It’s a crime that often goes unnoticed and unreported. Domestic abuse is on the increase and those in violent relationships have been affected severely by the three lockdowns.
Police recorded over a quarter of a million domestic abuse offences during the first lockdown between March and June 2020 – 7% up on the same period in 2019. Dorset Police reported a 17% increase across the county during the same period. The nationwide rise compelled Prime Minister Boris Johnson, at the start of the second lockdown, to urge victims to “flee from harm.”
The Office of National Statistics (ONS) states there has been an increase in demand for victim services during the coronavirus pandemic. As lockdown measures eased helplines in particular felt the pressure. The ONS suggests a probable increase in the severity of abuse and a lack of support mechanisms, such as the opportunity to escape the abusive home or to attend counselling.
However, the pandemic has been useful in helping bring this terrible topic into the spotlight and to highlight the need for more funding. Indeed, there is some good news for domestic abuse victims and their children living in Dorset: they are to receive more support through £1.4million of extra government funding.
The much-needed funding will help victims and their children access life-saving support and flee their abusers. This will include advocacy, counselling and therapy in safe locations such as refuges or specialist safe houses.
Dorset Council has secured £651,000 and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council will receive £750,000.
For David Sidwick, Conservative candidate to be next Police and Crime Commissioner in Dorset, the subject of domestic violence is a matter close to his heart. He said: “Having had a close family experience of domestic abuse, I know the pain and trauma it can cause. “
Mr Sidwick shared with the digital Blackmore Vale Magazine: “Somebody I know well was in an abusive relationship for a number of years. This consisted of coercive and controlling behaviour eventually leading to physical violence. This person endured interrogation of every aspect of her life – car mileage checked, phone bill scrutinised, even her workplace called to check she’d gone to work!”
He added: “And this was just the tip of the iceberg – being grilled if she was late back from shopping, possessive and controlling behaviour that forced her to pay all the bills so she was left with no money of her own. Thankfully, she eventually broke free with the help of a police domestic violence team.
David Sidwick continued: “I am pleased Dorset I getting £1.4 million. Having spoken to charities and residents across Dorset, I feel even more could be done to increase victim support and reduce offending. This behaviour destroys self-esteem and engenders shame of being a victim.”
Tonia Redvers, Quality and Operations Director for YOU, who deliver You First, the commissioned domestic abuse service in Dorset, told the digital Blackmore Vale: ‘We appreciate all funds that are allocated to Dorset to support victims and survivors of domestic abuse and their children. It’s very early days and we don’t yet know how the increased funding for Dorset will be allocated.
“We have seen an increase in referrals since the pandemic started. Not only have our team been amazing, but also we’ve received wonderful support from Dorset Council and the Police and Crime Commissioner which has enabled us to add staff to our initial contact team and to grow our counselling support for people in Dorset.’’
She added: “We look forward to working with Dorset Council to ensure these funds make a difference to people experiencing domestic abuse in Dorset.”
ASK FOR ANI
In January 2021 the government launched the ‘Ask for ANI’ code word scheme, which provides victims of domestic abuse access to immediate help from the police or other support services from their local pharmacy.
The Ask for ANI scheme allows those at risk or suffering from abuse to discreetly signal that they need help and access support. By asking for ANI in places like Boots, which have signed up for the scheme, a trained pharmacy worker will offer a private space where they can establish if the victim needs to speak to the police or would like help to access support services such as a national or local domestic abuse helpline.
By: Tracie Beardsley