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Solace launch domestic violence appeal as lockdown abuse set to soar

Islington's most senior police officer said his focus 'would always be on protecting vulnerable people'

25 March, 2020 — By Bronwen Weatherby

AN emergency appeal has been launched to help domestic abuse victims facing weeks on lockdown with their abusers.

Solace Women’s Aid, which works directly with women in the borough, revealed calls to their helpline had hit an all-time high in the days leading up to the lockdown but have since dropped drastically.

The organisation said it is becoming increasingly concerned that women now trapped indoors with their abusers all day are unable to reach out for help.

Fiona Dwyer, Solace’s chief executive, said: “We are in uncharted waters when it comes to supporting women living in enforced isolation and lockdown.

“We are really concerned about women living in isolation with their abusers and the challenges they face keeping themselves and their children safe.

“We anticipate that there will be an enormous spike in demand after the lockdown period has end- ed. Right now, we are at full stretch ensuring that our services can continue to meet the needs of the most vulnerable – keeping our refuges and supported accommodation open to referrals and supporting women to be safe through our community services.”

The pandemic has also meant those who have chosen to flee are faced with an even more stark choice in terms of access to food and safe accommodation.

Solace’s staff are trying to raise funds to help meet women’s immediate needs.

“The situation is urgent. Women should not have to choose between coronavirus and abuse as a result of being in lockdown with their perpetrator,” Ms Dwyer added.

Last year, 4,000 cases of domestic violence and abuse were recorded in Islington, with the borough’s council pledging £3million to tackle the issue over the next three years.

Campaigners have warned that victims may slip through the cracks as the number at risk of abuse during isolation soars – an estimated 1.5 million women or more across the UK – and public resources are stretched to fight Covid-19.

However, Islington police commander Chief Superintendant Raj Kohli told the Tribune protecting those at risk remains a priority for the police force. “The focus is on protecting vulnerable people, it always has been and always will be,” he said.

“With the anxiety and frustration caused by isolation I think we will see an increase in domestic violence incidents even among people who usually do not partake in domestic violence.

“I would say this to anyone scared or who is being hurt, never be afraid to ring 999.

“If you’re unsure then just ring one of the numbers either 101 or 999, but always ring 999 in an emergency. Don’t ever think we’re too busy to come,” he added.

“I don’t want victims of domestic abuse thinking they’re not going to be looked after by us. Together with the local authority, we will look after you even if the way we do it looks slightly different from usual.”

Council leader Councillor Richard Watts said: “I am really worried about seeing an increase in domestic violence, which we already know is a big issue in Islington.

“If you can find a safe way of doing it, please tell us. There will be services there to help.”

Women’s Aid acting co- chief executive of Women’s Aid Adina Claire said all their services continue to operate.

She said: “For women and children experiencing domestic abuse across the country, home is not a place of safety. Survivors will be feeling unsafe about the prospect of being isolated in the house with a perpetrator during the COVID 19 pandemic.

“Combined with financial concerns and the stress families are facing as a result of the virus, we know there are serious concerns about domestic abuse escalating during this challenging time. Isolation may also close down routes to support and safety.

“We want to send two clear messages to every- one with concerns about domestic abuse – help and support is available and domestic abuse is a crime.”

Women’s Aid:

You can access Women’s Aid direct services including their Live Chat, the Survivors’ Forum and the Survivor’s Handbook at www.womensaid.org.uk

You can also email helpline@womensaid.org.uk or contact a local domestic abuse service by using their Domestic Abuse Directory: https://www.womensaid.org.uk/domestic-abuse-directory/

Islington Solace Women’s Aid:

www.solacewomensaid.org

Camden

Call the council’s dedicated coronavirus hotline on 079744444 and press option 9 and you will be directed to the right services.

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