WOMEN’S charities say the coronavirus outbreak will lead to increased domestic violence – with thousands of incidents already reported in Hampshire last year.

The charities warn that perpetrators will use the isolation period as a “tool of coercive and controlling behaviour”, and that women and children are consistently more vulnerable during periods of societal stress.

But support will remain available despite the outbreak.

The latest Home Office data shows Hampshire Constabulary recorded 15,098 domestic abuse-related incidents in 2018-19.

Across England and Wales, 571,000 incidents were recorded last year, including both where a crime was recorded by police and where it was decided no specific crime had been committed. Claire Barnett, executive director of UN Women UK, said many incidents of domestic abuse are not reported and that isolation will cause a spike, as seen during other times of societal stress.

She added: “This is even before we factor in those instances where the victim will have told no-one.

“Women and children are consistently more vulnerable as the targets of violence in these situations, and now as many women will be struggling to find work and unable to maintain their financial independence, this will only worsen.” A joint statement from Women’s Aid, End Violence Against Women and several others warns Covid-19 will have serious impacts on the lives of women and children as “home is not always a place of safety”.

They said: “We know perpetrators will use infection control measures as a tool of coercive and controlling behaviour.

“Access to support for women and children may also shrink further due to social isolation and those in poverty will be severely impacted.

“Measures to decrease social contact are likely to have significant mental health impacts on the population, and this could be acute for survivors coping and recovering from trauma.”

A government spokesman said they understand victims and survivors may feel even more vulnerable and urged anyone in immediate danger to call 999. He added: “The National Domestic Abuse Helpline is staffed by experts 24 hours a day, every day of the year.”

Hampshire’s Domestic Abuse Service is also continuing to provide help. The telephone helpline can be accessed on 03300 165 112 and will be staffed from 11.30am to 2.30pm Monday to Friday.

A face to face support option is not available during this time but access to refuge, for those with urgent needs, will still be available 24/7. Those in an emergency who are unable to speak can dial 999 and then enter 55.