Domestic abuse cases 'could soar during coronavirus lockdown'
The coronavirus lockdown could lead to a surge in domestic violence cases, experts have warned.
Tens of thousands of incidents were reported in the West Midlands last year and there are fears that number will only increase while couples are forced to stay under the same roof.
The charities warn that perpetrators will use the isolation period as a “tool of coercive and controlling behaviour”, and that women and children are consistently more vulnerable during periods of societal stress.
The latest Home Office data shows West Midlands Police recorded 28,134 domestic abuse-related incidents in 2018-19.
Across England and Wales, 571,000 incidents were recorded last year, including both where a crime was recorded by police and where it was decided no specific crime had been committed.
Claire Barnett, executive director of UN Women UK, said many incidents of domestic abuse are not reported and that isolation will cause a spike, as seen during other times of societal stress.
She added: “This is even before we factor in those instances where the victim will have told no-one.
“Women and children are consistently more vulnerable as the targets of violence in these situations, and now as many women will be struggling to find work and unable to maintain their financial independence, this will only worsen.”
A joint statement from Women’s Aid, End Violence Against Women and several others warns Covid-19 will have serious impacts on the lives of women and children as “home is not always a place of safety”.
They said: “We know perpetrators will use infection control measures as a tool of coercive and controlling behaviour.
“Access to support for women and children may also shrink further due to social isolation and those in poverty will be severely impacted.
“Measures to decrease social contact are likely to have significant mental health impacts on the population, and this could be acute for survivors coping and recovering from trauma.”
They added that women will be “disproportionately impacted” by the coronavirus, as they are over-represented in the care sector, more likely to be in low-paid work, more reliant on social security and the worst impacted by poverty.
A Government spokesman said they understand victims and survivors may feel even more vulnerable and urged anyone in immediate danger to call 999.
He added: “Advice and support will continue to be available to victims. The National Domestic Abuse Helpline is staffed by experts 24 hours a day, every day of the year, and the Government has announced a £1.6 billion Covid-19 fund for local authorities to support the most vulnerable.”