Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/180/7969
Domestic Violence: Shock figures but no new resources
RESULTS OF a nationwide survey provide grim evidence of the extent of domestic violence in Britain today. The 'snapshot survey' gathered data for one day - 28 September - including calls to police stations, referrals to Victim Support, Relate, Refuge and The Women's Aid Federation.
Every minute a 999 call reporting a violent incident in the home was recorded - more than 80% of the victims being women. Professor Stanko, director of the Violence Research Project analysed the data and estimated that over half a million incidents are reported nationally each year. She points out this certainly underestimates the true number as most are not reported.
Using The British Crime Survey which relies more on people's experience of crime than reported crimes, she estimates that domestic violence occurs in the UK every six seconds.
The survey confirmed that one quarter of all violent crimes are domestic. We know that half of all the women murdered last year were killed by their husband - one woman is killed every three days by their partner. On average a woman will be assaulted 35 times before she turns in desperation to the police.
Sadly, much of the violence is witnessed by children. This survey found that over 50% of violent incidents took place in front of children - these included beatings, rapes and stabbings.
Families of all classes and cultures experience domestic violence, it is not just related to poverty. While Jack Straw promises to 'get tough' on 'yobs and louts' the assumption is that violence is only committed by a sort of criminal sub-species, whereas we need to tackle the fact that it is far more embedded within our families and personal relationships than currently acknowledged.
The government wants to be seen to tackle this issue and we now have domestic violence focus groups, training days, policy statements and glossy brochures. This is welcome to those who have campaigned for years to get the issue taken seriously - such as Campaign Against Domestic Violence (CADV), which Socialist Party members play a leading role in and must be credited with fostering this change in attitudes.
What we don't have and what CADV campaigns for is the practical support - there are not enough refuges and those that exist are badly under - funded. We don't have enough decent housing to offer women who have left their homes to escape violence. Women who leave with children often find themselves in a poverty trap and feel doubly punished. One woman who contacted me last year was distraught that not only were her and her two children stuck in one room in a refuge unable to be re - housed, but she couldn't afford to get them any Christmas presents. We demand a benefit system and social services that are properly funded.
We need to campaign for perpetrator schemes to challenge and change the behaviour of offenders. We also need to change the way that the legal system works against women who do have the courage to take it through the courts - many women withdraw statements due to threats and feeling unprotected or they find the incident trivialised and see the offender go unpunished.
To order a copy of CADV's Action Programme on domestic violence phone 0208 520 5881.
In The Socialist 3 November 2000: