The number of referrals for victims of domestic violence in Croydon has surged by more than double in the last four years, SWLondoner can reveal.
According to a response to a Freedom of Information request made by SWL, referrals to Croydon’s FJC (formerly Family Justice Centre) rose from 980 in March 2017 to 2,076 in April 2021, an increase of 111.8%.
The FJC is a Croydon-based charity offering services to victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence, aiming to offer a ‘safe place’ where victims and their children can access support in one location.
Between April 2017 and March 2018, it recorded a total of 1,720 referrals, increasing to 1,817 between April 2018 and March 2019.
The biggest spike took place between April 2017 and March 2018, with 1,720 referrals lodged, compared to 980 between April 2016 and March 2017, amounting to an increase of 75.5%.
In a report on domestic abuse and sexual violence published in 2017, the majority of clients seen at the FJC tend to be referred by the Police, Access Croydon, and those who present of their own accord.
There was, however, a 3% decline in referrals last year, with 1,751 made to the charity in the year up to March 2020.
Figures also show a significant spike during the pandemic, with 2,076 referrals received between April 2020 and April 2021.
According to domestic abuse charity, Hestia, which operates services in Croydon, the pandemic played a significant role in the increase in domestic violence cases.
A spokesperson for the charity said: “Over the last three years, rising awareness of domestic abuse has become more prominent and the recent lockdown made domestic abuse a talking point for the nation as cases surged and demand for support was at an all-time high.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on victims of domestic abuse, with abuse escalating and support networks cut off overnight.
“The rise of incidents is directly exacerbated by perpetrators and victims often spending lockdown in the same space.
“During the latest lockdown, we experienced a 30% increase in demand compared to the first lockdown and as lockdown restrictions continue to ease, we anticipate an increase in demand.”
The revelation comes less than four months after data from the Metropolitan Police’s Crime Dashboard recorded a rise in the number of reported cases of domestic violence in Croydon during the festive season in 2020.
In January, SWL reported that the number of incidents involving injury in the borough rose from 94 in November to 111 in December last year, up by 18.08%. This is compared to a 0.87% increase between the same months in 2019.
A number of other boroughs also reported spikes, including Kingston upon Thames which saw 23 cases reported in November to 31 in December, a growth of 34.7%.
Meanwhile, data from the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) showed that in the five months after the government introduced the first COVID-19 restrictions, the number of incidents of domestic abuse in Croydon rose by 27.9%, from 648 in March to 829 in August 2020.
In the capital, research from the London Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee uncovered that domestic abuse offences in the month of December have risen by a third over the past decade.
In December 2019, 2,031 domestic abuse incidents with injury were reported in London, compared to 1,554 in December 2010.
In a report, it called on the Mayor’s Office to support the London Assembly’s campaign in lobbying for the introduction of a Domestic Abusers Register and to ‘consider’ the piloting options in the capital.
Writing in April 2019, the chair of the Committee, Unmesh Desai AM, said: “During our investigation, we heard from domestic abuse services and victims that the numbers of those suffering from domestic abuse are at epidemic levels.
“Once the immediate COVID-19 crisis has ended, the Met and MOPAC need to ensure that the domestic abuse services that are in place provide quality London-wide support for victims and bring people to justice for these crimes.”
Meanwhile, Croydon Council announced it had launched a campaign that will see its 123 primary and secondary schools display posters to raise awareness for victims of domestic abuse seeking help.
The posters aim to highlight that schools are a safe space where victims are able to talk to members of staff and make a call to the Croydon FJC for support.
A spokesperson for Croydon Council, said: “Domestic abuse is a hidden crime, so a rise in referrals means more victims are aware that the FJC offers them a route to safety and, crucially, more of them are coming forward so they and their families can get the professional and confidential support they need.
“The pandemic and lockdown have not caused domestic abuse but are likely to have worsened already existing abusive relationships – that’s why it’s important to report these issues so our FJC staff can help.”
If you are a victim of domestic abuse and need help you can contact the free 24-hour national domestic abuse helpline on 0808 2000 247.