Shropshire Star

Domestic abuse police reports drop in region despite spike in lockdown incidents

Domestic abuse reports to police are down - despite widespread acknowledgement that more incidents have been taking place during lockdowns.

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Latest figures from West Mercia Police show that reports have dropped from 6,866 between April 2019 and March 2020, to 6,550 from April 2020 to March this year in Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin.

But Superintendent Jim Baker said officers are aware that circumstances have made it harder for victims to escape.

“We’re very aware that during lockdown it has been increasingly more difficult for victims to escape domestic abuse and violence," he said.

“Domestic abuse perpetrators have used the restrictions to control, manipulate and instil fear in their victims which is why we have reiterated our assurances to victims of domestic abuse that if they need to leave their home to escape the abuse then they can do so.

“If you’re a victim of domestic abuse and need to seek refuge and are able to leave your home to go to a place of safety then we encourage you to please do so."

Earlier this year it was revealed that more than 500 requests for information about potential abusers were handled by West Mercia police in a year.

Known as Clare’s Law, the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme allows police to share someone's criminal history with their current partner if they feel they are at risk.

Last week, figures showed that injuries inflicted on women by their partners resulted in up to 14 admissions at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital over five years, despite police recording tens of thousands of violent domestic abuse crimes.

Ruth Davison, chief executive officer of domestic abuse charity Refuge, said: "What’s even more concerning is that these numbers are likely to be the tip of the iceberg.

"Refuge knows that many women suffer in silence; never attending hospital, even in cases of severe physical abuse, often out of fear of retribution from their perpetrator.

"Some women will be accompanied to hospital by the perpetrator who harmed them and coerced into lying about the cause of their injuries. These cases are unlikely to be accounted for in the given data."

Supt Baker added: “Anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, socio-economic status, sexuality or background and for some it may be difficult to seek support which is why we’re pleased to be supporting ‘ANI’ launched earlier this year.

“‘ANI’ stands for Action Needed Immediately. If you are experiencing domestic abuse and need help, you can visit a participating pharmacy and ask for ‘ANI’.

“Participating pharmacies will display the ‘Ask for ANI’ logo, which means they’re ready to help. They will offer you a private space, provide a phone and ask if you need support from the police or other domestic abuse support services.”

In February it was revealed that Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin would receive a combined £968,000 to tackle domestic abuse by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

John Campion, the police and crime commissioner for West Mercia who was re-elected last week, said: “It is a horrifying thought that many people will have suffered abuse at the hands of those they lived with during lockdown. It is also likely that we won’t know the true extent of the abuse. However, in order to make sure that people weren’t suffering alone, domestic abuse and sexual violence support services maintained their important work. However, with them needing to adapt how they provided support, I secured more than £500,000 of additional funding last year to ensure they could still help victims.

“The advice that these support services have given throughout this pandemic is ‘don’t suffer in silence’, and it’s advice I fully support, because people can leave if they’re suffering from abuse, and the restrictions don’t prevent that. If anyone is concerned about a family member, friend or neighbour then you can help, and you can make a difference. I am committed to preventing domestic abuse from ever happening, but seeing that those who have suffered get the help they need to recover. Together we have the opportunity to be a voice for victims and speak up for them when they feel they can’t.”