Domestic abuse referrals up 27% during lockdown in West Suffolk
- Credit: MICHAEL STEWARD
Domestic abuse referrals in west Suffolk rose by more than a quarter during the coronavirus lockdown, latest data shows – and more reports are expected over the coming weeks and months.
According to latest figures compiled by the Western Suffolk Community Safety Partnership, the number of reports of domestic abuse from March to July this year was 27% higher than the same period last year.
But with fears that lockdown could put victims more at risk, it is understood the increase was not as high as first feared by specialist organisations.
Speaking at West Suffolk Council’s scrutiny committee on Thursday night, communities and families team leader Lesley-Ann Keogh, said: “Domestic abuse is one of our priorities.
“Working with the Suffolk Domestic Abuse Partnership, I felt specialist services adapted extremely quickly to lockdown.
“We have seen a slight increase – from March-July this year compared to last year we have seen a 27% increase, however specialist services have reported that they felt the peak was going to be a lot higher than that.
“They see it as quite a positive that people still feel able to disclose to services and services are still there to meet the need.”
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According to the partnership, additional measures were put in place when lockdown began such as ensuring services had online and telephone avenues to get help.
Call handlers on the Home but not Alone scheme were also alert to potential domestic abuse.
Councillor Joanna Spicer, who chairs the community safety partnership, said: “There certainly has been an increase in reported domestic abuse since lockdown began.
“I personally have a worry that we could see even more of an increase in reporting in the near future now that children are hopefully back at school and life is beginning to return to being able to be out and about more.
“I think we may well see more reporting for people who felt it was difficult [to report it while locked down at home].”
Police services have urged people in danger or who are victims of domestic abuse to get the support they need.
Chief detective superintendent Eamonn Bridger, head of crime and safeguarding at Suffolk Constabulary, said: “We know that the challenges presented by the Covid-19 restrictions have meant that those who are vulnerable, such as victims of domestic abuse, whether children or adults, are more likely to be at risk of harm.
“We want to reassure victims, that you do not need to suffer in silence; we are always here to help you.
“A home can be more like prison for those living or sharing one with an abuser.
“This is a particularly stressful time for those locked into an abusive situation and stress levels can be high.
“Our message to abusers is that your behaviour will not be excused.
“We take domestic abuse reports very seriously and deal with incidents robustly.
“If you are in immediate danger, or you know someone else who is, you should still call 999 or call one of the organisations and charities we have listed on our website.”
Call Suffolk County Council’s domestic abuse helpline run with Anglia Care Trust on 0800 977 5690 for support.