Police and partner agencies have launched a campaign to help victims of domestic abuse in Devon and Cornwall – after warning coronavirus restrictions could see rates rise.
The initiative aims to reassure those affected that support is available despite the virus pandemic.
Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez, responsible for victim care in the force area, says mass isolation, school closures and travel restrictions may cause an increase in cases.
She has highlighted a new website-based Live Chat service available to victims at any time.
Devon and Cornwall Police says it has already seen a ‘significant reduction’ in reports of some crimes – but a rise in domestic abuse.
The campaign highlights the fact that whatever type of abuse takes place – physical, sexual, emotional, psychological or financial – the culprit is trying to control the victim.
It tells victims how to access help and support.
Superintendent Sharon Donald said: “Sadly, as schools close and home working is encouraged, Covid-19 may cause a rise in domestic abuse.
“The cycle of violence may intensify with people having to isolate themselves and being unable to socialise in the normal ways.
“It is important that victims know how and where to get advice and support and that they know they can report by phone and online.”
Ms Hernandez works closely with the Victim Care Network to ensure that help is on-hand to those who need it including victims of domestic abuse.
She said: “Unfortunately, we have to prepare for a rise in incidents of crimes such as domestic abuse that might go hand-in-hand with a period of mass isolation.
“Sadly, some children are safer when they attend school regularly as it’s through them signs can be spotted that something might be wrong and picked up and reported.
“It is crucial that victims get straight to the services they need as quickly as possible and the launch of live chat means that they will be able to do exactly that.
“I would urge any victim of abuse to seek help even if you don’t want to report it to the police, there is a range of support available.”
Chrissy Stower, of Splitz, which provides support to victims across Devon, said: “We see too often that at times of heightened anxiety a rise in the number of incidents of domestic and sexual violence, just as we are hearing now from reports in China.
“The restrictions on people’s movement, financial concerns as employment sees a downturn, the temporary closure of schools to some children, the fear of this virus and the uncertainty about the future – these are all factors that increase the risk of domestic abuse within the home.
“Right now, our message to people across the region, is that there is no excuse for domestic abuse. There is no part for it in our society.
“To victims, I say that while you may feel alone, you are not alone. There is help. There is support. There is safety to be found for you and your children. We are here to support you.”
Where you can find help
Live Chat is a web-based support service that will be available to victims in Devon and Cornwall 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The service is anonymous, confidential and free to use.
It can be accessed online at victimsupport.org.uk or the Victim Care website. Victim Support will still offer telephone help on 0808 031 8178.
In addition to the web chat facility, other channels for victim support are still available.
The Victim Care Unit can be contacted on 01392 475900 from 8am to 8pm, Monday to Friday, and 9am to 5pm at the weekend.
Information on the practical and emotional support on offer is available here.
In a non-emergency, people can also report a crime 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 101 webchat or on the online crime reporting form – both on the force website.
There is also a useful AskNed system that provides online advice on a range of issues and by signing up to Neighbourhood Alert regular updates and information can be received from the OPCC. This can be done here.
Crime can also be reported anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or via its website.
Updated advice on Covid-19 is available from the force website.