York charity fears a huge increase in domestic abuse during the lockdown – and urges victims to get in touch

Photograph: Anemone123 / Pixabay

A domestic abuse charity fears there will be a huge increase in victims calling for help after the lockdown.

Sarah Hill, chief executive at Independent Domestic Abuse Services (IDAS) which provides support for people across Yorkshire, says victims may be too frightened to come forward during the coronavirus outbreak.

And they may not realise that refuges, police and support lines are still available to help them.

She also outlined the signs of an abusive relationship in lockdown – including if your partner tries to stop you from video calling friends and family, prevents you from getting your daily exercise and isolates you further.

The charity’s confidential online live chats and helplines have seen an increase in calls, Ms Hill told a North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner meeting.

But she said IDAS is expecting a “huge increase in calls and requests for refuge space in three to six months”.

‘The support is there’

Photograph: Idas

The organisation is making preparations for a rise in calls after the lockdown – from arranging for more staff to man the helplines to finding extra accommodation for victims who need to leave their homes.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Ms Hill said:

  • We have not seen a massive increase in referrals at all – I think that’s partly because people are in crisis and want to stay in a situation that is known to them, even if it’s a really difficult situation.

    There will be people that are at home and don’t feel there is help for them.

    It is crucial to get the message out – if you are afraid and fearful of who you are living with, the support is there for you.

Emergency accommodation is still available, she said – and councils have been using Airbnbs, hotels and have even seen private landlords stepping forward to help provide temporary homes.

Ms Hill said most court cases are being held by videolink during the lockdown – but IDAS staff are still attending court cases to support victims where they are going ahead.

And they are still helping victims with appointments, dropping off personal alarms and making their homes safer where necessary.

North Yorkshire Police have also urged victims of domestic abuse to call them.

Speaking at a meeting, Assistant Chief Constable Annette Anderson said: “We knew from other countries there would be an increase, with some seeing a three-fold increase.“So far we have not seen an increase in incidents of crime.

“But that does not mean that victims and families are not at risk – because they may not be calling the police.

“I can assure the public and people suffering from domestic abuse that we will provide the service and attend incidents and they will get a high standard of care.”

To get help call IDAS on 03000 110 110 or visit idas.org.uk to chat online confidentially.

Call police on 999 in an emergency.