Police Scotland are taking “proactive” steps to deal with domestic abuse amid the Covid-19 lockdown as women’s rights campaigners raise fears about the restrictions.
Officers are engaging with ministers, charities and voluntary organisations to monitor the impact moves taken to prevent the spread of the virus could have on families.
The force said it is “too early” to assess how self-isolation, quarantine and social distancing could affect such incidents but charities supporting women have expressed concerns.
Where a report of domestic abuse is received, we will continue to respond appropriately and help victims gain access to the support they needSamantha McCluskey, Police Scotland
Detective Chief Superintendent Samantha McCluskey, of the specialist crime division, told the PA news agency: “Tackling domestic abuse is a priority for Police Scotland and this does not change despite the unprecedented and dynamic set of circumstances the country is faced with.
“While it may be too early to assess the impact of coronavirus (Covid-19) on incidents of domestic abuse, I can reassure the public that officers are continuing to work hard to prevent harm by identifying people who may be at risk.
“Proactive assessment work is ongoing, which includes engagement with the Scottish Government and our partners in the third sector, and we continue to monitor the potential impact on victims and families.”
She added: “Domestic abuse is not acceptable and is everyone’s business.
“If you, or anyone you know, is being abused or at risk of abuse, we need to know now – your information could be absolutely crucial at this particular time.
“Please contact Police Scotland on 101 or 999 in an emergency, or if you need support please contact Scotland’s domestic abuse and forced marriage helpline on 0800 027 1234 where support is available 24/7.
“Where a report of domestic abuse is received, we will continue to respond appropriately and help victims gain access to the support they need.”
Charities have raised concerns the lockdown measures will leave domestic abuse victims and survivors exposed to higher levels of anxiety.
Scottish Women’s Aid claimed women will be “disproportionately affected” by the pandemic.
Dr Marsha Scott, chief executive of the charity, said: “Some women who live with an abuser will feel increased anxiety around the prospect of self-isolation and social distancing, or even quarantine, in a house with an abuser.
“Or, for the many victim/survivors who do not live with their abusers, they may feel an increased level of fear at the prospect of their abuser knowing that they are at home and the possibility for further surveillance that this creates.”
Shelter Scotland has called for short-term holiday lets to be turned into refuge accommodation for those seeking to escape domestic abuse.
Alison Watson, deputy director of Shelter Scotland, said: “Domestic abuse is a significant cause of homelessness at the best of times and we have concerns that people may not be offered suitable accommodation to help them escape.
“That’s among the reasons why we have called for a series of special powers to be given to councils including the ability for them to use Airbnb and other holiday lets to provide more suitable temporary accommodation for a long-term lockdown.
“We have suggested this goes as far as compulsory letting orders.
“These would be exceptional measures in exceptional times to ensure everyone has a safe place to call home during the coronavirus pandemic.”