Lynne Townley, a Lecturer in The City Law School undertaking doctoral research on honour-based violence, says many charities providing support for victims were financially struggling, even before the COVID-19 lockdown.

By Mr John Stevenson (Senior Communications Officer), Published (Updated )

Reports of honour-based and domestic abuse during the COVID-19 lockdown in the UK have risen to alarming levels, with one UK charity reporting a 700 percent increase in calls to its helpline in a single day.

Lynne Townley, a Lecturer in The City Law School currently undertaking doctoral research on honour-based violence, says the funding made available by the Government is “woefully inadequate to meet the increased demand falling upon service providers at this time” and believes that “many such providers were already financially struggling even before the lockdown.”

Codes of honour

While domestic abuse refers to an incident or a pattern of violence (or abuse) perpetrated by a partner (or ex-partner), carer or family member, honour-based abuse is a collection of practices used to control behaviour within families in order to protect perceived cultural beliefs and/or codes of honour.

One of the ways in which honour-based abuse differs from domestic abuse is that there are often multiple perpetrators. It frequently occurs in communities where couples live with their extended family.

As a criminal barrister, Ms Townley has prosecuted many cases involving honour-based and domestic violence. She has advised the Government on policy in these areas.

"Being forced to stay at home because of COVID-19 has resulted in victims of honour-based and domestic abuse being placed in greater danger as they become increasingly isolated from the rest of society. Even assuming that they are in a position to seek help in the first place (many victims of honour-based abuse do not speak English), the lockdown makes this increasing difficult."

Karma Nirvana, a charity supporting victims of honour-based violence and forced marriage, reported that victims of honour-based abuse are often treated like slaves by their in-laws - forced to cook and clean for their extended family, while having their mobile phones taken away to prevent them from contacting their own family. Often, the only way a victim can seek any kind of help is if she can go to her GP or if she manages to escape from the house and alert someone to what is going on - a possibility that is increasingly unlikely since the COVID-19 lockdown.

Under the banner of the hashtag #YouAreNotAlone, Home Secretary, Priti Patel has recently announced a £2m support package to support victims of domestic violence through online and other services.

However, Ms Townley maintains the view that more assistance is “urgently needed”.

“A major domestic abuse charity, Women's Aid, recently reported that the shortfall of funding in the sector ran close to £50 million. On top of this, charities have also had to cancel many of their services due to COVID-19. More needs to be done now particularly around the funding of places in refuges - they must be made available for victims who need to leave their homes for their own safety and who otherwise would have nowhere else to go during the lockdown”.