Article by Beth Edwards, student at the University of Liverpool.
The UK was put into lockdown on 23 March, this meant there were rules in place to stop people from leaving their homes unless for an essential reason such as shopping for necessities, medical attention, one form of exercise a day or travel to work, where it was not reasonable for you to work from home. These measures were put into place in a desperate attempt to mitigate the spread of coronavirus in the UK, the rules are regulated by The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020, specifically stated in regulation 6 which sets out the reasonable excuses you can leave your home for. The negative effect of this lockdown would mean that victims of domestic abuse would be forced to stay in the house with their abuser.
Domestic Abuse is a continuously serious issue that is prominent all year round, however with the lockdown the UK has seen a surge in the number of cases. In comparison to the same months in 2019, domestic abuse phone calls to the police has increased by 11%, this equates to around 380 calls a week on average. The calls reported cases of kidnapping, arson, revenge porn and poisoning, however, research shows that most of the calls were made by third party’s such as neighbours, family members or witnesses. Similarly, calls to domestic abuse helplines rose by 49% and calls to Men’s Advice Line rose by 35% in the first week of lockdown. According to The Counting Dead Women Project 14 women and 2 children were killed in the first three weeks of lockdown. On average during the same period in other years the records show 5 killings, this shows the extent of the crisis on domestic abuse in lockdown.
Women’s Aid, a charity dedicated to victims of domestic violence released a short film in response to the 41% increase of users visiting their live chat system since lockdown. The short film provides a greater understanding to those not effected by domestic violence in order to increase their support and donations to fund operations such as phone services. In addition, it encourages victims to ask for help and support.
The Governments response to this surge was to give an additional £2m to domestic abuse helplines, although this has been seen to be 19 days too late, the extra funds were provided to allow those being abused to access support during difficult times. Moreover, Priti Patel launched the ‘You Are Not Alone’ campaign, this campaign was launched to show support for abuse victims by asking members of the public to share a photo of a heart on their palm. This campaign will also make aware to victims the number – 0808 2000 247 – which is run 24 hours a day. Further Government response has been seen in the six weeks up to 19 April where more than 4000 arrests had been made in London, this number has risen by 24% since last year and averages at 100 arrests a day.
Finally, the Domestic Abuse Bill was introduced on 3rd March 2020 in the House of Commons just before the lockdown began, the bill intends to promote awareness of domestic abuse and provide support and protection for the victims. It creates a fairer and safer court process for the victims by creating a statutory presumption that victims are eligible for special measures during court, in addition to prohibiting defendants from cross-examining their victims. Despite the bill there was still a surge in domestic violence cases during lockdown, indicating that the Government needs to provide further measures to promote awareness.
For more information on the Domestic Abuse Bill 2020 visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/domestic-abuse-bill