Media update from the Domestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline NI
The current lockdown, which has been enforced to stop the spread of coronavirus has led to fears that this will lead to an escalation of abuse and violence against men, women and children. The nature of the lockdown as a result of the pandemic provides an environment that is known to exacerbate domestic and sexual abuse.
We want to reassure everyone that the Freephone Domestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline, managed by Nexus NI, is still operating 24/7 and can provide free and confidential support to anyone who needs it by our fully trained and experienced operators.
The first week in April saw an increase of 27 percent in calls with a further additional increase of 13 percent last week in the week of April five to 11.. At the same time, we have seen visits to the Domestic and Sexual Abuse Website double. If people can’t use the phone, they can contact us through webchat and one of our trained and experienced helpline operators will respond to them in real time.
These statistics show us that people are continuing to need or seek support. The Nexus NI team encourage everyone to reach out to friends, family and neighbours and let them know that that our services are available. Nexus NI work closely with partner organisations and can assure the Northern Ireland community that help is available at all times.
The Northern Ireland Helpline recorded an increase in callers worried that if they leave home, they could get Covid-19. Our partner agencies and Northern Ireland Housing Executive have been actively working with the Helpline team to provide accommodation. There are options available and we encourage anyone feeling unsafe in their home to please pick up the phone and call the Helpline. Anyone in immediate danger should call 999 and press 55 on a mobile if they are unable to talk and the PSNI will still be there for you.
Our operators report that the worst part for callers is because their abuser is ever-present, meaning even more in control. Being at home with an abuser makes victims more vulnerable, because there is deemed no escape. The Nexus NI team have been working to relay the message that there is help available. Our concern remains that both men and woman are in lockdown with perpetrators and are unable to make calls or seek support and our message that we need to continue to share is:
“Our doors are closed but our services are open”
Nexus NI are working closely with the PSNI, Men’s Advisory Project (MAP), Women’s Aid, The Rainbow Project and Victim Support regarding Domestic Abuse and the Helpline provides signposting for individuals to the relevant service or charity.
We know that there is a strong link between domestic and sexual abuse and poor mental health. There is a potential increase in domestic or sexual abuse with both partners being in lockdown together and this could have detrimental impact on mental health. Nexus NI are continuing to provide vital Counselling for victims of Sexual Trauma at this difficult time and we would encourage anyone who needs sexual trauma counselling to get in touch via nexusni.org website or call Tel: 028 90 32 6803.
In preparation to meet this demand Nexus NI have been actively working on contingency plans to prepare for post lockdown and are now recruiting volunteers through Community NI https://www.communityni.org/job/volunteer-helpline-operator-0
If anyone is experiencing or has concerns about Domestic or Sexual Abuse, we are here to help.