Lockdown hurt mental health of domestic abuse victims and lost their faith in court system, report finds

It comes as more than £4m funding to help domestic abuse sufferers has been announced by the Scottish Government

More funding has been made available to domestic abuse frontline services

Domestic abuse victims were left feeling isolated, depressed and reliant on substance abuse as lockdown hit, a new study by the Scottish Government has found.

Children were also found to be more at risk to being exposed to abusive behaviour, while mental health of domestic abuse victims plummeted.

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The report notes “significant increases” in the amount of crisis work with victims, with suicidal thoughts and increased fear common threads throughout.

Victims also began to lose faith in the criminal justice system during lockdown as stress and anxiety grew due to rescheduled or postponed court cases and appearances.

Those acting and advocating on behalf of victims also said they were faced with a number of challenges linked to the “quickly changing landscape of court proceedings” which affected victims in criminal trials and those going through civil court proceedings.

The report comes as the Scottish Government announced £4.25m worth of new funding.

The investment will go to charities and organisations across Scotland and help respond to increased demand for support services due to the Covid-19 crisis.

Money will go towards hiring more staff, enabling increased hours at centres and helplines, and improve digital offerings to allow services to be up-scaled and available to more victims quickly and easily.

Equalities Minister Christina McKelvie said the risks of people being subject to domestic abuse during the Covid-19 pandemic was a “major concern” and said focus on frontline services would enable them to react appropriately.

She said: “The greater risks to women and children of domestic abuse with referrals to frontline services increasing during the pandemic is a major concern. It is atrocious that this is the case but we are focused on ensuring that frontline services can meet the increased demand for support.

“This extra funding will help to ensure these vital services are still able to provide support to people across the country, and the scale and innovation of these projects will provide a lifeline to many women and families.

“Any kind of violence is unacceptable and the safety and wellbeing needs of women and children need to be protected - that is even more important during a pandemic. Police Scotland continue to prioritise domestic abuse cases so I would also encourage anyone suffering violence and domestic abuse not to hesitate to get the support they need.”

Dr Marsha Scott, chief executive of Scottish Women's Aid, said the challenges faced by Women’s Aid groups during the pandemic have been “huge”.

She added Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdown gave abusers “more tools” to control and harm women and children, and said the injection of funding would help provide “much-needed stability” for frontline services.

She said: “Our local Women's Aid groups have shown extraordinary resilience and creativity in rapidly redesigning their services to continue supporting those experiencing domestic abuse throughout the pandemic. The challenges they've faced have been huge as COVID-19 has given abusers more tools to control and harm women and children.

"This injection of financial support will provide some much-needed stability for groups against a back drop of precarious, patchwork local funding. As lockdown and other measures ease, our local groups are anticipating even more demand for their specialist services as survivors begin to have more opportunities to seek support.

"Additionally, if faced with a second wave of the virus, this funding will strengthen the responses of groups and allow them to build on the progress they have made in delivering services remotely.

"This support from the Scottish Government will help local Women's Aid services prepare to meet those needs and will mean that women, children and young people experiencing domestic abuse can access the help and advice they want, when they want it."

If you are suffering from domestic abuse, you can call Scotland's Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline on 0800 027 1234.

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