Police forces only recorded 4,246 cases of “coercive or controlling behaviour,” in the 12 months leading up to March out of a total estimate of 1.2 female and 713,00 male victims of domestic abuse across the UK.

Two years after new domestic abuse laws made such behaviour criminal offences for the first time, police forces remain poorly trained and unequipped to deal with such crimes MPs and campaigners say.

Only eight out of 43 police forces across England and Wales, for example, have rolled out a new national training programme and this lack of training is reflected in the low number of prosecutions involving the new offences latest official figures have shown.

Advertisements
Advertisements

Elfyn Llwyd, the Plaid Cymru MP, who initially proposed the offence in February 2014 expressed his frustration that there had been such a poor uptake of training by police forces across the country, which is reflected in the low number of prosecutions.

What is 'coercive and controlling behaviour'?

The official definition of “coercive and controlling behaviour” is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used by an individual to harm, punish, or frighten their victim. Controlling behaviour was an element in 92% of 358 domestic murders studied in a recent report by the University of Gloucestershire.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said that in many cases emotional abuse and controlling behaviour could be worse than physical abuse and that it is important to tackle both aspects.

How many cases of domestic abuse are there?

Between October 1, 2016, and September this year, there were 29,404 domestic abuse incidents recorded across the UK in comparison to 28,780 for the same time period the previous year, meaning there has been an increase of 624 incidents - the highest number since records began in 2004.

Advertisements

In their lifetime, one in four women will experience physical, emotional, sexual and/or financial abuse at some point. Additionally, almost 56% of young adults have experienced such behaviour from a partner with 32% saying that a controlling partner had prevented them living their life whilst 84% of women and 65% of men blame themselves for the abuse.

How many incidents are reported to police?

Every single day 30 women attempt suicide as a result of domestic violence and the police receive a domestic violence call every 30 seconds in the UK. Less than a quarter of domestic violence incidents are reported to the police, this means the majority of victims suffer in silence.

The proportion of incidents, however, where officers failed to show up after a domestic violence call more than doubled between 2012 and 2016 from 5% to 11%. Similarly, the speed of police response is poor, and the amount of cases whereby police didn't attend within 15 minutes of the initial call has fallen from 47% to 37% over the same time period.

Advertisements

How many deaths are there as a result of domestic violence?

Most women murdered by men, in general, are killed by their present or former partners. At least two women are killed every week across the UK by partners or ex-partners.

Last year, there were a reported 113 women killed across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, three quarters of whom were killed in their own homes. Of those, 78 were killed by their current or former partner, three by their sons and five by another male family member. Only nine were killed by a stranger, the Women’s Aid Femicide Census found.

What is being done to tackle this?

As a result, in Scotland, a total of 14,000 police and control room staff will receive training ahead of The Domestic Abuse Bill which is expected to reach its third and final hurdle this January. If the bill is passed, coercive and controlling behaviour will be made a criminal offence. It would also ensure that such crimes could be prosecuted effectively.

The training, ordered by the Scottish Government, is likely to cost several hundred thousand pounds which will be taken from the £20 million fund to tackle violence against women between 2015 and 2018.

What resources are there at the moment?

Funding cuts have also meant that shelters which protect vulnerable women are becoming scarce with large numbers closed in recent years. Local authorities across England, for example, have cut spending on domestic violence refuges by 24% since 2010 from £31.2 million to £23.9 million in 2016-17.

They are often the only places for women to turn to when escaping a violent partner, and are of significance because the majority of women who are killed by a former partner are killed within the first year of leaving the domestic space. On a single day this year, 94 women and 90 children have been turned away from safe shelters in England, according to Women's Aid.

Furthermore, a Women's Aid emergency survey of such shelters also found that over one-third could be forced to close down as a result of government changes to funding whilst a further 13% would have to reduce bed spaces, leading to over 4,000 more women and children being turned away.

How many children become victims of domestic violence?

20% of children in the UK having lived with an adult perpetrating domestic violence and in nine out of ten domestic violence incidents in family households, children are in the same or the next room, and half of those children are directly abused.

Where is domestic abuse worst?

Southampton, in particular, has exceptionally high reporting rates for domestic abuse compared to other parts of UK. There were 6,149 calls to the police last year to report domestic violence.

A Government spokesman said the new funding model would see all housing costs covered by a grant which would be distributed by local authorities who would be responsible for assessing the need of support survivors in their area need.

However Southampton's Women's Aid is calling on the Government to “change tack” and abandon “dangerous” reforms to the way housing costs in refuges are funded from 2020 as they believe that having local authorities responsible for how refuges are resourced risks them ultimately having to close down altogether due to poor management of such funds.

What has been done in response?

