DOMESTIC abuse referrals in Dumbarton have gone up by a staggering 138 per cent during the pandemic.

Dumbarton District Women’s Aid (DDWA) said the shocking rise covers the period from April to August 1 compared to a year earlier.

But the charity says that despite more pleas for women to seek help, many people who have been abused by their partner continue to assume they’re alone.

DDWA said survivors often say, “I’m not sure if this is abuse or if it’s just me” or “I’m sure someone else needs your help more than me”.

The organisation told the Reporter: “We can never lose sight or underestimate the fear and danger women, children and young people live with day in, day out, within their homes in our local community.

“Our message is always: you are important and we are here to listen and support you.

“We can assure you that you will receive understanding, no judgement and time and space to talk to a dedicated domestic abuse worker.”

The service - which is free and confidential for women, children and young people - revealed their figures as Scottish Women’s Aid (SWA) published a report showing the impact the pandemic has had on abuse, on survivors and on the agencies trying to help.

Research showed the coronavirus has also had a significant impact on refuge accommodation, child contact arrangements and access to justice.

Need is outstripping capacity, warned SWA last week, collecting data from local organisations, including DDWA.

Figures from the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service said 92 per cent of more than 30,000 domestic abuse cases in Scotland were taken to court last year compared to 85 per cent in 2013-14.

DDWA continued: “During lockdown, we have referred 31 women and 39 children to our local homeless service due to domestic abuse.

“We have formed effective partnership working, especially during lockdown, with West Dunbartonshire Council homelessness service. This has helped ensure all women and children fleeing domestic abuse will be offered support from DDWA.

“Through our outreach service, we provide support to women and children who are living in West Dunbartonshire homeless accommodation having fled their homes due to domestic abuse.

“It is essential that resources for specialist services such as women’s aid remain a high priority if we are to tackle and strive towards the eradication of domestic abuse.”

DDWA was one of 36 local women’s aid groups across Scotland to swiftly adapt when the lockdown started in March so services could continue to be offered, even while staff worked remotely.

Dr Marsha Scott, chief executive of SWA, said: “As lockdown and other measures ease, we are expecting a substantial increase in demand for services.

“Urgent action is required by the Scottish Government, the judiciary and local authorities to remedy the problems we’ve set out in this new report and to facilitate effective service provision.

“Better planning is also needed so that, if lockdown measures continue to be required going forward, previous problems affecting domestic abuse service providers and survivors will not be repeated.”

If you need help, contact DDWA on 01389 751036 or the 24-hour helpline on 0800 027 1234.