Domestic abuse could thrive in self-isolation
With people self-isolating across the county and spending more time at home confined behind closed doors, the potential for domestic abuse is likely to increase across Sussex.
The message from Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne is – coronavirus or not, abusers will face the consequences.
Mrs Bourne commented: “As individuals and families enter into periods of increasing isolation, we will, unfortunately, have to prepare for a rise in incidents of crimes such as domestic violence which are often exacerbated by close confinement.”
In her first formal Covid-19 update meeting, which will temporarily replace her regularly broadcasted Performance & Accountability meetings, Mrs Bourne was reassured by Deputy Chief Constable Jo Shiner that Sussex Police will still be there for people in their time of need.
DCC Jo Shiner said: “As the Coronavirus pandemic situation in the UK continues to evolve at a fast pace, the command structure and resources across Surrey Police and Sussex Police has evolved to increase the resilience around the policing response and to plan for the changing landscape. We are prepared and we are working closely with partners to limit the impact this may have on all our emergency services. We will still be there for people in their times of need."
As PCC, Mrs Bourne allocates more than £1.5 million each year, from her victim’s budget, into local support charities and community safety projects across the county. On Friday, in her weekly newsletter to Sussex residents, she recognised the dangerous impact this crisis could have on already vulnerable people.
Mrs Bourne said: “In the current climate, victim support services across the country are making the difficult decision to close drop-ins, workshops and other 1:1 support. However essential this may be to ensure the safety of their staff and wider community, it is still distressing for those whose situation may escalate during the crisis and we need to prepare for a potential rise in incidents of crimes like domestic abuse and violence.
“It’s now more important than ever that survivors don’t feel alone and that we are making sure they know there are still helplines that they can access for support and guidance. If you have been a victim of crime or are feeling particularly trapped in a toxic home environment, you can still reach out for help and support.”
In China, activists say domestic violence has increased threefold since mass isolation measures were introduced. Economic anxiety and a feeling of having nowhere to turn for help are factors in the rise. PCC Katy Bourne says help is still there for those at risk in Sussex with local charities already adapting to provide web chats and phone helplines.
Jo Gough, CEO of local support charity, RISE, said: “We are grateful for the ongoing support provided by the police and crime commissioner, who recognises how critical it is we get the message out to the people of Brighton & Hove that they can still turn to us in these unprecedented times if they need help.
“We are expecting an uptake in demand for our essential services as people are in close proximity to each other and under additional amounts of stress, and many have no choice but to isolate with their perpetrator. We’re also appealing to all our funders and supporters to be aware of the additional pressures on our both adult and child survivors who may now struggle to access basic necessities now that food banks and schools have closed, and the pressure there is on organisations like RISE to help meet these needs.”
Mrs Bourne adds: “I have been in contact with the local charities that I fund to see what provisions they have put in place to ensure they can still offer support to those who need them.
“All the details of local support services can be found on my SafeSpaceSussex online directory – www.safespacesussex.org.uk – I urge any victim of crime to still come forward and seek the help and guidance they need. There are always people who you can speak to.”
Government advice is subject to change but the latest information is available on the gov.uk website. Information on the practical and emotional support on offer in Sussex is available at www.safespacesussex.org.uk.