But the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) David Jamieson said he believes the real figure could be even higher, urging victims not to hesitate in contacting police.
Speaking at the PCC’s strategic policing and crime board on May 19, Maureen Connolly, chief executive of Birmingham and Solihull Women’s Aid (BSWA), said the number of women killed every week nationally by domestic abuse has risen from two to three since lockdown began, with 24 domestic abuse-related homicides in the first seven weeks.
She also revealed of the 4,108 reports of domestic abuse between March 23 and April 26, 58 per cent of victims refused to help police with their investigation, suggesting coercive control could be a factor.
“One of the things I wanted to say is that Covid does not cause domestic abuse, in case anybody thinks that – what we’ve done is we’ve been able to shine a light onto the reality for a lot of women and children living with abuse,” she said.
“And some of the things that are really key that we’ve identified in this period is a real lack of accommodation – whether that’s for permanent housing or refuge spaces – but also awareness and understanding around secure pathways, hardships, whether that’s welfare reform, food and fuel poverty, and that there’s been a real increase in domestic abuse related to homicides.
“And what’s on the record so far demonstrates that there’s at least three women a week that have been killed, rather than the average of two a week before the pandemic. And we believe it’s even higher.
“At the start of the lockdown it was really difficult for women to call at all, numbers went down across the country – although I know there was reporting nationally of high levels, that was not being mirrored in the local groups.
“And in some cases it dipped to a very low number, which was extremely concerning.
“But we’re waiting for the surge and we anticipate a surge at the end of this process. We know that there was evidence of abuse in half of the cases where women have died, that there was previous abuse.
“And we know that the Domestic Homicide Review learnings and the femicide centres have recognised that coercive control is still a challenge for professionals to actually identify, and I recognise that challenge, but it’s actually something that we need to be thinking about in the future.
“We see also that 58 per cent of victims refused to help a police investigation, and I think that is part of the coercive control issue – that women do not feel able to do that many times.
“Some women may choose not to, because they don’t want to do anything about it at this time, but nevertheless I think coercive control comes in strongly at that point.”
Police say they remain in daily contact with domestic abuse providers such as BSWA, with fortnightly meetings held with all providers across the region.
The PCC has also been involved with #noexcuseforabuse campaign, which he says is one of the reasons for the recent rise in reporting of domestic abuse.
And he also revealed that he has bid for £4.4 million of funding for domestic abuse services, which he is hoping will be granted by the Ministry of Justice.
“Partly as a result of #noexcuseforabuse campaign that I have led with local services we have seen an increase in reporting of domestic abuse after a period of decline,” he said.
“This is an area of crime that is still underreported. We had early concerns that lockdown was discouraging people from reporting the abuse they faced.
“I want to reassure victims that West Midlands Police prioritise domestic abuse and there are support services in place to help victims cope and recover.
“To help services adapt to the challenges of Covid-19, including those supporting domestic abuse victims in the West Midlands, I have bid for £4.4 million funding from the Ministry of Justice.
“The services that help victims cope and recover are absolutely essential and I am hopeful that my bid for funding on their behalf will be successful.”