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Help at hand for victims of domestic abuse in Northern Ireland during coronavirus crisis, says Naomi Long


Justice Minister Naomi Long

Justice Minister Naomi Long

Justice Minister Naomi Long

Victims of domestic violence will not be forgotten during the coronavirus lockdown, Justice Minister Naomi Long said yesterday.

Mrs Long made the comments following a spike in the number of people reaching out to support services as local people are confined to their homes.

She said she recognised some people were afraid.

"The 'stay at home' message is designed to keep all of us safe in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, but for those in an abusive relationship staying at home means they do not feel safe at all," she said.

"They feel terrified, they feel vulnerable and, tragically, they may feel the physical and psychological pain of domestic abuse. 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."

The Justice Minister reminded those in danger that help and support was still available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

This includes the 24-hour Domestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline, with non-verbal options also available via the internet or instant messaging.

For those who need to call 999 but are scared to speak, a 'silent solution' exists to press 55 when prompted.

This allows police to know it is a genuine emergency.

Mrs 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."

She promised that the department and partners were taking steps to make sure support, advice and accommodation are available as needed.

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

The Domestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline has reported a 13% increase in calls during lockdown, including a 27% spike in the first week of April. Visits to the domestic and sexual abuse website have also doubled.

Men and women can call the Domestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 0808 802 1414. All calls are free and confidential.

A webchat service is also available at dsahelpline.org or by email on help@dsahelpline.org

Further information is available at Women's Aid at www.womensaidni.org or by calling 028 9024 9041.

The Men's Advisory Project (MAP) can be accessed at www.mapni.co.uk or calling 028 9024 1929.

Children can contact Childline on 0800 1111 or by visiting www.childline.org.uk

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