Domestic abuse calls for help dramatically increase during coronavirus lockdown

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  • Domestic abuse charity Refuge has logged on average a shocking number of 270 calls per day

    As we continue to spend the majority of our time behind closed doors, domestic abuse charities are noting a stark increase in calls to their helplines.

    Ordinarily, the window for women to seek help is extremely limited, and so during periods of isolation with their perpetrators, this window narrows further. Refuge, the UK’s largest domestic abuse charity, says calls have risen by 25 per cent since lockdown measures began on March 26, and reports an increase of 700 per cent of women using the National Domestic Abuse helpline.

    This means women and children facing domestic violence at home are potentially at risk of life-threatening risks situations.

    Isolation has potential to aggravate pre-existing behaviours in abusive partners and as the UK enters the third week of lockdown measures, Sandra Horley CBE, Chief  Executive of national domestic abuse charity Refuge told Marie Claire, ‘Since the UK lockdown measures were announced, Refuge has worked round the clock to ensure its life-saving services remain open and accessible to any woman who needs them.

    ‘Prior to the lockdown measures being introduced, the National Domestic Abuse Helpline run by Refuge, logged on average 270 calls and contacts per day.’

    If it is too difficult to make a call, Refuge wants to make it known that women can also access support online, filling in a web form, indicating a safe and secure time to be contacted. And women appear to be taking advantage of this option, as during the week commencing 30 March, clicks to the national domestic abuse website increased by 150 per cent.

    Meanwhile, to highlight the plight of at-risk women, and of others who feel invisible, voiceless and vulnerable, hairdresser Stewart Roberts (founder of Haircuts4Homeless, a charity that offers cuts to people on the streets to give them a much-needed boost) has launched a podcast called Hear Me, See Me.

    In this week’s episodes, Roberts shares interviews with two women pushed to breaking point in past relationships. Their stories are harrowing, but end positively, having found the strength and helping hand required to remove themselves from danger.

    The first podcast, available to download now, is with Jodie Keegans. Her six-year-old daughter saved her life by telling teachers at school that ‘my daddy is hurting my mummy’. Keegans, 36, suffered three years of domestic violence at the hands of her husband Scott Keegans before he was jailed for 18 years in 2018. During the violent relationship, Jodie was banned (by Scott) from working, having a mobile phone or seeing her family. After her husband was finally arrested, Jodie was taken to hospital with a broken shoulder, ripped ear, nine shattered ribs, six spinal fractures and was at risk of lung and organ failure. Fast forward and Jodie has been rebuilding her life and is dedicated to supporting other domestic abuse victims. She tells us, ‘I want to empower women, and men, to come forward. To anyone who has been a victim of domestic abuse: the help is there and it’s amazing, you just need to take that first step and reach out.’

    The second interview is with Cathy Brown, who was in an abusive relationship at a young age. After being raped and abused over a two year period at just 16-years-old, Brown decided to take up professional boxing to find her sense of self-worth and belonging. She became the second woman in the UK to receive a professional boxing licence. After spending 10 years at the top, Cathy now uses her experience to help others, telling Marie Claire, ‘You can achieve anything you want in life, if you want it enough.’ Using her journey and positive outcome as domestic abuse survivor, Cathy has worked with the charity Refuge and the Mental Health Foundation, runs ‘Empowerment for Women’ workshops, and is currently an ambassador for The Lotus Flower Charity.

    Government guidelines ​​​​say we must all remain at home as much as possible in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 – people should shop for groceries as infrequently as possible and only leave their house for one form of exercise a day- but there have been concerns that the measures leave domestic abuse victims vulnerable. With this in mind, Refuge reminds us that it is here to support women today, tomorrow and in the future.

    Domestic abuse is a crime ultimately rooted in power and control. And it must be stopped.

    If you have been personally affected by domestic violence or know someone who has, you can contact the Freephone 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247. or visit refuge.org.uk

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