Domestic violence levels peak globally as a result of Covid-19 lockdown

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Domestic violence levels peak globally as a result of Covid-19 lockdown

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With the global population being urged to stay at home to reduce the spread of coronavirus, more victims have reported incidents of domestic abuse and violence than ever before.

The UN has recently shared that, ‘help lines in Singapore and Cyprus have registered a more than 30 per cent increase in calls. In Australia, 40 per cent of frontline workers in New South Wales reported more requests for help. In France, domestic abuse and violence cases increased by 30 per cent following the lockdown on March 17. In Argentina, emergency calls for domestic abuse have increased by 25 per cent since the lockdown started on March 20.’

Closer to home, phone calls, emails and website visits to Respect, the national domestic violence charity, have seen a dramatic increase of 97 per cent, 185 per cent and 581 percent respectively. In the first 3 weeks of COVID-19 lockdowns, 14 women and 2 children were murdered in the United Kingdom alone.

The stress and anxieties arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown have pushed many families and couples to breaking point. This has meant that support workers, domestic abuse organisations and police have seen their resources stretched to try and help those victims of violence and abuse.

The Cost of Domestic Abuse and Violence

According to the Crime Survey in England and Wales, only 21 percent of domestic abuse incidents are reported to the police, with an estimated one in four women and one in six men experiencing domestic abuse in their lifetime.

Domestic abuse also carries an estimated cost to society of £15.7 billion a year, but with an average of two women dying per week due to domestic violence, the human cost is far higher still.

Studies have also shown that the reports of domestic abuse incidents affect people from all walks of life, but those with a lower income or socioeconomic status are at far greater risk of domestic abuse from partners and family members, both in the UK and overseas.

Many of the people affected by domestic abuse often do not have the available funds to escape their abusers or feel pressured into staying as they have children or other dependants at home. Many women and girls in impoverished countries face homelessness or the wrath of their families should they attempt to leave a relationship fraught with emotional and physical abuse.

Sadly, fleeing a marriage for any reason still carries a stigma in many countries, leaving the victims of domestic abuse trapped in a relationship filled with violence and fear.

Support for victims varies worldwide

Unfortunately, the support available for victims of domestic abuse varies wildly from country to country.

Here in the UK, the Government has stepped up to offer additional support for those looking to leave home due to domestic abuse with free train tickets. Employers have also been encouraged to offer salary advances to victims, but this isn’t true of many other countries.

For example, the support available in developing countries such as Nicaragua, Peru and Zambia is significantly underfunded, with support organisations few and far between to help victims escape their tormenters. The stark link between domestic abuse and violence and poverty is clear for all to see.

Many women who are victims feel they have no choice other than to stay at home or return to their abusers as the lack of shelter and accommodation on offer is sporadic at best.

Support networks

With the COVID-19 pandemic raging on, many victims are seeing far less of their friends and family members.

Victims often have feelings of being cut off and isolated from those closest to them, and this is, in turn, causes stress and anxiety levels to rise.

In the UK, a growing number of online resources are being made available so victims of domestic abuse can reach out for in a safe manner. These includes apps, signals on Skype or Zoom calls and cryptic messages that can alert a friend or loved one to their situation. But not everyone has access to much of this technology a great number of victims find themselves trapped at home by both the coronavirus and their abusers without the tools needed to ask for help from their support networks.

Cost of coronavirus domestic violence still unclear

Here in the UK, lockdown restrictions are finally beginning to ease which gives victims the opportunity to leave their homes to stay with relatives or to seek accommodation with one of the many organisations dedicated to supporting those who experience domestic abuse and violence.

However, as lockdown restrictions are being further relaxed, the number of reports of domestic violence is failing to follow suit; money worries, the uncertainty of job security and other economic factors surrounding family finances are still causing stress and resulting in further reports of domestic abuse.

Many victims have also stated that delayed evictions from rented housing due to COVID-19 have prolonged the suffering, with couples in toxic and violent relationships still housed in the same property.

How the UK is stepping up to support victims of domestic violence?

As the number of reports for domestic abuse rises, organisations are finally receiving additional funds to help support victims.

