Domestic abuse has risen during lockdown

Herbert Smith Freehills, Addleshaw Goddard and Dentons have joined together to raise awareness about domestic abuse, and provide an online portal for victims. 

The three firms will incorporate an online portal on their websites to provide details of local support, advice and emergency contact information for potential victims of domestic abuse. The portal will also have a questionnaire so users can determine their level of risk and potential actions to take. The site is designed to appear as a pop-up window with a quick exit button, and leave no browsing history. 

The concept was the brainchild of Royal Mail in-house lawyer, Charlie Ryan, as part of an entry for the Financial Times Innovative Lawyers 'Global Legal Hackathon Challenge' which asked participants to produce pioneering solutions to societal problems posed by the Covid-19 crisis. It is now being rolled out in line with the Royal Mail's campaign "Online Safe Spaces", in partnership with the crisis charity Hestia. 

“We have developed the ‘Online Safe Spaces’ portal to help victims of domestic abuse access vital support if they need it online," said Ryan. "By placing the link on high traffic websites, we hope that victims will be able to use the service discreetly if required without placing themselves at further risk. We hope that the portal will inspire affected individuals to feel confident enough to seek help.”

It's a commendable initiative for HSF, Addleshaws and Dentons to get behind, particularly as domestic abuse cases have risen during the lockdown, according to data from the charity Refuge.

“Covid-19 has opened a window into the way law firms can use technology to reach people beyond the confines of the office," said Alison Brown, executive partner at Herbert Smith Freehills. "Those same capabilities can be harnessed to offer support to tackle the physical and mental strain that victims of domestic abuse suffer and we are proud to work with Royal Mail providing a lifeline where it is needed.”

"We have been working closely with the National Centre for Domestic Violence since 2016, helping victims of domestic abuse obtain emergency protection from the courts," said Lisa Sewell, managing director of Dentons' UK & Middle East region. "The pandemic has thrown this issue into even sharper relief and we are pleased to support the Royal Mail's campaign by creating an online safe space for those who need support."

“One of the deeply troubling effects of the pandemic has been a sharp rise in domestic abuse across the UK. All too often those living with abuse report feeling isolated and that there is no one to help," said Mary Peterson, Head of Talent and Learning, Addleshaw Goddard. She added "it is therefore more important than ever to spread the word to those in need, whoever they might be, about the help that is available."

Other organisations, such as eBay and the Ministry of Defence have also confirmed they will incorporate the portal on their websites. 

You can find out more about the portal here

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