The CEO of a women's charity has described how their phones fell silent while women were trapped with their abusers during lockdown.

Many charities warned about an increase in domestic abuse calls after lockdown was announced due to coronavirus in March.

But Fiona Miller who runs the Watford Women's Centre, said reality hit once the normal three calls a week dwindled to none with the knowledge that many women were unable to make calls.

She added: "During the lockdown, what was worrying to us were the lack of calls, as women were isolated with perpetrators, opportunities to contact domestic abuse support services diminished.

"We experienced a significant reduction in calls, from four or five a day to zero."

She said when lockdown restrictions started to ease, she found calls to the centre started to return almost instantly.

She said while the number of calls at the Watford centre remained low during lockdown, she said that "context" needed to be added to national reports that show leading women’s charities reporting a huge increase of calls.

She added: "During the pandemic, leading women’s refuge charities have reported massive increases in the number of domestic abuse calls.

"But I think it is helpful for people to better understand that women call these helplines in a crisis or when they are fearful for their immediate safety."

She added that she believes most women in domestic abuse situations do not end up in refuge, but it said it is difficult to find statistics that evidence that claim.

She said there are women who prefer to seek charities such as the women’s centre rather than crisis lines to plan how they will exit the relationship.

She said when women reach out to the charity it is to usually find support, develop resilience and build the personal resources that will help them to move on from abuse relationships. But Ms Miller said this can take "many months or often years".

She added: "One in four women will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime. However, I would estimate that 80 per cent of that number never enter a refuge.

"But instead for reasons that are complex and often to do with children, finances and personal trauma, stay in abusive relationships.

"Many studies have concluded that women will leave and return to abusive relationships up to seven times before making a permanent break with an abusive partner."

Ms Miller said all women are welcome to centre and can provide a range of services including from counselling and legal advice to help with training and employment.

She now wants to reassure victims that the centre is still here for them in the event of a second lockdown. The centre’s services will still operate remotely if another round of strict restrictions are put in place.

You can contact the centre by calling 01923 816 229, emailing Alternatively, you can use the website’s chat service.