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Charity offers support as calls to abuse helpline in Northern Ireland rise sharply

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The Domestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline has seen a 13% increase in calls during the coronavirus lockdown. File image posed by model. (PA)

The Domestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline has seen a 13% increase in calls during the coronavirus lockdown. File image posed by model. (PA)

The Domestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline has seen a 13% increase in calls during the coronavirus lockdown. File image posed by model. (PA)

The Domestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline has seen a 13% increase in calls during the coronavirus lockdown.

The first week of April saw an increase of 27%, while visits to the domestic and sexual abuse website doubled.

The current lockdown, enforced to stop the spread of Covid-19, has led to fears that this will lead to an escalation of abuse and violence against men, women and children.

Sexual abuse charity Nexus NI said lockdown provides an environment that is known to exacerbate domestic and sexual abuse.

The charity added that the freephone domestic and sexual abuse helpline is still operating 24/7 and provides free and confidential support to anyone who needs it.

Nexus NI said: "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 encourages everyone to reach out to friends, family and neighbours and let them know that our services are available.

"Nexus NI works closely with partner organisations and can assure the Northern Ireland community that help is available at all times."

The helpline also recorded an increase in callers worried that if they leave home they could contract Covid-19.

Partner agencies of Nexus NI and the Housing Executive have been working with the helpline team to provide accommodation.

Anyone in immediate danger can call 999 and press 55 on a mobile if they are unable to talk and the PSNI will respond.

The charity added: "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 women 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 is working with the PSNI, Men's Advisory Project, Women's Aid, Rainbow Project and Victim Support regarding domestic abuse and the helpline provides signposting to the relevant service or charity.

If anyone is experiencing or has concerns about domestic or sexual abuse you can call the helpline on freephone 0808 802 1414, email help@dsahelpline.org or visit dsahelpline.org.

Belfast Telegraph