Chelsea have joined with UK charity Refuge to raise funds to support women and children experiencing domestic abuse during the coronavirus pandemic.
Domestic abuse incidents have soared around the world during lockdown and isolation, with evidence from China revealing that domestic abuse cases tripled during their lockdown and reports of domestic abuse to police jumping 36 per cent in Paris. In the UK, the National Domestic Abuse helpline has seen a 25% increase in calls and online requests for help since the lockdown.
Chelsea Women manager Emma Hayes, along with the club’s men and women players, has now taken part in a digital campaign to raise funds for Refuge, with Chelsea promising to match all donations received in the next six weeks.
Refuge provides a national network of services that support around 6,500 women and children daily. This includes emergency accommodation, community outreach, independent domestic violence advocacy and a team of child support workers, as well as the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline. The helpline receives over 270 calls and contacts every day, with further support provided online.
“I am proud to lead the club’s support of this worthy cause during such a difficult time for so many,” said Hayes. “There are many things for people to deal with in the present climate but it is important we support the vulnerable and those who may feel alone or without a voice.”
It is a significant move for a football club to declare its support at this time for a campaign of this nature given sport’s uneasy relationship with domestic abuse. A 2014 research paper by academics at Lancaster University found that the number of domestic abuse incidents reported to police rose by 38% when England men lost a World Cup match.
In recent weeks, the boxer Billy Joe Saunders has had his licence suspended by the British Board of Boxing Control for posting a video during which he explained, with a punchbag, how to react if “your old woman is giving you mouth” and how to “hit her on the chin” during the lockdown. League One club Wycombe Wanderers drew criticism from domestic violence charities when they described a video posted by defender Jack Grimmer, which featured his mother-in-law tied up in a cupboard, as “posted with good-humoured intentions”.
Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, says: ‘Domestic abuse is the biggest issue affecting women and children in this country. Almost one in three women experience domestic abuse in their lifetimes and two women are killed in England and Wales every week.
‘This is a life and death issue. Now, more than ever, Refuge needs to reach women and their children who are in need of its services. We want women across the country today to know that Refuge is there to support them around the clock - they are not alone.”