Domestic abuse still stands at shockingly high numbers in Wales and the UK, with 1 in 15 women and 1 in every 33 men experiencing domestic abuse in their relationship each year, and every week 2 women die at the hands of their partner or ex-partner.
While there are consistent advances and efforts to raise awareness of domestic violence and abuse, and create greater access to support for individuals and their families, it is still a crime that goes largely unreported. This has again been established in a recent report by Citizen’s Advice, as they have found that only 14% of individuals had ever told the police, and only 2% told a specialist domestic abuse worker.
These figures in themselves illustrate that there is still much to do to encourage those experiencing domestic abuse to seek support, and to raise awareness as to where appropriate and specialist support and information can be found.
The research also found that family and friends also do not feel confident about recognising signs of abuse in people they are close to.
“As a society we struggle to recognise abuse, particularly when it doesn’t fit a stereotype of a powerful, male perpetrator inflicting physical violence on a vulnerable, female victim. Where abuse doesn’t fit this mould [...]we may be less quick to spot and challenge abuse.”
Friends, family, and colleagues form an essential social network for people that could prove crucial in securing a link between an individual and a specialist service. Recent campaigns from the Welsh Government, such as the ‘On Your Street’ encourages people to be aware of what could be happening to people they know behind closed doors, and raises awareness as to how domestic abuse, for some individuals and families is a part of every day life.
The research from Citizen’s Advice also discovered that the majority of people do not feel equipped to deal with situations that potentially involve violence or abuse, and wouldn’t know how to approach a friend or how to help them.
“When we asked the public whether there were any reasons they wouldn’t tell somebody if they were worried about abuse, only 16% said nothing would stop them.”
Of course, all situations are different and it can be difficult to know if you should listen to a friend who wishes to stay with someone you think could harm them, or if you should insist on putting them in touch with specialised support.
Ultimately, this report from Citizen’s Advice helps to highlight what we are already aware of, and illustrate the lack of awareness and understanding that still exists within our society. While there is much being done to combat domestic abuse in new ways, such as the Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act, there must be work done in order to build the knowledge and confidence of professionals who will have the opportunity to recognise signs of abuse, and equip them to ask difficult questions and know how to deal with any information that is disclosed..
Following the results of their research, Citizen’s Advice is also launching their very own campaign designed to help people more easily recognise signs of abuse, and provide free materials to help equip people with the tools they need to provide support for any friends of family.
Says Rhian Bowen-Davies, CEO of Calan DVS “This report further highlights many of the issues that we are already aware of and the barriers and challenges that individuals and families experiencing domestic violence and abuse face. It is so important to raise awareness of specialist services that can offer support and information to any individual who is experiencing domestic violence and abuse”
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence or abuse support and information is available through the All Wale Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Helpline 0808 80 10 800.