THE horrific killing of a Barnsley woman by her estranged husband has brought the ‘seriousness of domestic abuse out from behind closed doors into our streets’ as numbers of reports could be set to rise, said a charity that supports victims.

Lockdown has seen a dramatic spike in numbers of domestic abuse incidents as victims have been forced into close proximity with their abusers.

And with warnings of a second wave of lockdown measures coming to the fore, charity Independent Domestic Abuse Services (IDAS) said there could be further rises in numbers of victims needing help.

Police have arrested four times as many suspects in domestic abuse cases than they did prior to lockdown, with reports rising from 14 per cent to 55 per cent over the past eight months.
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IDAS, which operates outreach and refuge services in Barnsley, has also reported a surge in calls to its helpline and referrals since March.

Speaking on the murder of 31-year-old operating department practitioner Victoria Woodhall by her husband Craig, 41, IDAS’s local area manager Lauren Hirst said: “Our teams working in Barnsley and beyond are deeply saddened by the murder of Victoria Woodhall and our thoughts are with her family and friends.

“Victoria’s death was a terrible shock, bringing the seriousness of domestic abuse out from behind closed doors into our streets.”

Last week, Woodhall pleaded guilty to attacking his estranged wife in the street several times with a machete on March 29, as witnesses watched in horror.

He is due to be sentenced today at Sheffield Crown Court.

Lauren added: “Domestic abuse is happening in our towns, villages and rural communities - we will all know someone who is affected even if we are not aware of it. Every year, our teams receive over 15,000 helpline calls and over 7,000 referrals.

“However, there are still many people who are experiencing domestic abuse from partners, ex-partners or family members who do not know that support is available.”

IDAS, which has received thousands in government funding to maintain its much-needed services, has worked closely in partnership with Barnsley’s district police force - the first in South Yorkshire to establish dedicated domestic abuse teams.

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.

“Many people think that domestic abuse is physical violence within a relationship,” said Lauren.

“Although that may be true of some cases, most involve controlling behaviour, jealousy, putting someone down and isolating them from people close to them.

“There may be no physical violence but that does not make the abuse less harmful or dangerous.”

Lauren added lockdown measures can easily be used by abusers to ‘gain further control’.

“We are worried that further lockdown measures will reduce the small windows of opportunity for people to seek help and support,” she added.

“This makes us even more determined than ever to ensure that people know our support is available.

“We are here for anyone affected by domestic abuse.”

n For further information and advice about how to support a friend or family member visit www.idas.org.uk.

You can also contact IDAS on its live chat service, every weekday 3pm to 6pm, by emailing info@idas.org.uk, or on its helpline 03000 110110.