Demand for domestic abuse support rose by 90 per cent in Herts during lockdown

We've revealed the latest statistics on domestic abuse in our area as part of our special edition. Picture: Getty...

We've revealed the latest statistics on domestic abuse in our area as part of our special edition. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Figures released by councils and the police in Stevenage and North Herts reveal a sharp spike in both the number of recorded domestic-abuse crimes and those seeking support during lockdown.

There was a 90 per cent increase in the number of users using Survivors Against Domestic Abuse during the first national lockdown.

And as part of our series on domestic abuse, we’re sharing these eye-opening figures with our readers.

Survivors Against Domestic Abuse – which was originally founded by Stevenage Borough Council, and now also operates in North Herts, East Herts and Welwyn Hatfield – has dealt with 620 cases between January 1 and December 1 this year.

As well as the huge increase in demand in the first lockdown, the service secured further safe spaces which offer anomymous refuge for those seeking immediate support – taking its total from two to 19.

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Office for National Statistics data also states that between April 1 and June 30, 2020, 1,786 arrests were made for domestic abuse-related crime in Hertfordshire.

There were also 2,118 child protection referrals for domestic abuse-related crimes in the county.

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Leader of SBC and chair of SADA, councillor Sharon Taylor, said: “The pandemic has highlighted how vital domestic abuse services like SADA are.

“It’s fantastic that we have been able to increase our Safe Space provision from two at the start of the year to the current 19, which means even more victims of domestic abuse can get the help and support that they need to make life-changing decisions.

“Domestic abuse can affect men and women, and we would encourage anyone suffering to call SADA to speak to a dedicated support worker.”

A survey of survivors by Women’s Aid found that the coronavirus crisis impacted experiences of abuse in a number of ways.

Of the respondents still living with abusers, 63 per cent said the violence/abuse had got worse, and almost 68 per cent said they felt they had no one to turn to for help during the lockdown.

And data released by the ONS has shown that the calls to domestic abuse services and the number of recorded police offences flagged as domestic abuse both rose between April and June this year.

The national figures for June were the highest on record – with 68,684 offences being recorded as domestic abuse-related across all forces according to data provided by the Home Office.

Alongside these figures, the ONS reminds us: “Domestic abuse is often a hidden crime that is not reported to the police.

“Therefore, data held by the police can only provide a partial picture of the actual level of domestic abuse experienced. Many cases will not enter the criminal justice process as they are not reported.”

During the lockdown period, national domestic abuse charities and helplines also reported an increase in calls requesting support.

The 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline, run by Refuge, provides emotional and practical support to women experiencing domestic abuse.

Refuge introduced a live chat service in May 2020, so women trapped at home with their perpetrators during lockdown had one more way to communicate with them.

Between April and June 2020, Refuge’s Helpline team logged a total of 40,397 calls and contacts on its database, a 65 per cent increase compared with the first three months of 2020.

This equates to an average of 444 calls and contacts per day at the height of the pandemic, compared with an average of 270 per day from January to March.

From March 2019 to March 2020, the Crime Survey for England and Wales estimated 1.6 million women and 757,000 men aged 16 to 74 experienced domestic abuse.

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