Northern Ireland news

Women's Aid campaign reminds women suffering abuse that they can `unlock their lockdown'

Sarah Mason, Sandra McNamee, and Kelly Andrews from Women's Aid at the launch the new `Unlock Your Lockdown' mural on Donegall Street in Belfast city centre. Picture by Mal McCann
Marie Louise McConville

WOMEN'S Aid has launched a campaign reminding women they have the power to 'unlock their lockdown' and escape abusive relationships.

A mural unveiled on Donegall Street in Belfast city centre yesterday highlights that support is always available.

There are plans to replicate the mural, which was painted by Belfast street artist Laura Nelson, in Derry and possibly other locations.

Kelly Andrews, CEO of Women's Aid in Belfast and Lisburn, said the aim was to remind women that help is always available even amid government restrictions due to Covid-19.

She revealed that between April 2019 and March this year, the PSNI received almost 32,000 domestic violence calls, the highest figures since records began.

She said the Women's Aid team set up a web chat service during this year's lockdowns to help women communicate with it at a time when they might not have been able to be make a call.

"When the first lockdown was announced in March, Women's Aid knew it was going to create an environment for those women who are already in abusive situations, that it was going to get worse for them," she said.

"People were not going out to work. Not going out to clubs, gyms, bars, pubs and it was creating that environment that they were locked in with their abuser."

Ms Andrews said the mural depicts women linking arms, a signal of solidarity.

"We were trying to get the message out there that we are open, support is available, we are here for you," she said.

"You don't have to suffer in silence. We are open and we have got community support and services are accessible."

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