In the UK, domestic abuse has drastically increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, “The Crime Survey for England and Wales showed that 1.6 million women and 757,000 men had experienced domestic abuse between March 2019 and March 2020, with a 7% growth in police-recorded domestic abuse crimes’’, according to the House of Commons, United Kingdom.
The survey highlights that it is difficult to gauge the direct impact of lockdown on this increase and a rise in third-party reporting could partly explain this. However, the statistics certainly seem to suggest that lockdown saw a noticeable uptick in domestic abuse cases.
This post has a UK focus, although disturbing stats on domestic violence are being noted in other countries right now too.
In response to these sad and troubling statistics, the UK government has produced the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, which aims to raise awareness and increase support for victims and for those at risk within a legal framework. As well as establishing new laws around domestic abuse, this act also seeks to extend some current laws for greater family protection.
What is classed as domestic abuse?
Domestic abuse includes physical or emotional abuse, controlling behaviour, harassment, sexual and online abuse. Anyone can be a victim, and the effects can be long-lasting and traumatic. Domestic abuse often occurs within relationships or is perpetrated by an ex-partner.
In the most extreme cases, some women suffering physical abuse can even be killed by their partner or their ex. Statistics show that 59% of femicides committed by current or former partners had a history of abuse.
Many often find it difficult to leave an abusive relationship for reasons such as fear, lack of financial or emotional support, shame and denial and the impact it might have on other family members, including children. Often, victims are ashamed to admit they are suffering from domestic abuse. Some other women don’t realise they are in a controlling or coercive relationship. These factors can all contribute to someone being unwilling to seek help.
Victims of domestic abuse
Victims are most often women who suffer domestic abuse from a man, however, anyone of any age, gender, ethnicity or social class can be at risk. Statistics show that women in low-income households are more likely to be victims of domestic abuse and there is also a link with drug and alcohol abuse.
Children are often indirect victims of domestic abuse, with approximately 14% of young people under 18 living with domestic violence at some point during their childhood. This shows the importance of protecting the wider family when it comes to encouraging victims to seek help and support.
Protecting yourself against domestic abuse
It’s important for victims to realise that they are protected by law and there is legal aid available for those suffering domestic abuse.
If someone is in an abusive relationship, there is help available, regardless of status and a free, national helpline operates 24/7. The police are able to issue short-term Domestic Violence Police Notices which can offer protection from the abuser and allow the victim to seek a safe place.