Press Release

23 March 2021

A year of lockdown: Refuge releases new figures showing dramatic increase in activity

A year of lockdown: Refuge releases new figures showing dramatic increase in activity across its specialist domestic abuse services.

  • Between April 2020 and February 2021 calls and contacts* logged on Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline (NDAH) up by average of 61%
  • 72% of people supported by NDAH were women experiencing abuse
  • Women supported in multiple languages by specialist staff
  • 4,481 referrals made to secure refuges across country
  • 11,616 safety plans created
  • Average of seven-fold increase in visits to specialist website
  • More than 5,200 ‘live chats’ have taken place since new service launched in May 2020

Refuge, the country’s largest single provider of specialist domestic abuse services, marks one year on since the Prime Minister announced the country would go into immediate ‘lockdown’ by releasing a consolidated overview of activity across its specialist services between April 2020 and February 2021.

During this period (April 2020 – February 2021), Refuge has, on average, logged more than 13,162 calls and contacts* to its specialist National Domestic Abuse Helpline services per month (up from an average of 8,176 per month between January and March 2020), pulling into sharp focus the sheer number of women needing support. This is a worrying trend, particularly as being isolated with an abusive partner is likely to have made reaching out for support more challenging.

During the reporting period, 72% of those supported by Refuge’s specialist Helpline team were women experiencing violence and abuse. Women of all ages called us during this period, but the most common age-bracket was 30-39. Our specialist team also spoke to professionals, such as police, social workers and healthcare staff (11% of those we supported) and members of the public who were concerned that a friend, family member, or neighbour was experiencing domestic abuse (10% of those we supported).

Domestic abuse is, of course, more than just physical violence. It can be economic, sexual or emotional abuse, coercive control or abuse perpetrated through the misuse of technology. During the pandemic, our Helpline team received calls from women who were being terrorised in their own homes, women who were afraid to seek treatment for their injuries in case they overburden hospital staff, women whose court cases had been delayed, women making plans to flee the home, and women with no home to go to.

Where the type of abuse was recorded, nearly one in five (19%) of the women we spoke to had experienced threats to kill from their abusers. 10% had had weapons used against them. 16% had been strangled.

During the same period (Jan – Dec 2020), our expert Helpline team made 4,481 referrals to secure refuges, enabling women to flee abusive partners, signposted survivors to other specialist domestic abuse services in their communities 32,811 times, and empowered women with information about their rights and options 56,596 times (for example, around child contact, civil orders, reporting to the police, making an emergency homelessness application)

Lisa King, Refuge director of communications and external relations said:

‘What these statistics show is that activity across Refuge’s specialist services has increased significantly during lockdown. Between April 2020 and February 2021, the average number of calls and contacts logged* on our database per month was 61% above the January-March 2020 period, pulling into sharp focus just how many women across the country have been experiencing domestic abuse during the pandemic and how many need the specialist, confidential support Refuge provides.

For women and children experiencing domestic abuse, home is not a safe place. Lockdown measures, where women have been isolated and confined with their perpetrators more than ever before, have compounded their exposure to violence and abuse.

This time last year Refuge moved quickly to ensure its services were able to continue to run and run safely. We mobilised our National Domestic Abuse Helpline – ordinarily run from a cyber-secure office environment to an entirely remote operation; we ensured our frontline workers were given key worker status and we moved fast to set up an online live chat service in May, recognising that women who were trapped at home with their abusers were likely to find the ordinarily limited window to call for help increasingly restricted. In November we extended our live chat service hours as lockdown progressed, and in response to the growing numbers of women accessing this confidential ‘silent’ support. More than 5,200 ‘live chat’ conversations have taken place since the service launched.

As restrictions ease we want any woman who needs us to access our support. If you are experiencing domestic abuse, you are not alone, Refuge is here for you.’

Full report on lockdown activity available here.

*Calls and contacts logged does not equal demand. One woman may access our services multiple times. We log all interactions on phone and allied Helpline services.

Notes to Editors

For more information contact

About Refuge:

Refuge supports more than 7,000 women and children on any given day, and runs the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, which is the gateway to accessing specialist support across the country. More than one in four women in England and Wales experiences domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime, and two women a week are killed by a current or former partner.

Please signpost to Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247, available 24 hours a day 7 days a week for free, confidential specialist support. Or visit to fill in a webform and request a safe time to be contacted or to access live chat (live chat available 3pm-10pm, Monday to Friday). For real time automated guidance on how to secure your personal devices Refuge also has a Tech Safety Tool.