The charity that runs the UK’s national domestic abuse helpline has seen traffic to its website increase nearly 10-fold compared to its average before lockdown, it reported on Wednesday.
Refuge said that numbers had “spiked significantly” during the lockdown period, which began in the UK on March 23, showing the “extent of support required” for victims across the country.
The organisation recorded a 66% increase in calls to its helpline in the last three consecutive weeks, compared to its average before lockdown, while web traffic has increased 957% over the past two weeks.
Sandra Horley, the chief executive of Refuge, described the rise in demand since the start of the pandemic as “sharp and escalating.”
“Women up and down the country are isolated with abusive partners — and children will be witnessing and in some cases experiencing domestic abuse,” she said. “This is a terrifying ordeal and Refuge wants women to know they are not alone.”
Horley further explained that “during the initial stages of the COVID-19 crisis from March the organisation reported around a 50% increase in demand to its National Domestic Abuse Helpline, and a 300% increase in visits to the helpline’s website."
The non-profit’s report states that “while lockdown itself does not cause domestic abuse, it can aggravate pre-existing behaviours in abusive partners."
Increased incidents of domestic abuse has been a global issue during the coronavirus crisis, with the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) predicting on April 28 that there would be at least 15 million more cases this year around the world due to lockdowns.
“I got a couple of bin liners, threw some clothes, in and got out” – a 10-fold spike in demand for our National Domestic Abuse Helpline website highlights the terrifying reality of women experiencing domestic abuse during lockdown: https://t.co/smdvghdVHR— Refuge (@RefugeCharity) May 27, 2020
Argentina recently reported a 10-year high in femicides; meanwhile, Australia has launched an awareness campaign after a significant increase in family violence was reported around the country, with one charity reporting a 20% increase in traffic to its website.
The UK government announced a £76 million package of support on May 2 for charities and community services working with domestic violence and trafficking victims, as well as those working with vulnerable children and people experiencing homelessness.
The housing minister, Robert Jenrick, said at the time that “for some in our society these [lockdown] measures involve sacrifices that none of us would wish anyone to bear. For victims of domestic abuse it means being trapped in a nightmare."
In addition, a programme called “Safe Spaces” has been developed in collaboration with the domestic violence charity Hestia, where people who need support can visit Boots, a UK pharmacy chain, and ask to speak to someone privately in the pharmacists’ consulting room to access help and advice.
Meanwhile, the supermarket chain Morrisons began offering a similar service from May 20, also with support from Hestia. The initiative of getting Boots and Morrison's involved is part of the charity's “UK Says No More campaign, which aims to get members of the public and organisations actively involved in taking a stand against domestic abuse.