Calls to the national domestic abuse helpline rose by more than a fifth during the coronavirus pandemic, figures show.
There were 49,756 calls to the helpline, run by Refuge, in England over the year to March 2021 – up 22% from the previous year, according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The rise was generally driven by peaks in calls during the national lockdowns, it said.
It does not necessarily indicate a rise in the number of victims – it could also indicate an increase in severity of abuse or a lack of coping mechanisms during periods of restrictions.
It received 1,759 calls from victims and 529 from people calling on their behalf – up from 1,355 and 500 respectively over the previous 12 months.
The majority (95.6%) of calls where the relationship to the perpetrator was recorded concerned a female partner or ex-partner.
It also reported a 61% rise in visitors per month to the charity’s website compared to the previous 12 months.
The figures were released by the ONS as part of analysis of data from various sources, including police forces, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Ministry of Justice and support organisations.
Some 72.7% of the calls were from women, and more than three quarters (76.7%) were from victims of male perpetrators.
The most common stalking behaviours were use of social media (47.9%), text messages (43.1%) and phone calls (42.8%).
According to Women’s Aid, high demand meant that 63% of referrals of women to refuges in England and 34% of referrals of women to refuges in Wales were declined in the year to March 2020.
The main reason in England was a lack of capacity, while in Wales it was due to the refuge being unable to meet survivors’ support needs.
There were 28,657 referrals of women to refuges in England in the year to March 2020 – of which 18,025 were declined.
Of 192,289 referrals to community-based services, 44.9% were declined.
While the number of refuge beds in England has increased – to 4,277 in 2021 – it remains below the minimum recommended by the Council of Europe.
Only two regions – London and the West Midlands – exceeded this level.
Previously released data, presented as part of Thursday’s release, shows that the police recorded 845,734 domestic abuse-related crimes in England and Wales in the year ending March 2021, a 6% annual rise.
They made 33 arrests per 100 domestic abuse-related crimes, the same as in the previous year.
Referrals of suspects to the CPS fell 3%, to 77,812, and the number of CPS prosecutions fell for the fifth consecutive year.
The percentage of prosecutions leading to a conviction rose for the sixth consecutive year, to 78%.
The figures show that the average number of days taken to charge a suspect increased to 18, compared with 15 the previous year and double the number of days in the year to March 2019.
Ruth Davison, chief executive of Refuge, said the figures are a “stark reminder of how pervasive domestic abuse is in our society, and the impact the pandemic has on survivors of abuse”.
She continued: “These statistics are also a reminder that the criminal justice system needs reform to ensure that it protects women and girls.
“The continued decrease in prosecutions and charging rates for domestic abuse-related crimes sends a very concerning message, and at a time when trust in the police is low, urgent action is needed so that women and girls have confidence in the system to protect them.”