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Coronavirus Kent: Domestic abuse services expect surge in calls for help

Domestic abuse services are expecting an "avalanche" of cases after the UK comes out of lockdown following the coronavirus outbreak.

Many organisations, including those in Kent, have announced they will still be offering support over the phone for victims, despite having to close some of their centres.

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Dr Liza Thompson is the chairman of the Medway Domestic Abuse Forum (MDAF), which has had to close its One Stop Shop at the Sunlight Centre in Richmond Road, Gillingham.

She said: “For some, the home is a dangerous place, and the COVID-19 lockdown has, in effect, isolated victims of domestic abuse from supportive and protective relationships, by locking them down with their abuser.

"We don’t expect to see a rise in calls straight away – due to the surveillance abusers adopt, victims will find it hard to contact us. However this doesn’t mean that domestic abuse isn’t happening right now.

"We would urge victims to only contact us if it is safe to do so, and once they do contact us we can work with them on a safety plan, which will need to be specific to the situation we all find ourselves in.

"As domestic abuse services, we fully expect an avalanche of calls once the lockdown is lifted – we are therefore working hard behind the scenes to ensure we are still available for victim/survivors to call as soon as they can.

Dr Liza Thompson has said domestic abuse victims in Medway will still be supported
Dr Liza Thompson has said domestic abuse victims in Medway will still be supported

"We are here if you can access us safely – if not, we will be here when you can."

Kent County Council has staff available 24 hours a day, who can be reached on 03000 416161, or by emailing social.services@kent.gov.uk.

A spokesman said: "If you need to contact us outside of normal office hours, for example during the night, call 03000 419191.

"If you think someone is in immediate danger, the best thing to do is call 999 for the emergency services."

Head of commissioning at the council, Clare Maynard, added: "We are asking everyone to be more vigilant. If you are a key worker who is still going to people’s houses, such as delivery drivers and postmen please be aware of possible domestic abuse and report any incidents or concerns you may have to ensure the safety and wellbeing of victims.

"We are here if you can access us safely – if not, we will be here when you can..."

“We have arrangements in place to ensure that staff in schools and our services remain focused on keeping in regular contact with families, especially those known to be more vulnerable, and we remind all key workers who have contact with families to remain vigilant and professionally curious.

"Domestic Abuse can also heighten for victims where ex partners are abusive. Although they may not be living with the perpetrator, technology means that controlling and coercive behaviour as well as threats can mean that victims have no escape from the abuse and without a support network due to isolation, online abuse can be highly damaging to an individual. Emotional abuse in all forms must be reported and support is still available.”

The authority also advised people to check local support services through Domestic Abuse Support Services in Kent and Medway by visiting www.domesticabuseservices.org.uk.

SATEDA is another Kent organisation with the goal of "ending the cycle of domestic abuse".

Although employees are working from home, they will continue to operate, via phone, Zoom, tablets or laptops, to help any victims, survivors or vulnerable women during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Victims of domestic abuse have been locked down with their abusers. Stock photo
Victims of domestic abuse have been locked down with their abusers. Stock photo

Anyone who needs support can call them on 01795 417251, or 01795 417760.

A spokesman for SATEDA said: "We will also be offering people who feel alone due to the lockdown, a volunteer peer supporter, who can call each week for a chat to ensure they know there is someone who cares."

Police have said they will continue to support victims during these unprecedented times.

Spokesman James Walker said: "Protecting victims of domestic abuse remains a priority for Kent Police and the force is continuing to provide support for victims and, where necessary, attend incidents.

"Anyone affected by domestic abuse can be assured that they will receive the best possible service and is encouraged to contact Kent Police through its website or by dialling 101.

"Anyone at risk of imminent harm, or if a crime is ongoing, should call 999."

Maidstone Borough Council wants to reassure people all agencies who provide support for victims in the area are still working and although the support may have changed, it is still there.

Chair of the communities, housing and environment committee, Derek Mortimer, said: "Sadly we know there will be an increase in the number of people at risk of domestic abuse as this unusual situation continues.

"People may be experiencing enormous financial and emotional strain, along with a lack of routine and a lack of their usual support systems due to isolation. This will leave victims more vulnerable as there is no escaping the abusive partner.

"Support is still available; agencies are working to find the best ways to support victims and it’s important to report abuse and seek support should you need it.”

If you are in danger please call 999 immediately or 101 for non-emergencies. There are certain things that victims can do if they find themselves in a dangerous or unsafe incident for example ‘The Silent Solution’- if a victim calls 999 from their mobile phone but is unable to speak as the perpetrator is nearby, dial 55 and the operator will direct your call to the police rather than terminating it.

Meanwhile, domestic abuse charity Child's Vision are following government guidelines and have cancelled all face-to-face contact. They remain available via telephone 01622 244537 or 07561 426203 or email childsvision5@gmail.com. Alternatively NSPCC Childline is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week 0800 1111.

Other agencies which can also be contacted if you need help are:

Kent Integrated Domestic Abuse service: 0808 168 9111

Choices Domestic Abuse Services: 0800 917 9948 (covers Medway)

National Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247

The Men’s Advice Line, for male domestic abuse survivors: 0808 801 0327

The Mix, free information and support for under 25s in the UK: 0808 808 4994

National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0800 999 5428

Victim Support: 0808 1689 111

Or Women's Aid by clicking here

Read more: All the latest news from Medway

Read more: All the latest news from Kent


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