Domestic abuse to 'get more severe' during lockdown with victims urged to call helpline

The severity of domestic abuse will increase during lockdown, a charity has warned.

There are concerns that domestic abuse will become more severe as the lockdown goes on. PIC: SWA/Laura Dodsworth

Scottish Women's Aid also said it was not expecting an ‘explosion’ in abuse cases but warned those already suffering will suffer more given access to support networks are restrained during lockdown.

The group said its helplines are open 24/7 during the pandemic, while it also offers support via webchat and email, and its 36 services around Scotland remain open.

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Chief executive Dr Marsha Scott told the PA news agency: "We are concerned that the severity of abuse will increase. We think that's more likely the longer that social isolation is in place.

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"In the first few weeks we thought it would be a bit like holiday periods where the perpetrators are at home more but when that wears off, the mechanisms that women have for dealing with it are constrained.

"We are not worried about an explosion of abusers but that the abuser will have more free rein to abuse and the victim will have fewer ways to deal with it, with less access to support services and less access to networks of support."

She said many women find ways to deal with domestic abuse without contacting police or support services, but they may now be concerned about keeping themselves and their children safe while cut off from the places they normally turn to for help.

She said: "Many women manage using their own resources such as being connected with family and friends who help them and give support while the perpetrator is out of the house.

"All these things you take for granted if you are not being controlled by an abusive partner, in the context of lockdown these things will be more difficult to access.

"She will not be able to rely on going to her family or get respite for her children, and children will no longer be in places

where they have safe spaces like school, sport places or nursery."

Dr Scott and the police have said officers are treating domestic abuse cases with the same seriousness as they did before the pandemic, and victims can still leave their homes to seek refuge.

Scottish Labour MSP Pauline McNeill highlighted the importance of keeping services tackling domestic abuse open during the pandemic.

She said: "The lockdown has been a very worrying time for women facing domestic abuse. Zero-tolerance means that no-one should feel discouraged from contacting support services due to the pandemic. These are essential services and it is more vital than ever that victims seek support.

"As the lockdown continues we must ensure that support services remain open, and that any additional resources necessary are provided. It is more important that ever that services and places of refuge are easily accessible so women know they have a route out of abusive settings."

Last month, the Scottish Government announced it is providing Scottish Women's Aid with £1.35 million over six months from its Communities Fund, to help those at risk of domestic violence.

Scottish Women's Aid domestic abuse and forced marriage helpline can be accessed on 0800 027 1234 or www.sdafmh.org.uk.