Concerns have been raised about a surge in demand for domestic abuse services post-lockdown, as survivors come forward following hardship faced while isolated at home with their partners.
It comes as prime minister Boris Johnson meets his cabinet today to discuss the easing of coronavirus restrictions.
Professor Tamsin Bradley from the University of Portsmouth says being trapped at home with an abusive partner will have intensified the experiences of survivors.
She said: ‘This isn’t a surprise to us, it’s exactly what we predicted.
‘It will have been caused by the stress of isolation; families spending long periods of time together with no means of escape.
‘Those tensions will spill over into violence and households where this was already happening will see it intensify.’
Professor Bradley says helplines have already seen a spike in the number of phone calls from those in distress.
Aurora New Dawn is one of the charities in Portsmouth that support survivors of domestic abuse.
Chief executive Shonagh Dillon says charities will ‘struggle’ to meet that increased demand.
She said: ‘We are fully expecting an increase in victims coming forward to seek support.
‘Many victims will have had to suffer weeks of torturous abuse during the lockdown, without the capacity to reach outside services in the same way they usually would.
‘Our sector will struggle to meet the demand – prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, need outstripped resources across the country; the sector will need adequate sustainable funding to ensure safe services are delivered to those who need it. ‘
Professor Bradley says there could well be more survivors of domestic abuse who don’t come forward, and has urged people to look out for tell-tale signs.
She said: ‘This is more common than we would like to admit, so awareness is key.
‘It’s our responsibility to raise our own sensitivity to it – when speaking to neighbours, keep an ear out for anything that sounds suspicious, and know where to point people.’
People in need of support can call the council helpline on (023) 9206 5494. In an emergency, call 999.
For Aurora New Dawn, call (023) 9247 9254; to call Stop Domestic Abuse, dial (023) 9206 5494.