For the Uninitiated: Domestic Violence

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Domestic Violence is any incident or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults who are or have been intimate partners or are family members, regardless of gender or sexuality. Home Office Definition

Domestic violence is still largely a hidden crime as those who have experienced abuse from a partner or ex-partner will often try to keep it from families, friends, or authorities.

They may be ashamed of what has happened or feel that they are to some extent to blame.  They may love their partner and not want them to be criticised or punished.  They may think it was a one-off event or they may be frightened that if they tell anyone about it, their partner will find out and they will be in danger of further and perhaps more severe violence.

75% of recorded cases of domestic violence result in physical injury or mental health consequences.  Victims are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, psychosomatic systems, eating problems and sexual dysfunction. Violence may also affect reproductive health.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) report that:

  • 92% of defendants in domestic abuse cases are men
  • 84% of recorded victims in prosecuted cases are women.

The NSPCC report that:

  • Around 1 in 5 children have been exposed to domestic abuse.
  • 1 in 5 teenagers have been physically abused by their boyfriends or girlfriends.
  • 130,000 children live in households with high-risk domestic abuse.
  • Children exposed to domestic violence are more likely to have behavioural and emotional problems.
  • At least 750,000 children a year witness domestic violence.
  • 62% of children in households where domestic violence is happening are also directly harmed.

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Woman’s Aid report that:

  • One incident of domestic violence is reported to the police every minute.
  • On average, 2 women a week are killed by a current or former male
  •  1 in 4 women experience domestic violence over their lifetimes and between 6-10% of women suffer domestic violence in a given year.
  • Nearly 1 in 5 counselling sessions held in Relate Centres in England on 28 September 2000 mentioned domestic violence as an issue in the marriage.
  • Though only a minority of incidents of domestic violence are reported to the police , the police still receive one call about domestic violence for every minute in the UK, an estimated 1,300 calls each day or over 570,000 each year.
  • Less than 40% of domestic violence crime is reported to the police ).
  • Repeat victimisation is common. 44% of victims of domestic violence are involved in more than one incident. No other type of crime has a rate of repeat victimisation as high.
  • Of women who had experienced domestic violence, 25% had never lived with the partner who had committed the worst act of violence against them.

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Mankind Initiative report that:

  • In 2013/14, 23 men died at the hands of their partner or ex-partner (26 men in 2003/04) compared with 84 women (96 in 2003/04).
  • 7% of men state they have been a victim of domestic abuse since they were 16 (28.3% women). For every three victims of domestic abuse, two will be female, one will be male. These figures are the equivalent of 4.6 million female victims and 2.4 million male victims.
  • Partner abuse (non-sexual) was the most commonly experienced type of intimate violence among both women and men. 4.068 million women and 1.778 million men reported having experienced such abuse since the age of 16: for every three victims of partner abuse, two will be female and one will be male.
  • 21% of men and 21% of women suffered three or more incidents of partner abuse in 2012/13.
  • Men (4.5%) with a long-term illness or disability were victims of partner abuse in 2013/14 compared to women (11.3%) in the same situation.
  • The percentage of gay or bi-sexual men (6.2%) who suffered partner abuse in 2008/09 is nearly double the number for heterosexual men (3.3%). Lesbian women (12.4%) as a percentage also suffered far more partner abuse compared to heterosexual women (4.3%).

Safelives report that:

  • 2.1m people suffer some form of domestic abuse each year in the UK – 1.4 million women (8.5% of the population) and 700,000 men (4.5% of the population).
  • Each year approximately 100,000 people are at high / imminent risk of being murdered or seriously injured as a result of domestic abuse.
  • In England & Wales each year approximately 50,000 high-risk victims and 70,000 children are discussed at Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conferences.
    • More than 90% of these victims are female, and
    • 5-10% are male.
    • 15% are black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME).
    • 4% are disabled.
    • 1% are lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans (LGBT). 
    • The majority of high risk victims are in their 20s or 30s.
    • Those under 25 are the most likely to suffer interpersonal violence.
    • Domestic violence is higher amongst those who have separated, followed by those who are divorced or single.

The Cost

Sylvia Walby of the University of Leeds estimated the total costs of domestic violence to be £15.7 billion a year.  This is based mainly on the cost of services (health, social services, housing, civil legal); the criminal justice system and loss to the economy.

The cost of treating victims of domestic violence, (including hospital, GP, ambulance, prescriptions) is estimated at £1,220,247,000, i.e. 3% of total NHS budget. (Walby, 2004)

Domestic violence also leads to pain and suffering that is not counted in the cost of services.  Walby estimated the human and emotional costs of domestic violence amount to almost £10 billion per year.

The Politics

Support services for victims of domestic abuse are fragmented and politicised with men currently being doubly disadvantaged by Government Policy in this area.

The vast majority of state funded services are delivered by charities that will only offer services to women.  These charities dominate the domestic violence support sector and promote the view that men are predominately perpetrators of domestic violence and the overwhelming majority of victims are women.

Government crime statistics show that women are more likely to be killed or seriously injured.

Approximately 5% of the 2.1 million people estimated to experience domestic abuse annually are estimated to be at high / imminent risk of death or serious injury.

The most comprehensive review of available research conducted by researchers at 20 Universities in the United States, Canada and the U.K shows that approximately 60% of domestic violence was bidirectional or mutual and that at least 50% of perpetrators of domestic violence are women.

If it’s true that women abuse their partners as often as men do, there’s no reason for feminists to feel threatened by this information, just as there’s no reason for men’s rights groups to feel victorious. Domestic violence is a crime, not a political football, and we should be working together to stamp it out, not allowing it to divide us. Anna North, Jezebel 

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