With a fifth of all crime nationally during lockdown involving domestic abuse, Refuge said the problem is the “biggest social issue” facing women and girls today.
Figures from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services show Cambridgeshire Constabulary made 734 arrests for domestic abuse-related crimes between April and June, when the toughest national Covid-19 restrictions were imposed.
Separate figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest domestic abuse crimes were already rising in Cambridgeshire before the pandemic struck.
In the year to March, 16 per cent of all crimes in the area were linked to domestic abuse (10,852) – an increase on the 12 per cent the year before and above the national average.
Across England and Wales, domestic abuse offences have risen steadily as a proportion of all crimes for the last four years, reaching 15 per cent in 2019-20.
This spiked in April, May and June when roughly a fifth (21 per cent, 20 per cent and 19 per cent) of offences recorded by police were flagged as domestic abuse related.
As restrictions eased, this proportion fell slightly – likely to be due to overall police-recorded crime increasing following the lockdown.
Police forces (excluding Greater Manchester) recorded 198,112 offences between April and June – nine per cent more than the same months in 2019, and 17 per cent more than two years ago.
As feared by charities and police at the time, Refuge said there was a general increase in demand for domestic abuse services at this time, and it continued to see peaks in demand well into the second lockdown.
Lisa King, director of communications and external relations at the charity, said: “It is important to remember that behind all of these statistics are real women and their experiences.
“These numbers refer to instances of physical violence, rape, sexual assault, emotional and psychological abuse, coercive control, FGM (female genital mutilation), forced marriage and other forms of gender-based violence.
“Domestic abuse is biggest social issue facing women and girls today, and these statistics show it simply isn’t going away.”
There was also a small rise (two per cent) in the number of child protection referrals nationally as a result of domestic abuse-related incidents and crimes over the three months compared with the same period in 2019.
There were 56,945 child protection referrals over this time – with 627 in Cambridgeshire.
Barnardo’s said families were facing new financial and emotional pressures during the pandemic so while “deeply sad”, the figures are not a shock.
Chief Executive Javed Khan said: “Children are the hidden victims of domestic abuse, not just bystanders. Lockdowns have left too many children trapped in unsafe homes, and missing out on vital support.
“In many cases we know that without timely help, children go on to experience further abuse in their own relationships and risk becoming trapped in a life-long cycle of violence.”
Safeguarding Minister Victoria Atkins said the Government’s Domestic Abuse Bill, currently awaiting its second reading in the House of Lords, will strengthen protections for victims and also ensure perpetrators feel the full force of the law.
She added: “We are acutely aware that for some people home is not a safe place and that the pandemic put those people in greater danger.
“That is why we are taking action, alongside our partners including the police, to better protect victims, bring perpetrators to justice, and learn from deaths to prevent future tragedies.”