Concerns are growing for people experiencing domestic abuse during the new lockdown.
Somerset County Council is reassuring the public that help is, and will continue to be, available for people seeking help who are experiencing abuse from their partner or a family member – the current Government guidelines allow you to leave your home to flee danger, this includes an abusive relationship.
Domestic abuse has regularly been defined as a “hidden crime”. Even before the current pandemic and subsequent lockdowns and restrictions, people often encountered controlling domestic abuse behind closed doors – making it difficult for them to seek help.
Being isolated due to lockdown, and experiencing domestic abuse can heighten that difficulty – sometimes the way an abuser maintains control in a relationship is to restrict access to telephones or the internet – these controls, and restrictions on not being able to see friends family or work colleagues take away their routes to support.
When coronavirus first forced us into lockdown the Somerset Integrated Domestic Abuse Service (SIDAS) saw a decrease in the number of calls to its helpline, at a time when mounting evidence was showing an increase in such cases nationally.
Following the launch of a rigorous campaign, #NoClosedDoors2020, at the beginning of the pandemic, aimed at highlighting to the public that the service was still open, Somerset County Council’s dedicated domestic abuse website, www.somersetsurvivors.org.uk saw the number of people seeking advice quadruple in the first three months of the campaign – a number far in excess of those who telephoned.
Councillor Clare Paul, Somerset County Council member responsible for health and wellbeing, remarked:” We know that many more people are affected by this issue than come forward.”
“The current situation makes things worse for some, both in the length and severity of the abuse and the difficulty in reaching out for help whilst a perpetrator is looking over their shoulder.
“I would like to personally reassure anyone requiring assistance to manage or flee an abusive relationship that help will always be available from our service – please, I urge you to come forward. Nobody should have to live with domestic abuse.”
If you are experiencing domestic abuse, worried about someone you know, or are concerned about the impact of your behaviour towards others, then help is available: www.somersetsurvivors.org.uk or by telephoning 0800 69 49 999.
In an emergency you should always dial 999. If you are worried that an abuser may overhear your call you can remain silent, tap the phone and dial 55 when prompted by the operator who will send help.
If you are deaf, hard of hearing or speech-impaired you can register with emergencySMS.net. Once registered you will be able to send a text to 999 if you require help in an emergency.