Lewisham Council is consulting residents as it develops a five-year strategy (2021 – 2026) to tackle domestic abuse and all forms of violence against women and girls in the borough. 

It comes after Covid-19 lockdown restrictions meant victims were confined to their homes with abusers, sparking a spike in calls to police and domestic abuse helplines.  

The UK government’s definition of domestic abuse is ‘any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality’.  

Lewisham’s draft domestic abuse and violence against women and girls strategy states: “The abuse can encompass, but is not limited to psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional. 

“The term ‘violence against women and girls’ means acts of violence or abuse that disproportionately affect women and girls.  

“Crimes and behaviours covered by this term can include sexual offences, domestic abuse, female genital mutilation, stalking, so called ‘honour-based’ abuse as well as many others. 

“Though these forms of violence and abuse affect more women and girls than men and boys, this does not mean that men and boys cannot also be victims of them.” 

The strategy also states that a number of groups face additional barriers to getting help including older people, LGBTQ+ people, Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, refugees, and adults with care and support needs. 

Survivors of abuse told the council there is not enough support in the borough for adult and child victims to recover, a lack of understanding of coercive control and the impact it has, and a lack of awareness in the community of how to get support.  

They said it is vital for professionals to have the courage to ask difficult questions and genuinely understand the problem, while they should have “empathy, compassion, and respect” when working with victims and their families.  

The strategy has five priorities – prevent, protect, repair, pursue, and people.  

It aims to campaign to raise awareness of abuse and how to get support, do a specific campaign focused on coercive control, increase healthy relationships education schools, train Lewisham staff on spotting signs of abuse, and work with community organisations to deliver training that recognises cultural difference in identifying and responding to VAWG.  

Along with commissioning specialist VAWG services, it aims to enact the changes within the Domestic Abuse Bill, ensure that domestic abuse is a priority in the council’s early help service, and ensure that services across the board are routinely screening for abuse.  

The strategy also aims to make sure all services respond in a trauma-informed way when supporting victims. It aims to focus on evidence-based recovery programmes and create forums for professionals “to enable peer supervision and reflection”. 

The council wants to increase the use of protection orders, including Domestic Violence Protection Orders, FGM Protection Orders and Forced Marriage Protection Orders, to protect victims from pepretrators.  

At the same time it wants to find funding for support programmes to help perpetrators change their behaviour.  

The council plans to establish a survivor advisory group, responsible for providing scrutiny of the strategy, feedback on services, and co-production of campaigns, training and tools. 

The consultation survey, which takes about 10 minutes to complete, asks how important different ways to tackle domestic abuse are.  

The survey is open to everyone over 16 living and working in Lewisham, while all responses will be anonymous.                                

Councillor Brenda Dacres, cabinet member for safer communities, said: “We are calling on everyone living and working in Lewisham to help us work towards ending domestic abuse and violence against women and girls in the borough.  

“Our new strategy will aim to tackle these crimes in partnership with the community and local services, to make Lewisham a safer place for victims of abuse. 

“We are keen to hear your views on how we can improve the way we tackle domestic abuse and violence against women and girls.” 

The following is a list of support services available to Lewisham residents: 


The Athena service provides confidential, non-judgemental support to those living in Lewisham who are experiencing gender-based violence. Athena provides outreach programmes, independent advocacy, group support, refuge accommodation and a specialist service for young women. 

If you’re in Lewisham, call the Athena Service on 0800 112 4052 or email lewishamvawg@refuge.org.uk. 

Lewisham VAWG service 

If you are experiencing gender-based abuse in Lewisham there is support and help available to you. 

The National Domestic Abuse Helpline 

Call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline for free and in confidence anytime day or night on 0808 2000 247. A safe time for the team to call can be booked on the website. 

Women’s Aid 

Women’s Aid has provided advice specifically designed for the COVID-19 outbreak, including a live chat service.  

The Men’s Advice Line 

The Men’s Advice Line is a confidential helpline for male victims of domestic abuse and those supporting them. Call 0808 801 0327 to talk to someone.