The new scheme, which is being implemented across almost 300 TSB branches across the UK from Wednesday, allows victims to speak to a trained staff member as well as contacting domestic abuse services or the police or a friend or relative in a private room.
Domestic abuse has soared during the public health crisis as lockdown measures have trapped victims indoors with their perpetrators and inflamed pre-existing patterns of abuse.
The national domestic abuse hotline saw a 65 per cent increase in calls during the first lockdown last year, while research by Women’s Aid discovered one in seven victims currently enduring abuse at the hands of their partners said it had got worse in the wake of the pandemic.
TSB, the first bank on the high street to support members of the public subjected to domestic abuse, joins forces with 5,300 pharmacies which also give victims a lifeline via the same scheme.
Sara*, a domestic abuse survivor, said: “Women or men who have been ‘forced to be indoors with an abusive partner or family member really need a ‘safe haven’ where they can retreat to collect their thoughts and get support.
“Sometimes getting out of that bubble of abuse, that you are in at home, helps you to realise that help is out there. An abuser wouldn’t really think that their victim could access help at their local bank or pharmacy so being able to contact a domestic violence helpline in this way will be life-changing for many.”
A woman is killed by a current or ex-partner every four days in England and Wales.
While a report released by MPs at the end of April last year revealed domestic abuse killings in the first 21 days of the first lockdown were double the total of an average period in the past decade.
Sue Harper, of Hestia, a leading domestic abuse charity involved in the scheme with TSB and pharmacies, said: “During the pandemic, self-isolation has given abusers a new method of control over victims making it very difficult for them to get the help they need.
“As restrictions ease, it’s vital that access to specialist domestic abuse support is readily accessible.”
Domestic abuse services have frequently warned there will be a surge in victims coming forward as the UK emerges from lockdown.
Nicole Jacobs, Domestic Abuse Commissioner for England and Wales, said: “Domestic abuse is everyone’s business and I urge more businesses to offer support and help to domestic abuse victims.”
The Independent previously reported cash-strapped services have been forced to turn away victims fleeing abusive partners – with leading services warning bed shortages push survivors into homelessness or into returning to their abuser where they face further torment.
Anyone who requires help or support can contact the National Domestic Abuse Helpline which is open 24/7 365 days per year on 0808 2000 247 or via their website https://www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk/