Northern Ireland news

Help available for those suffering domestic abuse during lockdown, says justice minister

Rape and sexual abuse charity Nexus NI has seen a 13% rise in calls, on top of a 27% rise in the first week of April
Rebecca Black, Press Association

Those subjected to domestic violence during the coronavirus lockdown do not have to suffer in silence, the justice minister has said.

Naomi Long urged those needing help to turn to helplines which are manned 24 hours a day.

The plea from the minister came after the charity Nexus NI recently revealed it has witnessed a 13% rise in calls, on top of a 27% rise in the first week of April.

READ MORE: Police say help 'always available' for domestic abuse victims during coronavirus pandemic

It said the number of visits to the domestic and sexual abuse website has doubled.

Ms Long also said that calls to her department's helpline have increased.

She said while the stay-at-home message is designed to keep people safe from Covid-19, those in abusive relationships will not feel safe at home.

"All too often, rather than being a haven, for those living with abusive partners or family members, home is a place of hurt and of fear," she said.

"And while the focus has been on fighting Covid-19, I want anyone who is feeling afraid within their own home because of domestic abuse to know that they have not been forgotten.

"Help available includes the 24-hour domestic and sexual abuse helpline on 0808 802 1414, and there are also non-verbal ways for victims to reach out through the helpline, for example via web and instant message.

"If you need to ring the PSNI but are too scared to speak, the 'silent solution' means you can call 999 and press 55 when prompted. This lets police know it is a genuine emergency."

Ms Long added: "I am acutely aware that perpetrators of abuse will think they can use the current crisis to inflict more psychological and physical control over their victims. We already know this has been the case in other countries such as China and Italy; and calls to our own 24-hour domestic and abuse helpline have also increased.

"My department, along with partners, are taking steps to ensure that support, advice and accommodation can be made available as needed.

"I want victims to know that help is there for them and my department, along with the PSNI and other partner organisations, is working hard to increase awareness; not least by re-running the See The Signs campaign across a number of platforms."

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