"We are still here to help."

This is the message from one of Bradford's leading charities for domestic abuse after fears some victims are not reaching out for support because they don't think refuges will be open or safe in the coronavirus health pandemic.

It is a scenario which has brought an "unprecendented challenge" to all domestic violence support charities, says Noreen Khan, the director of Neesie.

She has received hundreds of calls from women reporting incidents involving physical and mental abuse as well as marital rape since quarantine first began.

Some of these callers say they never experienced the abuse until lockdown, confiding that "We've never spent this much time together" and they didn't realise their partner had this behaviour until now.

Others wrongly believe police are too busy dealing with coronavirus-related problems to come out to domestic abuse call outs.

In a desperate plea to any readers experiencing a situation like this, Noreen has begged any victims - who could be any age, background or gender - to reach out.

She told the Telegraph & Argus: "Covid-19 has brought an unprecedented challenge to not only the nation but to the world as a whole.

"However in the myriad of confusion, uncertainty and the unknown, we learnt recently from Home Secretary about the inner fears of Covid-19 and those suffering in their homes - yes we are talking about DV victims who have nowhere to turn to and continue to suffer in silence.

"We have been fortunate to reach out and support some of the mums however the fears they express are one of loneliness, stigma and exclusion.

"They are not able to reach out authorities because of fears of the social distancing measures and fears of contracting corona virus.

"This still remains to be a constant challenge and an uphill challenge and in these times of pressure and we are making in roads but need access to the support mechanism that can support our interventions."

Noreen also warned that married couples - many of whom have been together for years - are among the latest victims "behind closed doors".

She said: "It's those behind closed doors thinking 'Can I phone the police and tell them I've just been hit?'. They just assume everything is about covid at the moment."

West Yorkshire Police is urging people to come forward if they are in need.

Domestic abuse remains a priority for West Yorkshire Police during coronavirus, assistant chief constable Catherine Hankinson said.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

The assistant chief constable said: “It will undoubtedly be a time of heightened worry for victims of domestic abuse and it may seem like you have no escape from your abuser.

“You should be assured; we are here for you and we will remain here for you throughout this period of isolation.

“Despite the ongoing demand from the covid-19 pandemic, domestic abuse remains a priority for West Yorkshire Police and we will support you however we can.

“If you would prefer not to speak to police, we work with a number of partner agencies including 24hr National Domestic Violence Helpline, but if it is an emergency, always dial 999.

"We have specially trained officers who can provide support and practical assistance, and help keep you safe - even in periods of isolation.”

Anyone needing support can contact: Bradford Survive & Thrive on 0808 2800 999, Bradford Rape Crisis on 01274 308270, Anah project on 08459 60 60 11 and Men Standing Up on 03003 030167.

Councillor Adbul Jabar, Bradford Council’s portfolio holder for neighbourhoods and community safety said: “Although we are living in uncertain times at the moment, Bradford Council is making sure those who are vulnerable and need support can still get assistance.

“All our support services are open and still here to help. We ask people to reach out for support so they can plan for their safety and be supported to a safe place if required.”

“Domestic violence and abuse is never acceptable and we are working closely with specialist support services within the district, the Police and health colleagues to ensure anyone who is experiencing domestic abuse can access support and help when they need it."

If you, or someone else, is in immediate danger of abuse or harm call 999.