Coronavirus: Lockdown 'increasing' domestic abuse risks

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Scared woman looking out of the windowImage source, Getty Images

A charity has warned that the longer lockdown restrictions continue, the more opportunity abusers will have to control their victims.

Scottish Women's Aid said the severity of domestic abuse was also likely to increase.

It said victims had lost access to time away from abusive situation through school, family or work.

The charity said its helpline would be open 24 hours-a-day during the pandemic.

It is also offering support via a webchat service and email.

They said women may struggle to keep themselves and their children safe while cut off from usual sources of help.

'Micro-managing families'

Chief executive Dr Marsha Scott told the BBC: "Abuse isn't caused by being home together. It is about the opportunities. The difference is that they can control more when they are home more.

"The pandemic may increase the opportunities for people who are already abusing to control and coerce women and children in their homes to a greater degree - micro-managing who they talk to, when they eat, when they sleep, when they go out, and this is all made harder and more frightening in the context of the pandemic."

Image caption,
Dr Marsha Scott from Scottish Women's Aid said abusers had increased opportunity during the lockdown

Dr Scott said that the situation reflected changes in Scotland's new approach to domestic abuse legislation.

She said: "This was a 24/7 event before the pandemic and women and children are at increased risk at the moment because they have fewer opportunities to connect with friends and family and go to school and sports and be away from this environment.

"Our biggest concern for an extended lockdown is there is so little relief for women and children"

Scottish Women's Aid and Police Scotland have said officers would treat domestic abuse cases with the same seriousness as they did before the pandemic, and that victims could still leave their homes to seek refuge.

Scottish Labour MSP Pauline McNeill also highlighted the importance of keeping services open that tackle domestic abuse during the pandemic.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Children have fewer chances to get out of the home environment during lockdown

She said: "The lockdown has been a very worrying time for women facing domestic abuse.

"Zero-tolerance means that no-one should feel discouraged from contacting support services due to the pandemic. These are essential services and it is more vital than ever that victims seek support.

"As the lockdown continues we must ensure that support services remain open, and that any additional resources necessary are provided. It is more important that ever that services and places of refuge are easily accessible so women know they have a route out of abusive settings."

Last month, the Scottish government announced it is providing Scottish Women's Aid with £1.35m over six months from its Communities Fund, to help those at risk of domestic violence.