The pandemic has seen an escalation in domestic abuse rates - and there have been far fewer routes to safety for those who experience it.


Lockdown saw a 40.6% reduction in the number of refuge vacancies in England according to Women's Aid.


Of those operating, less than a third were provided with adequate PPE. 


The horrific domestic abuse statistics speak for themselves; 10 women and two children were killed by men in the first two weeks of lockdown, according to figures cited by Women's Aid. This is three times higher than the already horrific 'average' of three women killed every two weeks (Office for National Statistics (ONS)).


There are 2.4 million victims of domestic abuse a year - two thirds are women (according to the ONS). 


A survey by Women’s Aid found that 91% of women (who were experiencing abuse at the time of taking the survey) said the pandemic had impacted their experiences of abuse in one or more ways. This included feeling more afraid (52.2%), and feeling they had no one to turn to for help (58%). 


COVID-19 has also had on impact on children; 53.1% of survivors currently experiencing domestic abuse said their children had to witness more abuse.  


But campaigners and charities are stepping up to the plate. The charity Hestia - named after the Greek goddess of the home - launched a campaign in April so victims of domestic abuse could access safe spaces at most of the 2,400 Boots pharmacies' consultation rooms, 200 Superdrug pharmacies, 60+ independent pharmacies and 117 pharmacies in Morrisons' stores. A domestic abuse hand signal, originally created by the Canadian Women’s Foundation, has gone viral on videos circulated around the social media platform TikTok. This hand signal can be used on video calls to signal help and comprises of a sequence of movements:

- Palm to camera and tuck thumb 

- Trap thumb 


Those experiencing domestic abuse who may not be safe to speak can use the Silent Solution system on a mobile phone. The system is triggered when a caller calls 999 but does not respond to the operator’s questions. The operator then transfers the call through to the 'Silent Solution' system, and an automated police message asks the caller to press 55.


Upon pressing 55, the operator will be notified and transfer the call to the police who will then attempt to communicate with the caller by asking yes or no questions.


If an emergency call on a landline is received, and the caller is silent, the operator will connect the caller to the police. Alternatively, if the caller replaces the handset, the landline may remain connected for 45 seconds. In this case, if the caller picks up the handset again, they will be put through to the police.


Royal Mail has developed an online 'Safe Spaces' portal which can be installed on business websites for free. It provides lots of information and features a 'quick exit' button, and leaves no internet history, ensuring the safety of those who use the service.


In July, the Government passed the Domestic Abuse Bill. Among other things it provides all eligible homeless victims with an automatic 'priority' for housing assistance. Victoria Atkins MP, Minister for Safeguarding says: "This landmark Bill will help transform the response to domestic abuse, helping to prevent offending, protect victims and ensure they have the support they need."