Wigan charity urges domestic abuse victims not to suffer in silence during lockdown

Wigan’s domestic violence charity is telling abuse victims they are not alone as demand for its services spiral during the coronavirus lockdown.

Monday, 13th April 2020, 9:07 am
Updated Monday, 13th April 2020, 9:08 am

Dias, the charity that provides specialist services across Wigan and Leigh, says it has seen a shocking 45 per cent rise in its workload in the fortnight since stringent restrictions on movement were introduced, compared to the same two-week period in 2019.

And it is urgently reminding people that barring all but essential journeys out of the house does not mean those at risk of physical or psychological harm from a partner have to suffer in silence.

Dias’ experience mirrors a grim national trend among abuse charities, with Refuge saying it had seen a 25 per cent rise in calls to its helpline since lockdown began, and a horrifying 120 per cent spike in the 24 hours following its highlighting of the problem.

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The charity has seen a rise in the number of people seeking help

Organisations are pulling out all the stops to support those in need, with Dias employees voluntarily working extra unpaid hours to meet the demand.

Dias chief officer Gemma Braithwaite said: “We have definitely seen a significant increase since the lockdown came into force.

“Domestic abuse is a very isolating thing anyway and now with the measures in place to protect publichealth, victims are at further harm of risk.

“A perpetrator who lives in the same property is able to manipulate, to coercively control and physically harm someone.

“They will feel there are a lot less repercussions and the victim can’t really go anywhere at the moment.”

However, Ms Braithwaite said that support is available, and victims of domestic abuse should seek help from a range of options still on hand during the lockdown.

She said: “Dias is able to offer text, telephone and email support. We appreciate if you are isolating with a perpetrator it may be very difficult to pick up the phone, but all our details are on the website and social media.

“We are looking at safety planning with clients, going through what sort of practical things they can do. It’s about seeing if they can provide distance in a house. In a lot of cases there are children present and a victim could be in another room playing with them or entertaining them.

“It sounds like we are trying to tell victims to stay out of the way, but it’s not a case of that. It’s about keeping them safe at a time they may be struggling to do that.

“There are still refuge places available. It is not illegal for a victim of abuse who needs to leave a property to do so. They may feel trapped, but there are places they can get to safety.

“We want victims to know they are not alone. There are places they can receive help. The vast majority of agencies are working really hard in a different way to make sure no victim feels they are left alone.”

Experts have repeatedly warned they expect domestic violence to rise while the UK copes with the Covid-19 outbreak.

Refuge said the lockdown itself should not be seen as a cause or reason for abuse.

The Law Society of England and Wales said the national figures were “deeply concerning and are compounded by a lack of physical access to the courts”.

Victims of domestic abuse in Wigan can contact Dias on its support line 01942 495230 or visit diasdvc.org.

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