A CHARITY has warned there could be a sharp rise in domestic abuse incidents as a result of the coronavirus crisis - and said everyone has a part to play in stamping them out.
The Independent Domestic Abuse Service (IDAS) has refuge and outreach services in Barnsley and works alongside the council to deliver support to victims and survivors.
The charity has been forced to work remotely due to the outbreak - and statistics suggest there has already been an upsurge in people requiring its help.
While it is too early to release detailed figures, a spokesperson for the charity said more people appear to be accessing IDAS’ online support services than normal.
The rise follows a national trend, and the charity expects further increases once the current period of lockdown is over.
Alongside its normal helpline and email services, IDAS is using online video sessions and WhatsApp messaging to reach people in need, and chief executive Sarah Hill said staff continue to ‘work creatively and flexibly’.
With staff now working from home - but still attending where they can - the charity believes ‘all of us need to take part’ in spotting signs of domestic violence as people become trapped with their abusers.
Sarah said abusers’ behaviour ‘may escalate due to increasing uncertainty, pressure on finances and cramped conditions’.
“Many people who face controlling, violent or abusive behaviour from a partner or family member are likely to be feeling very scared about being isolated with them for long periods of time,” she added.
“We want them to know that there is support available.”
Those facing potentially abusive situations are advised to stay in touch with trusted people, keep a spare phone, ID documents, emergency funds and any children’s birth certificates to hand, plan escape routes and avoid rooms with items that could be used as weapons.
The charity advises people regularly check in - if it’s safe to do so - with friends, family and neighbours, set up safe words and signals that could indicate risks, and call police if necessary.
If a person calls 999 and it isn’t safe to speak, they can press ‘55’ and be transferred straight to police.
Staff will then listen to the call and assess the situation, before responding.
Domestic violence protection orders, which can be secured within 48 hours through the courts, can provide respite by banning the abuser from returning to a property for 28 days.
Chief Inspector Julie Mitchell added: “Domestic abuse is always one of our highest priorities. It is increasingly so during the lockdown as those trapped with their abuser may struggle to find the opportunity to contact us.
“We are promoting the many different routes available to victims, and have called upon friends, family and neighbours to contact us to report their concerns.
“Locally, we are also contacting repeat victims to ensure they are safe with repeat offenders to deter future offending.
“We would be grateful if residents could support us in delivering this message to our communities.”
Call IDAS Barnsley on 0300 0110 110, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the website idas.org.uk.
You can also call the 24-hour national helpline on 0808 2000 247.
IDAS’ online live chat service now runs from 3pm to 6pm, Monday to Friday.