UK (Sky News)

Coronavirus: Suspected domestic abuse killings ‘more than double’ during lockdown

By July 4, 2020 No Comments

There have been at least 16 suspected domestic abuse killings since the coronavirus lockdown restrictions were introduced in the UK three weeks ago, according to campaigners.

The deaths of around five females a week at the hands of men is more than double the average rate of two for the time of year.

The 16 killings, including of children, between 23 March and 12 April were identified by the Counting Dead Women project.

Priti Patel at press briefing
Patel unveils campaign to help abuse victims

In the last three weeks, the government has been telling the public to only leave home to get essential food and medicine, exercise, travel to work and care for vulnerable people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Counting Dead Women founder Karen Ingala Smith wrote the figure was “the highest it has been for at least 11 years and is double that of a hypothetical average 21 days over the last 10 years”.

She added: “We don’t know yet whether this inflated rate will continue, it is possible that we will see a lower rate over the next few weeks.”

Earlier this month, support charity Refuge said there had been a 25% rise in phone calls to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline in a five-day period a week after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the lockdown on 23 March.

Refuge also said visits to their website, nationaldahelpline.org.uk, in that same period had gone up by 150% compared with the last week in February.

At the weekend, the home secretary launched a new campaign telling people experiencing domestic abuse or who are at risk during the coronavirus lockdown that help was available to them.

Priti Patel said the Home Office was working with charities to provide an extra £2m for domestic abuse helplines and online support.

Victims commissioner Dame Vera Baird welcomed the campaign and funding for charities but said it had come “quite late in the day”.

She added: “I think to save lives in this pandemic we are ordering some people to stay locked up for a long time with people who will damage them. And they know that. And that has been staring the government in the face.”

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Speaking to the Home Affairs Committee of MPs, Dame Vera said the government must adapt by providing a “system of rescue” in the places where victims will go to during the outbreak, such as supermarkets.

She said supermarket workers should be trained to recognise code words from domestic abuse victims.

The commissioner mentioned how “Ask for Angela”, an emergency code to protect people from sexual assault, which alerts bar staff to the need for help, could be adapted for use at shop tills.

She said: “You could have a very similar system, easily training local workers in supermarkets, to just respond… if people are able to come in and talk about what’s happening, fine, but maybe that’s not so straightforward and you wouldn’t know what to say to a cashier.

“So an option to have a codeword so that you say ‘Ask Vera’, and the person says ‘that means this to me’.”

She said the police were looking out for signs of abuse on patrols, and urged the public to sound the alarm if things do not seem right, similar to how they report suspected terrorist issues.

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