Since the government declared the lockdown on 23 March 2020, there have been significant increases in the rates of domestic abuse across the country and internationally. According to the Office of National Statistics two women a week are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales alone.
These were the figures from before the lockdown. Reports of domestic abuse sent to UK police forces by Crimestoppers during the lockdown, have surged by nearly 50%. Domestic abuse charity, Hestia, has seen a 47 percent increase in victims using its free app, Bright Sky, for support. Tragically the list of women who have died during the lockdown is growing. The impact of the easing of the lockdown restrictions remains to be seen.
There have recently been a number of new initiatives to assist victims in the first step to escaping an abusive relationship, including additional government funding, provisions at Boots to use their pharmacy consultation rooms as a safe space, and free rail transport for example.
‘Rail to Refuge’
Domestic abuse does not always consist of physical abuse, and can include emotional abuse, financial abuse, and controlling and coercive behaviour. Financial control can limit victim’s capacity to be financially independent, for example, by limiting their access to cash. This makes obtaining cash to pay for a train ticket, very difficult, although being able to get away from the abuser is essential when safety is the principle need.
Under a ground breaking new scheme, victims across the south of England, West Midlands and South Wales, are the first to benefit from the ‘Rail to Refuge’ provisions put in place by Southeastern and Great Western Railways. The scheme offers free train tickets to women or men, and their children, to travel to a refuge. For those in East Anglia, this may considerably reduce the train fare to a refuge, which can involve travelling in and around London and the southeast.
Victims can contact Women’s Aid or other domestic abuse helpline or local outreach service, and a refuge space will be found for them if necessary, and a train ticket obtained for on the victim’s behalf.
Boots provides safe spaces in consultation rooms
The lockdown makes it more difficult for victims to seek support and advice, to enable them to plan and escape from an abusive relationship. Under the new Boots scheme, people are able to seek support and advice in a private consulting room whilst in their pharmacy without drawing the meeting to the attention of a perpetrator or others. While in a consultation room in England, people will have access to the following organisations:
- 24-hour National domestic abuse helpline: 0808 2000 247
- Men’s advice line: 0808 801 032
- Signposting to download the free mobile app, Bright Sky, which provides support and information to those who may be victims, or to those who are concerned about someone they know.
Other advice lines are available in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Additional Government funding
The Government has pledged more than £76m for funding charities including those to help victims and survivors of domestic abuse.
There is currently a domestic abuse bill going through parliament, which will ensure that victims are given priority when accessing social housing services.
Contacting the Police
After calling 999 to get through to the police, victims can dial 55 so that they are able to continue the call without needing to speak.
The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at July 2020.