Recognizing that domestic violence is a very common problem is the first step to noticing the signs that it might be happening to you, or to someone you know. Although it is impossible to give an accurate figure, it is known (from prosecutors’ records, domestic violence organisations and police records) that :
- 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence at some point in their lives.
- Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women aged between 15 and 44 in the United States.
- 3 to 4 million women are assaulted at home every year in the United States.
- In the UK, more than 500,000 women are affected by domestic violence every year.
- Domestic violence is known to be the cause of over 100 deaths annually in the UK.
- Domestic violence refuges in the UK take in somewhere in the region of 54,000 women and children every year.
Even given that the above figures are approximate, they give a clear picture of the massive scale of the problem. In fact, these figures are likely to be higher in reality, rather than lower. This is because many cases of domestic violence are not reported, or not taken through to court. Therefore, the real problem is greater than statistics can ever show. So, far from being rare, domestic violence is happening everywhere, every day. If you suspect that it is happening to someone you know, it probably is, and they need your help.
Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence
Again, whilst not strictly accurate, we can use statistics gathered through research, court records, police records and from women’s refuges and help organisations to understand more about domestic violence. So, we are able to see that:
- Abusers can come from any race, religion, educational or financial background and circumstances. It is not confined to those living in poverty, lacking in education or the unemployed. Figures show that domestic violence is more common among the unemployed and impoverished sections of society, but also occurs among the professional and moneyed as well.
- Although male to female violence is far and away the most common (85% of victims in the US are women) men can also be victims. Domestic violence can also take place between same sex couples.
- Pregnancy is no protection from domestic violence. In fact, records in the US show that 25% to 45% of women who are beaten at home are beaten during pregnancy.
- Disability is no protection against domestic violence. Sadly, statistics show that a disabled woman is actually more likely to be a victim of domestic violence than her able bodied sisters.
The figures we have available on domestic violence arrests show that:
- In the UK, only around 15% of arrests made on charges of domestic violence actually go through to court.
- A report compiled by the Violence Against Women Online Resource shows that in the group studied, of women over the age of 18, only around a fifth of rape cases, a quarter of physical assaults and half of stalking incidents are reported to the police.
Among the known effects of domestic violence are:
- Mental illness. Many victims of domestic violence suffer some level of post traumatic stress and related illnesses.
- Physical injury.
- Family breakdown
- Traumatic stress and related behavioural problems in children from abusive families.
- Financial hardship. Many women forced to escape abusive relationships have no personal access to financial resources.
- Loss of employment. Women who are abused in their homes and relationships frequently lose their jobs as a result. This may be through inability to attend work after injury, mental health problems or because their partner physically prevents them from going to work. In the US, this is said to be as much as the equivalent of 8 million days of paid work.
- Domestic violence breeds domestic violence. Figures show that a child, particularly a male child, from a family where domestic violence took place during his childhood is twice as likely to become abusive in his own relationships in later life as a child from a non violent background.
- In the US, the average sentence for a man found guilty of killing his partner in an episode of domestic violence is between 2 and 6 years. This contrasts with the average sentence for a woman in the same situation of 15 years.
- Domestic violence rarely occurs as an isolated event. The beatings usually grow in frequency and severity over time.
- In Scotland, a survey by White Ribbon Scotland showed that 26% of people questioned thought that a woman assaulted when wearing ‘revealing clothing’ was at least partly responsible for the attack.
- In the UK, the police receive 360,000 emergency (999) calls reporting domestic violence incidents every year.
- 63% of boys who go on from growing up in an abusive family to later commit murder kill the man who was abusing their mother.
It is clear, even given the fact that none of the above figures can be 100% accurate, that the problem of domestic violence is vast and serious. Domestic violence takes place across the world and can have very far reaching effects on individuals and society.