Employers are being urged to forward salaries to their employees who have reported an incident to the police and need the funds to leave for alternative accommodation. Local authorities are being urged to provide temporary accommodation to victims in vacant properties across the UK.

Even though court hearings have been delayed due to coronavirus, the National Centre for Domestic Violence has still been supporting victims of domestic abuse by helping to process emergency injunctions and providing both legal and emotional support free of charge.

If you or someone you know needs to take out an emergency injunction against an emotionally or physically abusive partner, our helpline is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 0800 970 2070. Alternatively, text the National Centre for Domestic Violence on 60777 and our team will call you back.

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By Fiona Bawden, Times Online (8th May 2007)

“Steve Connor, a student at City Law School, is a man on a mission. Six years ago he was a fairly directionless 27-year-old. Today, as well as taking the Bar Vocational Course, he is chairman of the National Centre for Domestic Violence, a ground-breaking organisation that he dragged into existence after a friend could not get legal help to protect her from an abusive partner.

Connor’s route to the Bar has been circuitous. In 2001 he returned from a year in Australia (he says that he would not dignify describing it as a gap year), and took a job as a process server in South London. The job (“I just saw it advertised in the paper”) was not quite as dull as it sounds. On one occasion he was threatened with a machete, on another, he was nearly stabbed by a man he had arranged to meet on Clapham Common to serve with a non-molestation order: “He’d seemed really friendly on the phone…”

The turning point in his life came when a friend, who was being abused by her partner, turned to him for support. Connor went with her to the police. She did not want to press criminal charges so the police suggested that she visit a solicitor to take out a civil injunction. “We must have seen 12 solicitors in a morning. We just went from one to the next to the next to the next. Everyone was very eager to help until we sat down to fill in the forms for the legal aid means test,” he says. The woman, who had a small child, did not qualify for public funding. But, Connor says, her financial situation as it appeared on paper did not bear any relation to her financial situation in reality. “She had a part-time job and she and her partner owned their home. Yet she didn’t have any money. Her boyfriend was very controlling and controlled all the money; he kept the chequebooks and didn’t let her have access to the bank account.”

The injustice of the situation got under Connor’s skin. “I just couldn’t believe that there was no help available to people who did not qualify for public funds but could not afford to pay.

I just kept feeling that this must be able to be sorted if only someone would address it.”That “someone” turned out to be him.

In 2002, thanks entirely to Connor’s doggedness, the London Centre for Domestic Violence was formed. It started out with him and a friend, but is now a national organisation, covering 27 counties, and has helped approximately 10,000 victims last year to take out injunctions against their partners.

NCDV now has nine full-time staff, 12 permanent volunteers and has trained over 5000 law and other students as McKenzie Friends to accompany unrepresented victims into court. We have also trained over 8000 police officers in civil remedies available regarding domestic violence. The National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV) has branches in London, Guildford and Manchester and is on track to have branches in 16 areas within the next two years.

NCDV specialises exclusively in domestic violence work and could be characterised as a cross between McDonald’s and Claims Direct. The high degree of specialisation means that its processes are streamlined: clients can be seen quickly and the work is done speedily and cheaply. “Sometimes, we will have one of our trained McKenzie Friends at a court doing 10 applications in one day,” Connor says.

Clients are not charged for the service. NCDV staff take an initial statement: clients who qualify for legal aid are referred to a local firm; those that don’t get free help from the centre itself. It runs on a shoestring, heavily reliant on volunteers and capping staff salaries at £18,000 a year.

Steve expects to qualify as a barrister this summer and hopes that having a formal legal qualification will give the centre added clout. “We are already acknowledged as experts and consulted at a high level, so I thought it would be helpful if I could back that up by being able to say I’m a barrister,” he says. He is just about to complete a one-year full-time BVC course at the City Law School (formerly the Inns of Court Law School) and, all being well, should be called to the Bar in July. Although Connor sees his long-term future as a barrister, he says that he has no immediate plans to practise. “I want to get NCDV running on a fully national level. Then I may take a step back and have a career at the Bar.”