Since then, an appeal to raise cash for the Southampton's Women's Aid charity has been given a national boost. They say they "desperately" need to reach more local children, with 1,065 children a year in Southampton living with a parent who is at the highest risk of harm from domestic abuse.

What other issues do victims encounter?

Whilst many women and children do ultimately leave their abusers, many are forced to stay or return due to the financial hardships that they encounter.

Additionally, the number of domestic violence victims who don't have legal representation in the family courts has at least doubled in the last five years. Until September this year, as many as 3,234 people who were victims of domestic abuse attended at least one family court hearing as a litigant in person, an increase from 1,309 people in the same situation in the first nine months of 2012, meaning they often have to face their abuser yet again.

Government statistics echo this with spending on legal aid falling from £2.6bn in 2005-06 to £1.5bn in 2016, with a significant decline in 2013 when the new rules came into force.

There is also a clear link between domestic abuse and a woman’s likelihood of becoming an offender. 57% of the female prison population in the UK report being a victim of domestic violence whilst 535 reports having experienced emotional, physical or sexual abuse as a child, compared to 27% of men, according to the Prison Reform Trust.

When do we see a rise in incidents of domestic abuse?

There has also been a rise in incidents over the festive period. In Northern Ireland, for example, police said there were a total of 147 calls for help on New Year's Day last year and 94 incidents on Christmas Day, which has risen to 96 incidents on Christmas Day 2017.

What is being done to tackle domestic abuse across the country?

It comes as the PSNI launch their annual domestic abuse Christmas campaign with the message "if you feel like you’re walking on eggshells that’s domestic abuse”.

Similarly, Suffolk Constabulary’s #SaferChristmas campaign hoped to reduce the verbal, sexual, psychological, financial and emotional abuse which can be rampant over the festive period.

Meanwhile, police in Barrow, Cumbria responded to five different call outs to alleged domestic violence cases on Christmas Day, highlighting the rise in alcohol-related violence this season with 25 arrests being made by officers across the country between December 14 and 26, with over half of them just three days before Christmas.

How can employers help?

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said in last month's Employer's Initiative on Domestic Abuse (EIDA) Conference there will be someone in almost all organisations who have suffered or perpetrated domestic abuse and that it was a “moral duty of care” for employers.

Yet despite 86% of HR leads agreeing that employers do indeed have a duty of care to provide support to employees regarding domestic abuse, only one in 20 SMEs have a specific policy or guideline covering domestic abuse amongst their staff.

Also, within those companies which believe domestic abuse has had an impact on their organisation in the last year, 58% say an employee’s productivity has declined, 56% that it has caused absenteeism and 46% that it had an impact on other colleagues’ productivity. A quarter believes domestic abuse/harassment has occurred in the workplace.

A housing organisation in North East England, for example, has a dedicated free legal clinic for staff (which has been accessed by over 70 people since 2015) as well as paid leave to attend programmes for both perpetrators and victims it provides for both staff and customers as well as court and has 25 trained domestic and sexual violence champions for anyone in need of support.

What are the signs of an abusive relationship?

  • You’re becoming a lot more critical of yourself — thinking you are stupid or fat or very lucky to have a partner.
  • You give up on your own opinions and think your partner is right about everything.
  • You’re feeling more stressed or worried all the time; you feel nauseous or have bad butterflies. Sometimes stress can also stop us eating and sleeping properly, or cause us to have headaches.
  • You have that “dreaded” feeling more often.
  • You’re scared of how your partner will react to a situation.
  • You avoid saying something because you don’t want to upset your partner.
  • You feel scared when your partner is angry because you can’t predict their behaviour.
  • You’re feeling a pressure to change who you are or move the relationship further than you want to.
  • You feel like you’re walking on eggshells.
  • You’re staying in more and seeing less of family and friends to avoid arguments with your partner.

What are the signs of domestic abuse?

  • Different behaviour in front of their partner
  • Appearing nervous or as if they are is walking on egg-shells in front of their partner
  • Seeming less confident and have lower self-esteem
  • Does their partner constantly text or call when they are out?
  • Apologising for their bad behaviour
  • They may have bruises or injuries,
  • or change their appearance and clothes and makeup
  • Altering how they use social media, or even stopped altogether

Who should you report cases of domestic violence to?

Call 999 if it’s an emergency or you’re in immediate danger.

Otherwise call the police on 101.

There are also numerous charities to help you:

Scottish Women’s Aid: 0131 226 6606

English National Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247

Women’s Aid Federation (Northern Ireland): 0800 917 1414

Wales Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 80 10 800

Scotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline: 0800 027 1234

Men’s Advice Line: 0808 801 0327

Galop (for LGBT people): 0800 999 5428

#DomesticAbuseBill #DomesticAbuse #DomesticViolence