Cost of living: The effect of rising prices on domestic abuse in the North East

  • Video report by Molly Sharples.

A North East domestic abuse charity said it has seen more victims worrying about how they will be able to afford leaving their situation due to the cost of living crisis.

Danielle Chadwick from the charity Harbour said there are lots of reasons why someone does not leave an abusive relationship and financial worries is one of them. 

Ms Chadwick said: “We are seeing an increase in people who are affected by the stress and the additional pressures of financial issues that are affecting families.

“Although it is no justification it does put pressure on families and cause arguments and distress and additional worries.

“It is whether they would have a property to live in and whether they would be able to afford utility bills and they often haven’t had control over money themselves.”

Danielle Chadwick from Harbour said she thinks the charity will start to see an increase in abusive situations. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees News

She added: “In most abusive relationships control and power underpins domestic abuse and comes hand in hand with that in the financial aspect.

“If someone doesn't have access to their own finances and if someone is not able to get up freely to leave without substantial money in their bank, it is harder for somebody to leave so they are controlled further.

“I think the worry and uncertainty of the financial situation and people not really seeing it getting any better if anything is getting worse does put an additional amount of pressure on families.

"I will say it again, it does not justify any form of abuse but naturally I think we will start to see an increase in abusive situations.”

Emma, from Gateshead, experienced physical and mental abuse, which gradually became more severe, over an eight-year relationship with her ex-partner.

She said at the height of the abuse she was not allowed any of her own money and had to provide receipts for everything she purchased.

Emma added this made leaving the relationship even harder.

Emma said when she left the abusive relationship she had £3.36 and the clothes on her back. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees News

She said: “When I left, I left with £3.36 in my purse and the clothes that I stood in and that is how I had to get away, I had nothing.

“Victims can be very isolated from their family and their friends when they are in an abusive relationship and that makes it more difficult to go and ask for help.

“If you had a bit of money that you could go and stay in a hotel with, while you got that help, that would be great, but people have not got that money at the moment to do that with the cost of living crisis.”

Natalie (not her real name) has been an A&E nurse at a North East hospital for four years. 

She told ITV Tyne Tees that she has seen an increase in the amount of patients she has had to refer for domestic abuse safeguarding since the cost of living increased. 

Natalie said: “It [cost of living crisis] just seems to trigger quite a few relationships.

"Recently I saw a patient who came in following some complications with pregnancy.

“The pregnancy was with her ex-partner and who she disclosed to me at the time that she was having to have sort of prostitute herself for to pay for bills and in the at home and for her other children.

“She had left this partner because of domestic violence in the past but now had to resort to having intercourse with him again and he would pay her, so she could afford food for the kids."

Natalie spoke to us anonymously about the differences she has since since the cost of living began to rise. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees News

She added the trust she works for has a dash system for domestic abuse referrals, which is a series of 21 questions after which a patient can score low risk, medium risk and high risk.

Natalie said: “It is quite a time consuming process within the A&E department, but it's something that is important and it requires a full, sort of, work up with people.

“I have definitely noticed on shifts recently I've been spending more and more time with the safeguarding team, with the domestic violence team, specialists and having to make those referrals more often.”

The North East has had the highest rates of domestic abuse-related crimes of anywhere in the UK since the year ending in March 2019 according to statistics from the ONS. 

From April 2020 to March 2021 there was 19.2 domestic abuse related crimes recorded per 1,000 people in the North East.

This compares to just 10.5 in London and 18 in Yorkshire and the Humber (the second highest region).

It comes as the charity Women’s Aid recently published a report of their findings after surveying women who were experiencing domestic abuse or who'd experienced it in the past year.

They found: 

  • More than 70%  said the rising cost of living has prevented them from leaving, or made it harder

  • More than 50% said if they left their situation, they would not be able to support their children

  • And nearly half of those questioned fear benefits wouldn't cover the increasing living costs.

Farah Nazeer, chief executive of Women’s Aid said: “Women have told us that they are being trapped because of their dire financial situation, two thirds (66%) of survivors told us that abusers are now using the cost of living increase and concerns about financial hardship as a tool for coercive control.

“Women who live with their abuser are often financially dependent on them, almost three quarters of this group (73%) said that the cost of living crisis had either prevented them from leaving or made it harder for them to leave.  

“This crisis is having an unprecedented impact on women and children and requires urgent action. While the government has made some positive progress in this area, more must be done.

"We urge the government to provide an Emergency Support Fund for Survivors to offset the impact of the cost of living crisis. We also ask that the government offers discounts on energy bills to domestic abuse services that provide lifesaving support.”

A Government spokesperson said: “We are working to ensure victims, survivors and their families are fully supported. Our Tackling Domestic Abuse Plan invests over £230 million, including over £140 million to support victims and survivors.”

If you are a victim of domestic abuse, support can be found on the following websites.

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