In March 2020, domestic abuse charities sounded the alarm. From the beginning of the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown, their helplines experienced a sharp rise in calls from victim-survivors, and saw early evidence of domestic abuse cases escalating, featuring high levels of physical violence and coercive control.
Domestic homicides more than doubled in the first three weeks of lockdown. Elsewhere, countries entering lockdown earlier than the UK reported increased domestic abuse and delayed reports, with victim-survivors only able to seek help once restrictions eased.
In the UK, police chiefs and charities anticipated an escalation of an already existing crisis.
In the previous year, police recorded nearly 1.3 million domestic abuse-related crimes and incidents in England and Wales (ONS, 2020), already overwhelming police forces and chronically underfunded domestic abuse refuges.
But no-one knew what exactly to prepare for how large would the increase be? Would it happen immediately, or would it be delayed? Would the rise be temporary, or long-term? The Covid-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown are unprecedented in recent history, and there was little existing scientific evidence to draw on.
If you know a family member or friend who is living with domestic abuse, self-isolation may mean they are spending more time with an abusive partner and will not be able to access their usual means of support.
Its important to know that you and they are not alone. We can all remain vigilant and look out for the most vulnerable people in our communities.
Codeword scheme - If you are experiencing domestic abuse and need immediate help, ask in a participating pharmacy. ANI stands for Action Needed Immediately but also phonetically sounds like the name Annie. If a pharmacy has the Ask for ANI logo on display, it means they're ready to help. They will offer you a private space, provide a phone and ask if you need support from the police or other domestic abuse support services.
Anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, socio-economic status, sexuality or background.
What is domestic abuse? - Domestic abuse is not always physical violence. It can also include:
- coercive control and gaslighting
- economic abuse
- online abuse
- threats and intimidation
- emotional abuse
- sexual abuse
What signs to look for - If you believe that you or someone else could be a victim of domestic abuse, there are signs that you can look out for including:
- being withdrawn, or being isolated from family and friends
- having bruises, burns or bite marks
- having finances controlled, or not being given enough to buy food or pay bills
- not being allowed to leave the house, or stopped from going to college or work
- having your internet or social media use monitored, or someone else reading your texts, emails or letters
- being repeatedly belittled, put down or told you are worthless
- being pressured into sex
- being told that abuse is your fault, or that you're overreacting
See more signs to look for.
Support a friend if they're being abused
Let them know you're noticed something is wrong.
If you are worried that someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse, you can call National Domestic Abuse Helpline for free, confidential support, 24 hours a day on 0808 2000 247. Visit the helpline website to access information on how to support a friend.
If you believe there is an immediate risk of harm to someone, or it is an emergency, always call 999.