Advice and support if you're affected by domestic abuse

One of the more hidden fallouts from lockdown is the rise in domestic abuse. Helplines have seen their biggest spike in calls as survivors find themselves locked in with their abusers.

A annual national campaign raising awareness around domestic abuse is now calling for a change in how domestic abuse is talked about.

But will that change be too late for some?

A warning, Nitya Rajan's report starts with an account of domestic abuse that some viewers may find upsetting.

This video contains distressing images

  • Video report by Charlotte Cross

“The thought terrifies me… I wouldn’t have survived. I would have come out of here dead.”

For Alison* (name changed to protect identity), it was behind closed doors when her partner would strike - hitting her, cutting her, at one point even stabbing her.

Had she been forced to isolate with him, she believes he would have killed her.

And that’s the reality facing many domestic abuse victims now, as the Coronavirus lockdown forces them into isolation with their abusers.

  • For where to find advice and support, please scroll to the bottom of the page

The domestic abuse survivor says she believes she would have been killed if she had been in lockdown with her abusive former partner. Credit: ITV News Central

A number of charities who deal with domestic abuse and violence have raised concerns about the safety of people living in abusive situations.

The latest police figures show that in the East Midlands, there were 54,615 domestic abuse-related crimes in the 12 months ending in March 2019.

In the West Midlands, it was 71,827.

And organisations say those figures could soar as the lockdown and social distancing measures continue.

The Haven Wolverhampton told ITV Central that staff had actually seen a drop in calls since Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the lockdown last week - and fear that’s symptomatic of how victims, most of whom are women, are unable to get away even to make a phone call to ask for help or support.

“We’re very concerned,” Pamilerin Beckley, who deals with the stories of people who use the service, said.

“Women are isolated in situations which could be extremely dangerous to them. Some are living with the perpetrator, and they can’t get out. That is a major concern for us.

“You can imagine if you’re sitting right there, with someone who’s threatening to do harm to you, when do you get out to call the helpline?”

Her concerns have been echoed by the chief executive of Staffordshire Women’s Aid, Dickie James.

“Perpetrators often appear perfectly normal people outside the home, but within the home they can be extremely controlling, violent, and abusive in non-violet ways,” she said.

“So people will be living 24 hours with an extremely stressful and dangerous situation.”

She said communities now need to watch out for one another, and stay alert for the warning signs of abuse.

"We're seeing communities rally around, and it's more important now than ever that people don't hesitate to call police if they believe something might be going on," she said.

The government wants people to stay home to save lives. Credit: ITV News Central

Meanwhile, charities such as The Haven and Staffordshire Women’s Aid are having to make up for a shortfall in donations, as they are unable to accept food, toys or clothing due to safety concerns.

An online fundraising page for Staffordshire Women’s Aid has already attracted hundreds of pounds.

Alison* was able to escape her abuser with the help of Dudley-based The Saleem Foundation - but she says she’s deeply concerned for the safety of others.

She too encouraged anyone with concerns about themselves and others to speak out.

The normally-busy Aston Expressway in Birmingham is all but deserted as people observe the lockdown. Credit: ITV News Central

Warwickshire Police is among the police forces speaking out to reassure members of the public.

Det Insp Tony Hibbert urged people not to “suffer in silence”.

In an emergency, dial 999.For more information and support, the following services are available: