THIS time last year the Scottish Government, Police Scotland and the Crown Office were united in great fanfare about groundbreaking new legislation designed to tackle domestic abuse.

What a difference a year makes. While the agencies involved likely thought April 2020 would bring them the chance to talk about the positive impact of the Domestic Abuse Bill, which, for the first time in Scotland, criminalised psychological domestic abuse, its one year anniversary occurs against an entirely altered backdrop.

Here we are in lockdown, in an attempt to beat an invisible yet devastating foe, and, while some people are upset at being stuck at home and unable to carry on with life as usual, for others being compelled to stay at home means being held captive with an abuser.

Internationally there are concerns about spiralling domestic abuse rates and governments are stepping in with innovative ways to tackle the issue.

In the Chinese state, Wuhan, where the coronavirus outbreak started, the Beijing-based women’s rights charity Weiping reported a rise of three times the number of victims seeking support compared to pre-quarantine.

In France, police said reports of domestic abuse have risen 36 per cent in Paris and 32 per cent elsewhere in the country since stay-at-home measures were introduced last month and two women have been murdered.

In response, the government has said it will pay for up to 20,000 hotel nights for victims to escape their perpetrators. Gender Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa said pop-up counselling centres near supermarkets are being opened so that women, while they shop, perhaps the only opportunity they have to leave home, can access resources.

In Spain a system has been set up to allow women to discreetly ask for help using a code word at pharmacy counters.

Since lockdown began in England and Wales last week, a man in South Wales has been charged with killing his wife. In Sussex, police are investigating a suspected murder suicide after a couple and their two children were found shot dead in a house.

A former soldier has been charged with killing his wife, a nurse, in South Yorkshire.

Of course, it is impossible to say whether these killings were directly connected to the Covid-19 restrictions and only time will allow us to know for sure whether the lockdown increased domestic abuse complaints. The stark fact is that women are murdered in domestic settings by male partners or relatives routinely.

That is something we know. What we also know is that abusive men, those who like to control and manipulate their wives and girlfriends, have been given a gift by the new government guidelines to social distance. Social distance of their partners from all else in their lives was exactly what they were aiming for.

In response, the Scottish Government has announced funding of £1.35 million over six months for Scottish Women’s Aid while Rape Crisis Scotland will receive £226,309 over six months.

Funding for Scottish Women's Aid will be used to support the ongoing operation of the Scotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline while the bulk of the cash will be funnelled to the 36 independent women's aid charities around Scotland that are affiliated with the umbrella body.

All 36 of these charities are still providing refuge spaces in what are hugely challenging circumstances. Maintaining social distancing in a refuge housing multiple families can be no mean feat. Ensuring women who need urgent support has compelled women's aid groups to be innovative.

Scottish Women's Aid is looking at ways to move its resources online, such as video meetings with key workers and online parties for children. Lock boxes at refuges will allow more flexible access to buildings.

As well as funding the Scottish Government will need to look at all it is doing during the pandemic to ensure emergency legislation does not cause more harm than good.

The six months suspension of all private and socially rented housing evictions is a promising step forward for vulnerable tenants but may put domestic abuse victims at more risk if the legislation means that perpetrators cannot be removed from the home. It makes far more sense to rehouse the abuser than uproot women and their children.

It is also vital that the police and prosecution service find ways of ensuring domestic abusers are still brought to court and that victims are supported.

Dr Marsha Scott, chief executive of Scottish Women's Aid, had said at the passing of the Domestic Abuse Bill last February that "this week we will know there is a possibility that this law will change Scotland forever".

On the anniversary this week Dr Scott said the implementation of the laws has been patchy with “mixed reports” from the 36 affiliated charities.

While police and the Crown Office have embraced the new legislation, she added, “In some areas, women are getting sympathetic and swift responses from the police and the justice system. In other areas, women feel nothing has changed.”

There was already catching up to do before the outbreak. A year on from Scotland's groundbreaking domestic abuse legislation, it cannot be the case that victims are failed with the coronavirus outbreak as an excuse.

Domestic abuse is a hidden crime; that's partly why it's so difficult to tackle. Under lockdown we are all more hidden from one another, condensed into our own little domestic bubbles.

One difficult upside of this might be greater compassion for victims.

Lockdown has turned the gaps in society into chasms, making the problems visible to all: the NHS's lack of resources, schools requiring to feed their pupils, the true precarity of zero hours contracts.

The hundreds of thousands of people who have claimed Universal Credit since lockdown began will include those who thought they would never have a brush with the benefits system.

Charity staff and countless volunteers have mobilised to fill in where the state is lacking. The Scottish Government appears alert to ensuring victims of domestic abuse do not suffer further during this global crisis but we can also all do our bit.

Speaking this week, Detective Chief Superintendent Samantha McCluskey, of Police Scotland's Specialist Crime Division, said domestic abuse "is everyone’s business."

She's right. As we hunker down, we must keep an eye out for our neighbours, particularly those whose fear of being at home is greater than their fear of the virus.