After just over a week of the official order for UK families to stay indoors, nine people have been killed at home in Britain. Sadly, the death toll will not end there.
The day-to-day business of life as we knew it has ground to a halt from Bangalore to Los Angeles and from London to Lagos. But just because we’ve stopped, domestic abuse hasn’t. It’s flourishing.
A spate of domestic incidents has left nine people dead across Britain so far. The latest involved a family of four – a builder, his partner and their two daughters aged five and three – discovered at their home in Sussex; a suspected murder-suicide.
Two other cases have involved women being killed and their husbands later being charged with their murders.
Campaigners, like Rachel Williams, the UK-based author of The Devil At Home, and a domestic abuse victim who was shot by her husband and lost her son to suicide, fear that it’s only the beginning.
“The lockdown is hard for everyone, but if you’re a victim of abuse, it’s hell. You get no downtime,” Williams told RT.com “You’re imprisoned with your captor 24/7, with no respite, when they could be in work, the pub or somewhere else.
“What’s even worse, is that children will be at home from school in less-than-ideal circumstances. Often, they won’t get fed, and will experience things they should not be experiencing. But victims and perpetrators need to know that the police will come and they will force the door down regardless. They will do it.”
An estimated 1.6 million women and 786,000 men experienced domestic abuse in England and Wales in the year ending March 2019. Many expect that number to soar because of this lockdown.
The minister in charge of the police, Home Secretary Priti Patel, wrote a column in the Mail on Sunday newspaper, setting out her determination to crack down on abusers and help victims: “My message to every potential victim is simple: we have not forgotten you and we will not let you down. And my message to every perpetrator is equally as simple: you will not get away with your crimes.”
The only problem is that, due to government austerity measures, there’s a chronic shortage of hostels where women can shelter, with local authority spending cut from £31.2m in 2010 to £23.9m in 2017, forcing several refuges to close their doors in recent years and turn people away.
Refuge, a UK charity that runs a 24-hour domestic-abuse hotline, has posted a checklist on its website entitled Coronavirus: Safety tips for survivors.’
The charity was among many enraged last week after an English boxer, world champion Billy Joe Saunders, released a video advising men how to hit their female partners. In the video, Saunders uses a punch bag to explain how to react if “your old woman is giving you mouth” and showing how to “hit her on the chin” and then “finish her off.”
He later apologised, saying he would “never condone domestic violence,” shortly before the British Boxing Board of Control took away his licence to fight. The chief executive of Refuge, Sandra Horley, said the video was “as dangerous as it is shocking.”