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‘This could be the toughest Christmas yet for domestic abuse victims’ – that’s PCC Kim McGuinness’ stark warning as she asks everyone to look out for each other over the festive season.

16th December 2020

Friends and family are being urged to make domestic abuse everyone’s business this Christmas, as part of an ongoing campaign setting out how to help victims.

Support services across the region are joining Northumbria Police Commissioner Kim McGuinness and are encouraging people to reach in and keep in touch at a time when survivors are being isolated by both the pandemic and their perpetrator.

People with concerns are being encouraged to take action by following a series of safe steps. Advice includes making suggestions to the victim, not demands, and sharing support information, if safe to do so.

The latest figures from Northumbria Police have revealed that domestic abuse incidents increased by 5.2 per cent (+1,931 incidents) for the 12 months to September 2020. There has also been a 10 per cent (+977 incidents) increase in the last quarter, compared to the previous year.

This increase in reporting includes victims known to the Force; however, there has been an increase in new victims and perpetrators – believed to be as a result of lockdown.

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, said: “Domestic abuse is everyone’s business. We know the risk of domestic abuse increases at Christmas time – we see it year on year. And this year, Christmas will be made worse for some due to restrictions and people being cut off from the outside world – it really is a dangerous mix. I really feel for those suffering.

“Sadly, for many, lockdown has made them more vulnerable and I am expecting to see domestic abuse reports higher this Christmas than previous years. The reality in many homes is far from the picture perfect impressions we’re often led to believe on social media.”

The Commissioner, went on to explain that everyone has a role to play in helping those suffering behind closed doors: “The message is – be safe, be kind, be there. For many victims the idea of breaking free from the harm and overcoming awful experiences is not easy, but it can be done. We have some wonderful support services in the North East to help anyone who needs to do just that.”

A survey earlier this year by Wearside Women in Need, revealed 62 per cent of victims tell a friend or family member first, so it’s vital that those people who are confided in, feel equipped to raise their concerns and encourage those at harm to seek help.

Becky Rogerson, Director of Wearside Women in Need, said: “Anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse, which means you could have a friend, family member, co-worker or neighbour who needs support. The pandemic has increased isolation and increased the need for us all to look after one another. We’re asking everyone to try and stay connected and keep in touch with friends, family, neighbours and co-workers over the festive period. We need to ‘reach in’ to those who might not be able to reach out, and let them know we’re here for them.”

Northumbria Police’s Detective Superintendent Deborah Alderson, of the Safeguarding Department, wants to reach out to send a clear message of support to those experiencing domestic abuse and living in fear this Christmas.

She said: “2020 has been a year like no other and a very lonely year for many, especially those at home with their abuser. It’s not too late to speak out and receive help and support.

“My message to anyone trapped in an abusive situation – if your home is not a safe environment then I urge you to seek support, to contact police.

“We will do everything we can do to support you which can include help to find safe accommodation for you and your children or removing abusers from homes.”

She added: “If you’re aware of domestic abuse happening in the home of a friend, family member, colleague or neighbour – please speak out.

“If you see someone suffering in silence, be the voice they wish they had and seek help from police.”

Here’s important advice for if you’re worried about someone:
• Be safe: remember – social media, phone and emails might be monitored. Don’t confront the abuser.
• Be kind: listen, make suggestions, not demands.
• Be there: be understanding and available.
• Get help: contact organisations for support and information
• Call 101 if you are concerned about a friend or loved one, or that someone’s behaviour is abusive.
• Call 999 if you think there’s an immediate danger.

Information and support: If you or someone you know needs support for issues about domestic abuse – these organisations can help.

If you are experiencing domestic abuse, you can contact Northumbria Police on 101, or make a report online. In an emergency, always call 999. If you dial 999 and are unable to speak, the emergency operator will ask you to dial 55 and to follow their instruction to quickly put you in touch with police.