On average there are 2 domestic homicides in the UK each week. From the start of lockdown, there has been on average 5 domestic homicides in the UK. To my knowledge, all of the 16 suspected domestic murders that occurred between 23 March and 12 April were of women.
Is Covid-19 creating violent men (and in 28% of cases, women)? Well, the answer is no. As a domestic abuse specialist detective for many years, I never had to look at annual statistics to know when I was going to be the busiest. Football season and good weather was a toxic mix. Of course, Christmas also caused a spike too. In my experience, alcohol and substance misuse increases the risk of a more violent act being carried out. During football season or a day of drinking, an arm may be broken rather than the slap or being spat at, which may experience the majority of the time.
This is exactly the same for lockdown.
Alcohol sales have increased by 291% during lockdown. Now we know the pubs are shut, so a rise would be expected, but 291% is a huge increase. Majestic wine has seen sales increase by 200%. We are not just buying the odd bottle of wine for the weekend. We are buying alcohol in bulk and we are binging. Countered with the stress of furlough, financial problems, home educating, how long will lockdown be for, not seeing family members… well for many it means their household is the most dangerous place they could ever be.
I have completed the Domestic Abuse, Stalking and Harassment and Honour Based Violence (DASH, 2009) Risk Identification and Assessment and Management Model with thousands of women and a fair few hundred men. The score determines how ‘at risk’ a victim is from the abuser.
Question 4: Do you feel isolated from friends and family?
Question 5: Are you feeling depressed or suicidal?
Question 8: Do they constantly follow you?
Question 13: Is the abuse happening more often?
Question 14: Is the abuse getting worse?
Question 15: Do you feel you are being ‘policed’ at home?
Question 23: Is there financial issues?
Question 24: Is there problems with drugs or alcohol which means they don’t lead a normal life?
A score of 14 or more indicates a very high risk to the victim. Lockdown could suddenly add 8 points onto your score pre-lockdown! – And catapult you into a very high-risk group.
Covid-19 is unlikely to ’cause’ domestic abuse. A vast majority will be victims who are already living with domestic abuse. The problem is there women will be the victim of much higher levels of violence with little opportunity to access help, escalating the risk of domestic homicide.
We often don’t know what happens behind closed doors and we really don’t know now, as we have been instructed to keep that door firmly shut, for our own safety.
We mustn’t forget that hundred of thousands of children will be stuck at home witnessing this horrendous abuse.School to some degree shielded many children from seeing ‘the worst of it’. The long-lasting damage to those children being emotionally abused cannot be underestimated.
Frankly, two million pounds from the Government – however meaningful – will not touch the sides.
This blog post is written by Milly Wildish, Director of Keys to Safeguarding. For the Refuge National Abuse helpline, call 0808 2000 247.