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Domestic abuse – a pandemic?

One in five crimes recorded by police during the first national lockdown involved domestic abuse, figures have revealed. If you are or have been affected, here’s where to get help…

Written by High Life North
Published 04.12.2020

By Becky Hardy

The effects of the COVID–19 pandemic have been many and far-reaching for the North East, and rising domestic abuse figures have been among the most concerning.

Data published by the Office for National Statistics this week reveal that 20% of all crimes recorded by police during and immediately after the first national lockdown in England and Wales involved domestic abuse. More than a quarter of a million such offences were recorded from April to June. 

The statistics, published on Wednesday – or #WhiteRibbonDay – showed that the 259,324 offences represent a rise of 7% from the same period in 2019 and an 18% increase from two years ago. And while the ONS said the number of domestic abuse offences had been increasing over recent years – so it couldn’t be determined whether the rise was due directly to the pandemic – experts have said that the data suggests experiences of domestic abuse may have intensified during lockdown, with victims facing increased difficulties in safely seeking support. As the restrictions of the first lockdown eased, the proportion of offences that were domestic abuse-related fell, albeit only slightly.

“One of my frustrations was that, at the very beginning of this, the government were very clear that you could leave your home once a day to take exercise, to go to the supermarket or help a vulnerable person,” says Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness. “But what they didn’t say is that you can leave if you are at risk in your own home.”

For many of us, domestic abuse conjures images of physical violence – but this isn’t always the case. Emotional abuse can be just as devastating and, worryingly, more difficult to escape from. Especially when normal reasons to leave the house are fewer and opportunities to chat a third party more infrequent. 

In June of this year, Kim spearheaded the creation of a new campaign for Northumbria Police to become ‘the eyes and ears’ around domestic abuse in the region. The idea was to encourage the North East community not to ‘mind their own business’ where domestic abuse is concerned and become more vigilant with potential victims in their neighbourhood. Importantly, more avenues were created for anyone concerned about a friend, family member or neighbour to contact Northumbria Police with any information they can offer.  

“The vast majority of people suffering domestic abuse disclose first to a friend or family member rather than to the police,” Kim explains. “We wanted a campaign to speak directly to the neighbour who can hear the intimidating voice on the other side of the fence, or the mother worried about why her daughter has stopped texting”.

A number of designated helplines have been set up for local boroughs in the North East, which offer advice and support for anyone worried about a loved one, acquaintance or neighbour. Northumbria Police have also partnered with local and national domestic abuse organisations to offer as much support to victims in the regions as they can. 

Domestic abuse is everyone’s business. Together we can end it. 


…you can contact Northumbria Police on 101, or make a report online. In an emergency, always call 999.

If you dial 999 and are unable to speak, the emergency operator will ask you to dial 55 and to follow their instructions to quickly put you in touch with police.


…help for victims and those wanting to help them can be found here 


…seek help and support here

Did you know that there is a way to ask for help without leaving a trace?

Carry out this hand signal on a video call to ask for help. If you see someone making this sign, act completely normal, finish the call and then seek help using the contact details above. 

Watch this video to find out more…

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