'Worrying' increase in domestic abuse during pandemic as victims are left 'isolated'

Figures have been released which reflect a stark increase in the number of domestic abuse crimes committed during the coronavirus pandemic.

Man beating up his wife illustrating domestic violence
Man beating up his wife illustrating domestic violence

The figures released by the Home Office showed that 55,820 offences were recorded by West Midlands Police and 18,353 by Staffordshire Police in 2020/21, part of around 850,000 such crimes reported in England and Wales.

That is the equivalent of 19 for every 1,000 people in the area, up from 14 the previous year in the West Midlands and 16 for every 1,000 people in the area, up from 14 the previous year in Staffordshire.

There has also been a substantial increase in the number of crimes committed over the last six years, with a 194 percent rise in the West Midlands and 54 percent rise in Staffordshire since records began in 2015/16.

That means that in that year, 18,967 offences were logged in the West Midlands, while Staffordshire saw 11,902 offences logged in that year.

Charity Women's Aid has described the figures as merely "the tip of the iceberg", and said it showed that women are disproportionately more likely to experience abuse.

Farah Nazeer, chief executive of Women's Aid, said to tackle domestic abuse, society must work together to tackle the inherent sexism and misogyny which underpin women's inequality and violence against them.

She said: "Women will not report domestic abuse if they aren’t confident they will be believed and action will be taken on their behalf.

"We all have a part to play in unlearning sexism."

Raj Thind, head of domestic abuse services at Black Country Women's Aid, said there were a number of reasons for the rise in domestic abuse crimes.

She said: "We know that there were a lot of economic pressures and financial issues as, during the pandemic, a lot of people lost their jobs or were on furlough.

"We did identify that one of the factors that was increasing the referrals coming into our service was when you have people at home, there's no safe place to go as you're stuck at home with the perpetrator.

"There are also two elements to it, with victims who were known to services and were now isolated with the perpetrators of abuse and there are the new victims who were not known to the service and circumstances have created some form of abuse.

"That means a number of repeat incidents, but also new victims we never knew about."

The West Midlands victims’ commissioner Nicky Brennan said: "There is currently a pandemic of male violence against women and girls and this is an issue that I am working tirelessly on.

"Tackling it is a top priority the PCC Simon Foster and myself.

"We have worryingly seen a considerable rise in domestic abuse during the pandemic and through lockdowns, where people found themselves isolated with abusers.

"With domestic abuse rising across the country it is more important than ever that we bring those people who feel they are above the law to justice, but also to support the victims and ensure they are kept safe.

"We have also put in place additional support and have doubled the number of Independent Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence Advocates in the region who help to support victims navigate the criminal justice system."

The National Police Chiefs' Council lead for domestic abuse, assistant commissioner Louisa Rolfe, said the "complex and entrenched societal problem" was a policing priority and highlighted an increased number of victims reporting abuse in recent years.

She said forces could still pursue cases to keep victims safe, even when they are reluctant to support prosecution but said arresting offenders was a temporary respite from the problem.

She called for a multi-agency approach to provide effective and sustainable support and solutions.

A Home Office spokeswoman said the Government is committed to ending violence against women and girls, and said its landmark Domestic Abuse Act would improve victim support and strengthen legislation.

She said funding had been doubled for 2021/22 to £25 million in an effort to tackle perpetrators.

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