October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. This is a time to acknowledge domestic violence survivors and be a voice for its victims. The lockdowns imposed by COVID 19 have caused a huge increase in domestic abuse incidents of all forms, so awareness and support are more crucial than ever.
Domestic violence – the shocking statistics
It’s estimated that 5.5% of the population aged between 16 and 74 have experienced some type of domestic violence within the past year. That ranges from controlling and abusive behaviour such as ‘gaslighting’, through to serious sexual and physical violence that results in hospitalisation or, in some extreme cases, death.
The Crime Survey for England and Wales estimated that in 2019/20, 1.6 million women and 757,000 men were abused by partners. The police responded to over 758,000 domestic-abuse related crimes in England and Wales (excluding Greater Manchester), an overall increase of 9% from the previous year.
However, what is equally disturbing is that there was an overall drop in domestic abuse cases referred to the Crown Prosecution Service of 19%. Of the cases investigated by the Police, 73% resulted in any formal charges being brought, and of the cases that went all the way to court, three-quarters resulted in a conviction.
So while numbers of cases went up, CPS referrals, prosecutions and convictions stayed static or even declined.*
Domestic abuse during Covid 19
The same report showed that domestic abuse reports dropped during the Covid 19 outbreak. The report does acknowledge, though, that domestic abuse is very much a ‘hidden’ crime that often goes under-reported for a variety of reasons.
The strict limitations on daily life and the fact that abusers and their victims often spent much more time confined in the home together suggest that domestic violence may have risen sharply during 2020/21, but has remained woefully under-reported as victims find it almost impossible to either escape a violent situation or contact support agencies or the police to report incidences.
Support agencies that provide safe refuge for the men and women subject to domestic abuse are deeply concerned that the problem has exploded during the pandemic, but because of the limited contact with victims, has largely gone unreported. Those statistics could be wildly inaccurate, and far more people could be suffering in silence.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month – don’t let victims’ voices go unheard
To make sure that the spectre of domestic violence isn’t simply swept under the carpet, Domestic Violence Awareness Month is designed to shine a spotlight on the problem, as well as ensuring that businesses, individuals and communities have ‘that conversation’ – the one that is often incredibly difficult to initiate. It’s designed to promote the services and support groups that are out there to help survivors of domestic violence and to provide victims with a network of organisations that can provide everything from a listening ear to legal support and emergency refuge.
Often, it’s that first step that’s the hardest. Admitting a relationship is toxic or abusive is a difficult conclusion to come to, especially if the survivor still feels that they love their partner and that there’s a chance they’ll change. Unfortunately, abusers rarely change their ways, and what starts as a forceful argument, controlling behaviour, or emotional gaslighting can often escalate into a more serious physical assault.
What Domestic Violence Awareness Month does is reassure those who are trapped in a toxic relationship that they are not alone.
At Knight Polson, our family teams are experienced in dealing with cases of domestic abuse. We’ll listen without judging, supporting you and any dependants with no-nonsense advice, contacts, and if necessary, pursuing a criminal prosecution. If you need help, don’t hesitate. Contact us in complete confidence now, and talk to one of our expert team.
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