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Lockdown: Domestic-abuse reports expected to increase

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A RISE in reports of domestic abuse is being prepared for in the Island after European authorities declared so-called lockdowns as ‘breeding grounds for violence’ and coercion in the home.

Carly Lucas Picture:DAVID FERGUSON. (27792162)

A new live chat mechanism to allow abuse victims to discreetly report abuse – while in the same home or even room as their abusers – is being set up by the Jersey Domestic Abuse Support group.

And the service, which employs four domestic-abuse support workers, is working with UK charity Safelives on the feasibility of rolling out a codeword scheme in the Island.

It would allow victims to say a specific word to staff at a supermarket or pharmacy, for example, which would be code for them needing help.

In Spain, victims can ask staff for a ‘Mask 19’.

Some European countries are said to have seen a 30% rise in reports since going into lockdown. Domestic-abuse survivor Rachel Williams, who is running online support groups in the UK during the crisis, said: ‘We are going to see a massive influx here, without a shadow of a doubt.’

Ms Williams’s 16-year-old son, Jack, took his own life six weeks after she was shot by her estranged husband in 2011. She has now called for governments to look at housing people who need respite or to escape the home in empty hotel rooms.

Carly Lucas, service manager for JDAS, said that in the current climate victims might feel more isolated than ever but that support was always available and respite accommodation would always be found.

JDAS supported 461 victims last year deemed as high risk. The number of victims the service helps is expected to increase. In 2018, the latest year for which figures are available, there were over 1,000 domestic-abuse incidents recorded in Jersey. A total of 14% of all reported crime is currently associated with domestic abuse. Mrs Lucas said: ‘Domestic abuse is typically about coercive and controlling behaviour and it is at times like this when a perpetrator might feel a complete loss of control about what is going on in their lives or with their employment or their access to finances.

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‘Their whole life might change, which could lead them into controlling or coercive behaviour in relation to their partner. You also have the tensions of families spending 24 hours a day together.

‘It can be difficult, physically, to get away from it, for victims, in this period but I really want to get the message across that we are still here. We will be even more creative with ways people can contact us or get help.’

Police officers have been delivering leaflets about domestic abuse and the support available to supermarkets and other locations across the Island.

Chief Inspector Mark Hafey tweeted: ‘Officers visited many Island shops. As well as providing reassurance in respect of COVID-19, officers were also providing literature highlighting domestic abuse, which could be a heightened risk during these stressful times.’

Jack Maguire

By Jack Maguire
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