In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, today Crimestoppers is launching one of its most vital North-East campaigns ever. Kate Stanley reports

THE statistics make for difficult reading – and that’s before the effects of enforced isolation with abusive, controlling and violent partners is taken into consideration.

Women in the North-East are already most at risk from suffering domestic abuse at the hands of a cruel partner, and the region has some of the highest recorded rates of abuse in the UK, with an average of 253 incidents against men and women every single day – that’s one episode every five and a half minutes; morning, noon and night.

Yet the figure is likely to be considerably higher given the vast majority of domestic abuse goes unreported, and it's expected to increase dangerously over the coming weeks, as social isolation forces victims to become trapped indoors with their abusers, in suffocating circumstances.

Campaigners and domestic violence charities have warned that enforced isolation could lead to a ‘pandemic’ in domestic abuse cases and today independent charity Crimestoppers is launching a regional campaign calling on people to protect those vulnerable to abuse and help save lives.

“It is absolutely vital, now more than ever, that we look out for one another and take a social responsibility to protect those we fear may be suffering at the hand of an abuser, because in these unprecedented times, while victims are trapped at home, they have nowhere to turn,” says Ruth McNee, Crimestoppers’ North-East Regional Manager.

The Northern Echo: Frightened for victims: Crimestoppers’ North-East regional manager Ruth McNeeFrightened for victims: Crimestoppers’ North-East regional manager Ruth McNee

“For those in abusive households, living under quarantine rules, there is no escape – no relief by seeing friends, no trips to the shops or the safety-net of work, no sending their children to school knowing that for most of the day they will be kept safe.

“Instead they face weeks, maybe months, of trying not to anger someone, trying to shield their children from witnessing abuse, trying to become invisible; the whole time trapped with a person who has also lost control of life as they know it outside of their home, so the only control they can maintain is within those four walls.

“It is frightening and life-threatening. I am terrified for those victims, and I weep for them. It is a true-life horror story.”

The Northern Echo: Ruth Williams, whose husband Anthony has appeared in court charged with her murderRuth Williams, whose husband Anthony has appeared in court charged with her murder

Domestic abuse has already increased elsewhere in the world where countries have been in coronavirus lockdown, with data showing a 20 per cent increase in Northern Ireland, a 32 per cent rise in Paris and a 40 per cent increase in New South Wales.

The Duchess of Cornwall, who campaigns on the issue of domestic abuse, took to social media recently to warn about the increased risk of abuse faced by those now confined to their homes under isolation measures. She wrote: “This is a hard time for everyone, as we are all asked to stay at home to stay safe. But for some of you it is even harder, because home is not a safe place. I can only imagine that being asked to stay there could feel very isolating and frightening for you and your family.”

Ruth says it is encouraging that domestic abuse is being talked about so openly, and important that concerns for victims are raised and highlighted in order to protect the thousands of people likely to suffer in the North-East alone.

“When abuse happens – or has happened – there is almost always someone within a community who is aware of it. That may be a friend, a relative, a neighbour or a colleague, or it may just be a random witness – a delivery man who notices bruises on a person when dropping off a parcel, or someone in the street who sees strange behaviour,” she says.

“This is why Crimestoppers has launched this domestic violence campaign in the North-East today, calling on people to look out for those around them and asking them to contact the charity anonymously, with even just the slightest suspicion, to help save people’s lives.”

The Northern Echo: The Duchess of Cornwall meets victims of domestic abuse. Picture: PA WireThe Duchess of Cornwall meets victims of domestic abuse. Picture: PA Wire

The latest figures released by the Office for National Statistics reveal that 92,088 domestic abuse related incidents and crimes were recorded by Durham, Cleveland and Northumbria police forces in the year to March 2019. Durham had the highest rate in the UK, with 50 incidents per 1,000 people, while Cleveland had the third highest and Northumbria the seventh. Domestic abuse now accounts for one in six crimes on Teesside

Nationwide, two women are killed as a result of domestic abuse every week. Last Monday, Anthony Williams, 69, appeared in court in Wales charged with killing his 67-year-old wife, in what has been described as Britain’s first self-isolating murder.

Ruth says: “It’s shocking to think that even in normal times, two women a week are killed by a former or current partner. Equally upsetting is the fact that one in five children witness abuse in their own home. But it’s important to remember that 31 per cent of victims of domestic abuse are in fact male.

“So, we can stop thinking that any part of society is free from abuse; it doesn’t matter who you are or where you live, this is happening in your community and it is happening right now.

“Victims of abuse don’t always realise what they are suffering is abuse and they don’t always realise that they can get help. Abusers isolate their victims and make them feel that the abuse is their fault, that no one will care and that no one will listen. This is a serious crime that leaves people feeling trapped, alone and powerless, so as a community we need to stand up and help these victims.”

The Northern Echo: Crimestoppers poster to highlight the new domestic abuse campaignCrimestoppers poster to highlight the new domestic abuse campaign

Crimestoppers guarantees complete anonymity to those who report criminal activity and suspicious behaviour, giving those with knowledge of domestic abuse a safe place to be able to report it without fear of repercussions

“We understand people often feel uncomfortable speaking directly to the authorities, or they may feel that what they have heard or witnessed doesn’t warrant a call to the police, particularly when the country is dealing with coronavirus cases,” explains Ruth.

“But we are urging people to give any information they have, however small, to Crimestoppers because we can pass it on to the appropriate forces and authorities without anyone ever knowing who gave it to us in the first place. Everyone who contacts us remains one hundred per cent anonymous, forever, and that’s a promise we have kept for our entire 32-year history.”

Appealing directly to those with concerns about domestic abuse, Ruth adds: “Please, please do the right thing and help us protect women, men, young people and children who are living in abusive households during these potentially dangerous weeks of enforced isolation.”

  • Contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or online at


DOMESTIC abuse is an incident (or pattern of incidents) of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and / or violent behaviour.

This behaviour can be physical, psychological, sexual, financial or emotional.

It is a crime that affects women, men and children regardless of age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or economic status.


Emotional abuse and coercive control: This can be verbal or non-verbal, intended to chip away at the confidence and independence of a victim. This can include name-calling, shaming, isolation and intimidation.

Physical abuse: This includes pushing, slapping, punching, biting, pinching, kicking, pulling hair out, burning and strangling.

Sexual abuse: Any situation where a person is forced to take part in unwanted, unsafe or degrading sexual activity is sexual abuse. A victim’s right to consent is often ignored.

Financial control: The abuser controls or withholds money, credit cards or basic necessities. It can also see victims working against their will.