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Charities' concern as more head to domestic abuse websites during lockdown

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Rachel Younger

The National Domestic Abuse helpline has seen a 25% increase in requests for help since the lockdown began two weeks ago.

The charity Refuge, which runs the phone and online service, has warned self-isolation could aggravate existing tensions and remove potential escape routes.

In the initial stages of the lockdown it saw a 150% increase in the number of people accessing the national domestic abuse website www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk.

ITV News has spoken to 13 frontline organisations across the country revealing a steep rise in people getting in touch online but a worrying fall in the number of calls to phone helplines.

One Yorkshire-based charity has seen a 30% increase in people seeking help on its internet chat service compared to the same time last year.

More people are using online services.

The free to use Bright Sky app, which offers online help and support, has seen downloads go up by a third since lockdown began.

But many organisations are concerned that their phone lines have all but stopped ringing.

Haven, a support service for women in the West Midlands, believes victims are struggling to find a safe space to call.

Haven volunteer Jaime Richards, a survivor of domestic abuse herself, said “Where have all the women gone? It’s absolutely petrifying.

"Many of us are survivors ourselves and can only imagine having to live with an abuser in lockdown. We’re having some sleepless nights”.

One woman, whose anonymity we are protecting because she is still living with her abuser told us, via email, that she has never felt more worried.

An email sent to ITV News.

She wrote: "It is not as easy as getting up and leaving, it is really hard. I'm stuck here with him and I don't see another soul. Things are bad and I'm scared."

Six charities also reported a fall in referrals because many places that normally pick up abuse – like churches, schools and GP surgeries – are closed.

Hestia, which runs services in London and the South East, says there are still spaces available in hostels despite services being stretched.

Director of Operations Abigail Ampofo said “It’s getting trickier to move women and families on who are now ready to go into their own accommodation because of limitations surrounding the virus.

"That is putting pressure on places.”

But police forces are warning perpetrators the lockdown won't stop them being prosecuted, whilst stressing that help is still out there for anyone affected.

Loiusa Rolfe warned perpetrators.

The Deputy Chief Constable of the West Midlands Loiusa Rolfe leads the national police response to domestic abuse.

She told us that Covid-19 is testing the police but with domestic burglary and robberies falling, resources are being switched to frontline abuse teams

“If perpetrators think they can get away with it because of Covid-19 they can't”, she said.

“In my own force we have had one or two examples of perpetrators saying you can't arrest me I have got Covid-19.

"But we did arrest them and we have prosecuted people.

My officers have the right protective clothing and equipment and we have the appropriate custody suites to hold people in so there is nothing to prevent us dealing with people.”

The clear message: that if you are unsafe at home there is help out there and you can leave if you need to.

If you need help please contact:

If you are in immediate danger, always call the police on 999.