Lifting of lockdown could see 'substantial increase' in reports of domestic abuse in Sussex

Easing of lockdown measures is expected to bring a rise in reports of domestic violence as victims gain more freedom from their abusers.

Sussex Police said it had already started to see an upward trend in the number of domestic abuse reports, rising by 2 per cent over the week ending April 26 after a dip when lockdown was first announced.

Strict lockdown measures were announced on March 24 aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus, limiting most people to trips out of the house for essential shopping and one form of exercise per day. A smaller number of more vulnerable people were told to stay in their homes entirely for 12 weeks.

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Despite the measures being designed to protect people, they naturally meant victims of domestic violence who lived with their abusers were then trapped, compounded by households potentially becoming more volatile under the strain of confinement. Although that is not to suggest there is any excuse for any form of domestic abuse.

Domestic violence reports are expected to increase as lockdown is lifted

It also meant victims were less likely to be able to report their abuse, a trend noted by Louise Gisbey, the deputy chief executive of domestic abuse charity Safe in Sussex.

Louise said lockdown was undoubtedly a 'very challenging' time for people living with domestic abuse and the charity's figures reflected those of the police.

"Safe in Sussex is acutely aware that people experiencing domestic abuse during lockdown will have limited or no opportunity to seek help due to perpetrator being constantly present," she said.

"All signs point to a substantial increase in demand for our service once lockdown measures are lifted and are actively planning for this. However, we are seeking every way possible to provide means for them to access help.

"Our refuge provision and outreach service continues as usual and from Monday, May 11, there is a chat service available on our website from 12.30pm until 2.30pm and a helpline from 10am to 3pm. Both are available Monday to Friday. The helpline number is 01903 896202

"Additionally we are also offering the Freedom Programme online more details of the programme are available on our website"

Despite the slight rise in reported cases at the end of April, domestic abuse crime markers are 10 per cent lower this year than at the same time in 2019.

Deputy Chief Constable Jo Shiner said she expected cases to rise when lockdown measures are eased or modified. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce a loosening of lockdown measures during a briefing to the nation on Sunday (May 10).

DCC Shiner said the force had adapted to support people at risk and fine them a safe space, and vowed police would always pursue offenders.

Some of the specific measures put in place by Sussex Police include:

- dedicated ‘domestic abuse’ cars across Sussex, responding to medium risk incidents. Emergency response officers will always respond quickly to high risk incidents

- a new specialist team able to deal with any non-urgent cases by appointment and this has included a new video appointment service where conversations can’t take place face to face.

- the launch this week of domestic abuse awareness at local supermarkets, with high profile signage at entrances and take-away information, complementing an online campaign.

If you're a victim of domestic abuse, or know someone who is, and there is an emergency that is ongoing or life is in danger, call police on 999. If you cannot talk because the perpetrator is nearby, you can press the numbers ‘55’ into your mobile phone which will alert the operator of your circumstances.

The Sussex Safe Space website provides a directory of help and support available near you.

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