A DOMESTIC abuse charity has launched an online chat service for victims to reach out during the coronavirus lockdown.

The Wish Centre in Blackburn launched the support service in April, saying it will offer a “discreet” service to victims of abuse and perpetrators who want help to stop.

Shigufta Khan, chief executive of the Wish Centre, said: “There was a dip and that is what we were expecting, because if somebody is in lockdown with a perpetrator how are they going to get help and support?

“But we have seen a steady increase over the last four weeks or so - the numbers are increasing.”

A report by MPs last month revealed that domestic abuse killings had doubled over a 21-day period in the lockdown and that calls to domestic abuse hotline Refuge soared by 49 per cent.

Ms Khan said that since the launch of the online service, four or five people have been in touch every day and the number of people using the service has almost returned to pre-lockdown levels.

She added: “For the online chat, we’ve had some connections on it and not just from victims but perpetrators as well, asking for help and to join our perpetrator programme.

“We’re also really aware that in normal situations, you had people like health visitors going into people’s homes, people could go to local children’s centre and ask for advice and they could go to the school to ask for help.

“Obviously, all those services are working remotely so we’re not getting the contact through them.”

The charity said it has had to adapt since coronavirus swept across Lancashire.

Ms Khan added: “[The groups are] happening remotely and so all our facilitators are connecting with people on Zoom, Skype or WhatsApp.

“A lot of our victims groups and our perpetrator groups are happening online - and for the young children we are sending resources out and then talking to parents about how they can do the programme with their children.

"I’m trying to keep the service going as much as possible.”

She urged both sufferers and abusers to contact the Wish Centre’s helpline - available during office hours Monday to Friday on 01254 260465 - or the charity’s online service.