The National Domestic Abuse helpline, run by charity Refuge, last week reported a 25% increase in the number of calls and online requests for help, as compared with the numbers received just 2 weeks prior. The figures are disturbing but not totally unexpected as a number of organisations have warned of a spike in domestic abuse cases caused by self-isolation measures due to the Coronavirus pandemic. There is also concern among campaigners that the lockdown measures could lead to an increase in domestic-violence related homicides.
Worryingly, as can be seen in this article by The Sunday Times (13 April 2020), the number of calls received by the National Domestic Abuse helpline soared by 120% over a single 24 period. This is hugely concerning for many individuals.
Sandra Horley, Chief Executive of Refuge said, “Many perpetrators already use isolation “as a tool of control.” “The lockdown restrictions may make it more difficult for victims to reach out to neighbours, friends and family for support. It is also acknowledged that victims may be less able to make an emergency phone call if needed. The National Domestic Abuse Helpline therefore has the option of contacting them through its website, with a quick exit button which ensures no record of the communications are left on the phone.
A number of refuges also remain open for individuals whose safety is endangered by violence in the home. The police should always be the first port of call in an emergency, and when dialing 999 if it is not possible for a victim to speak to the operator, they should dial 55 when prompted to confirm that they are in need of emergency help.
West Midlands Deputy Chief Constable Louisa Rolfe, who leads on domestic abuse for the National Police Chiefs’ Council said: “We would always seek to remove the perpetrator because often victims in their home where family, friends and neighbours can look out for the victim are much safer than if we remove them. However we do know in certain circumstances sometimes victims need to flee their home and we will be working with refuge providers to ensure that they have access to safe accommodation.”
FLiP associate Hannah Greene notes: “The Family Courts do remain open to deal with urgent issues, and domestic abuse injunction applications are being heard. Of course, there are added complications with making these applications during lockdown, and it is more important than ever that any application is well thought through in the first instance. Particular consideration will need to be given to the resources available for rehousing a perpetrator if they were to be excluded from the family home.”
Whilst the first port of call in an emergency situation should still be the police, at Family Law in Partnership our specialist family lawyers are able to offer support and advice if you are faced with domestic abuse. Find more about our expertise here.