see an increase of cases of domestic abuse during the coronavirus outbreak.
Although the government recently published guidance for providers of safe accommodation for victims of domestic abuse, many remain unsure how specialist refuges will cope with an influx of people requiring their services.
A spokesperson for domestic abuse charity Women’s Aid said they hoped to see government continue to ensure that refuge services could operate safely and effectively amid the on-going pandemic.
“This is likely to be a challenging time for refuge services, who continue to face a funding crisis and severe levels of demand for their help,” they said.
Prem admitted she worried for people who contacted Freedom for safe housing. She believes many refuges and hostels will be unable to accommodate the victims in light of the pandemic. “Usually, we’d say we could help people and find them a refuge, but we can’t – there is nowhere for us to send them,” she said.
Both Prem and Harrar said their services would remain open, including online access and email services. “We will continue to be available through email and phone services as well as through our social media channels,” Harrar said.