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A Petition Has Been Launched To Protect Domestic Abuse Victims During Lockdown

A Petition Has Been Launched To Protect Domestic Abuse Victims During Lockdown

Campaigner Rachel Williams is calling on the Government to open Air BnBs, hotels and BnBs for those seeking refuge.

Mary-Jane Wiltsher

Mary-Jane Wiltsher

A petition has been launched to help offer refuge for victims of domestic abuse during the coronavirus lockdown.

With many families self-isolating in testing conditions, worrying reports of a steep rise in domestic abuse are emerging.

Rachel Williams is calling on the Government to open vacant Air BnB's, Hotels and BnB's to house the overspill from refuges (

UK domestic violence charity Refuge reported that The National Domestic Abuse helpline has seen a 25 per cent increase in calls and online requests for help since the lockdown.

In France, interior minister Christophe Castaner confirmed that reports of domestic violence across the country had increased by more than 30% since the country went into lockdown on March 17th.

In the face of these shocking statistics, it's vital that the most vulnerable in society - whose homes are not necessarily safe havens - are protected.

Charity campaigners have warned that the combination of restricted travel, heightened domestic tensions and a strain on public services will leave many at risk, with no escape route.

The petition, set up by domestic abuse campaigner Rachel Williams, calls on the Government to arrange for currently vacant Airbnbs, hotels and bed and breakfasts to be used to house the overspill from the refuges.

Similar measures have been put in place in France, with Gender Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa saying France would pay for up to 20,000 hotel nights for victims escaping abusive partners.

The cause has personal resonance for Rachel, who was shot by her estranged husband after she left him following 18 years of abuse. She called him "a ticking time bomb".

"In the UK there are only 4,000 refuge spaces, with 19,000 referrals last year," says Rachel in her outline of the petition.

"Can you just imagine based on the above figures, the increase need for refuge spaces during and after lockdown?

Quite simply, when it comes to Domestic Abuse services, there is a gaping hole between supply and demand, which looks set to increase as lockdown continues.

Under the proposals put forward by Rachel, local authorities would have the power to open up empty properties where necessary and appropriate, to provide accommodation for those fleeing abuse.

Police would also have access to extra resources, in order to deal with the increased volume of domestic abuse call outs.

Rachel is also calling for all restraining orders and non-molestation orders to be free for all those seeking them, and for them to be heard in court - rather than via phone - as a matter of priority.

With domestic abuse services under strain, the petition calls for all DA workers to be provides with the personal protective equipment - such as gloves and masks - needed to safely carry out essential face-to-face services.

DA service providers also require mobile phones and alarms to issue to those in safehouses.

If Rachel's petition is successful, funding will go direct to domestic abuse services rather than via local authorities, saving time and providing vital resources during lockdown.

In times like these, we need change-makers like Rachel more than ever. Want to show support? You can sign the petition and make an optional donation here.

For more information on Domestic Abuse you can contact:

Refuge UK wide 24-hour helpline: 0808 2000 247

Police: 999 press 55 when prompted if you can't speak

Featured Image Credit: Unsplash

Topics: News, domestic abuse