by Tony Melnikoff
One thing that was very noticeable during my time on both the Criminal and Family Benches was how DA always spiked whenever families were “locked together”. And not just physical abuse, but also emotional, psychological, financial, sexual, and coercive and controlling behaviour. This was especially prevalent during holiday periods, with Christmas / Boxing Day being a prime example. It was therefore sad, but perhaps inevitable, that we would see a surge in such cases following the lockdown on 23rd March.
The risk was acknowledged eventually by the Government. On 14th April they issued a document Covid19: Support for victims of Domestic Abuse. In it they stated that:
“The household isolation instruction as a result of coronavirus does not apply if you need to leave your home to escape domestic abuse.”
On 22nd April The Department of Health & Social Care issued a safeguarding document, “Aimed at professionals and organisations who are involved in supporting and safeguarding adults and children.” The document admitted that “Emerging evidence from statutory and voluntary agencies across the UK has emphasised the increased risks of domestic abuse, with Refuge reporting a 25 per cent increase in calls and online requests since the lockdown began in March 2020.” Then on 27th April the Home Affairs Select Committee issued a report calling for “Urgent action … to protect victims and prevent perpetrators from exploiting the lockdown to increase abuse … We are calling for new emergency funding for support services,” the report continued, “new ways for victims to access help through supermarkets and pharmacies, outreach visits to known vulnerable households, support for children, and a new guarantee of safe housing for anyone needing to leave their home during lockdown because of abuse … The emotional, physical and social scars from domestic abuse can last a lifetime.” While on 2nd June, The Independent newspaper reported that: “Calls to the UK’s national domestic abuse helpline have risen by 66 per cent and visits to its website have surged by 950 per cent since the start of the coronavirus lockdown. Frontline service providers told The Independent they were bracing for a surge in victims coming forward as the UK starts to ease restrictions.”
My questions therefore are:
What action did you take to try to identify victims of DA within your communities?
What help and assistance did you give to those identified as victims?
Where applicable, what help did you give to perpetrators to attempt to guide them away from their abusive path?
Should further lockdowns be necessary what might you do differently?
Keep safe everybody.