'Right now, we need money. If we don’t get that funding, more people will die,' says the head of women’s charity Solace
While our NHS heroes tirelessly work to save lives from coronavirus on the frontline, the lives of women trapped in domestic abuse relationships are tragically being lost in their own homes.
There has been a surge of violence towards women since the government enforced lockdown in the UK, and while the home secretary Priti Patel says the Home Office is to provide an extra two million pounds for domestic abuse helplines and online support during coronavirus, the charity Solace says this simply isn’t enough to save lives.
Fiona Dwyer, chief executive of Solace Women’s Aid, the capital’s largest provider of domestic abuse services, told The Guardian violence will continue with such little help from the government.
Criticising the home secretary, she said, ‘Priti Patel, saying that victims of domestic abuse don’t have to stay in the house, they can just leave, shows she has no understanding of the dynamics of domestic abuse, and no interest in it either.’
On April 11 Priti launched a new campaign of support for domestic abuse victims that involves people drawing a heart on their hand, plus £2m for the sector. It came after Refuge, the UK’s largest domestic abuse charity, told Marie Claire calls to their helpline have risen by 25 per cent since lockdown measures began on March 26.
It also followed shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds’s letter to Priti, saying the organisations providing domestic abuse support services during the pandemic must get an emergency financial package from the government.
Since lockdown, at least 10 women and children have been killed by men they knew. Sadly, as well as domestic homicides, Fiona warns, ‘we’re also going to see is an increase in suicides – people who really want to flee but can’t and feel they have no other choice’.
Addressing the £2m contribution, Fiona told the The Guardian, ‘For any individual charity focusing on violence against women and girls, that amount would be huge because we run things on a shoestring. Spread across the whole country, it’s pitiful.’
She went on to say, ‘We welcome the inclusion of tackling perpetrators in her announcement, suggesting that they should be the ones to leave, and would like to see how the home secretary plans to put this into practice. In the meantime, we are still funding accommodation from our emergency appeal for those women and children who have managed to flee.’
The charity, which has an annual income of just under £12m, is being forced to use money it has not budgeted for, and its 23 refuges across London are now completely full.
And Fiona leaves us with this: ‘We’ve now got a situation where perpetrators may never have worked from home and end up becoming even more abusive. Then if you’ve got someone using it as an opportunity to further isolate you, saying ‘we need to self-isolate, we can’t go out’ – well, it’s really difficult. And we don’t know how long this will go on for.
‘We need money. If we don’t get that funding, more people will die.’
Anyone who requires help or support can contact Solace’s 24hr National Domestic Violence Helpline
on 0808 2000 2475, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger please call 999.