While we are all being urged to stay at home to stop the spread of Coronavirus, this does not mean victims of domestic violence should feel forgotten or alone, Alliance Justice Minister Naomi Long has said.
Help and support is available, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Naomi Long said: “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. 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.
“And while the focus has been on fighting COVID-19, I want anyone who is feeling afraid within their own home because of domestic abuse to know that they have not been forgotten. Help and support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week - and there are many different ways of accessing it.”
She added: “Help available includes the 24-hour Domestic and Sexual Abuse helpline on 0808 802 1414, and there are also non-verbal ways for victims to reach out through the helpline, for example via web and instant message.
“If you need to ring the PSNI but are too scared to speak, the ‘silent solution’ means you can call 999 and press 55 when prompted. This lets police know it is a genuine emergency.
“I am acutely aware 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.
“My Department, along with partners, are taking steps to ensure support, advice and accommodation can be made available as needed.
“I want victims to know 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 re-running the ‘See the Signs’ campaign across a number of platforms.”