France Is Putting Domestic Abuse Victims In Hotels To Keep Them Safe During Lockdown
French authorities have also created a secret password for victims to discreetly ask for help, which they can use in pharmacies, as well as injecting €1.1 million (£964,000) into funding for anti-abuse charities and organisations.
It comes after affected countries around the world have seen a rise in domestic abuse cases during isolation.
Although for the majority of us, being in a COVID-19 lockdown means boxsets and binge-watching, for others, it means being trapped in a torrent of inescapable abuse. With no idea when it will end.
In France, reports of violence at home have increased by a third since lockdown began just two weeks ago, on 17th March. This includes two murders.
Other countries have also seen a startling rise in reported abuse. In China's Hubei province, local papers are reporting that one county has seen domestic violence reports more than triple, jumping from 47 last year to 162 this year.
It's a similar story in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with a reported increase of between 40 and 50 per cent.
But French authorities are now taking further action, launching a number of initiatives to help those suffering from domestic abuse.
This includes up to 20,000 nights of accommodation in hotels and 20 support hubs in shopping centres across the country, where women can seek help and support. These will initially launch in Paris and Lille.
They've also set up an 'alert system' in pharmacies. By asking for a 'mask 19' pharmacists will know the victim is seeking help and they will call the police.
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It's reported that an arrest has already been made under this scheme. According to a report by French publication, Le Parisien, a woman who was five months pregnant testified against her husband, reporting that he had slapped her and threatened her with a knife.
With the new measures in France and similar measures having been introduced in Spain, many are calling for the UK government to also implement more ways for women to seek help.
Last Saturday, 67-year-old grandmother Ruth Williams was pronounced dead in hospital, just hours after police had found her unconscious in her home in Cwmbran, Wales. Her husband, Anthony Williams, 69, is now on trial for her murder.
Added to that, calls to the National Abuse Hotline in the UK soared by 65 per cent last weekend, according to the BBC, a frightening indication that abuse is increasing during lockdown.
Despite home secretary Priti Patel explaining that women would be allowed to leave their homes to seek help from a refuge, charities are saying this is simply not enough.
If you're scared of your partner Refuge's expert Freephone 24 hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline team can offer non-judgmental support at a time that's safe for you: https://t.co/zT0hdkqacd #SafetyInANumber pic.twitter.com/pMIlZeMSKv
- Refuge (@RefugeCharity) March 28, 2020
A Women's Aid's annual audit revealed that 64 per cent of refuge referrals were declined last year, and, due to decades of poor funding, the number of bed spaces in England are 30 per cent below that recommended by the Council of Europe.
Campaigners are urging the government to provide the sector with "an immediate cash injection".
Meanwhile, domestic abuse campaigner David Challen is pushing the government to instigate a social media campaign as well as a television broadcast.
More must be done, and quickly.
If you need to report abuse, you can call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247, or visit the organisation's website and discreetly fill out a form.
For those in immediate danger, and in need of a 'silent solution', calling 999 and dialling in the number 55 will also alert the authorities you need help.
Featured Image Credit: PA
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