Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Home Truths

This may not be the sexiest post ever, but court documents have today apparently revealed details of Paul McCartney’s behaviour, and have led me to consider domestic violence (DV). The most shocking statistic I heard about DV was that the average victim will endure 30 – 35 assaults before seeking help.

Behind closed doors, of even the most outwardly respectable families, abuse is rarely a one-off event. For those of us who think we will leave when hit once this is not just weakness. It is worth considering that some of these episodes will be of emotional abuse, draining the abused of resources they otherwise might call on, and undermining any sense of self which might remind them of being worth more. Many incidences will be fairly minor, and their triviality may make the victim feel disinclined to report the perpetrator, especially someone they are already inclined to forgive, one who is perhaps also the parent of their children.

What we must not forget is that the level of abuse is likely to increase over time, and could even result in murder.

I can’t imagine living in constant fear in your own home, can you? Of being afraid of what might happen when your partner walks through the door. For many people this is the day to day reality they have to live with. DV is a serious and complex issue. Abuse may be physical, psychological, sexual, financial or emotional. It is a hidden crime, leaving its victims feeling trapped, powerless and isolated – afraid to say anything in case it makes a bad situation worse.

Experience suggests that friends, families and neighbours are often aware or suspect that something is happening but, for one reason or another, are reluctant to get involved. This is a mistake. DV ruins family life and has long term, serious consequences for everyone concerned.

What Is DV?
DV is any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between individuals who are or have been intimate partners, regardless of gender or sexuality.

DV also includes incidents between family members, aged 18 and over. (Family members are defined as Mother, Father, Son, Daughter, Brother, Sister and Grandparents, whether directly related, in-laws or step family.)

A Few Home Truths about DV:
1) An incident is reported to the police in the UK every minute
2) Two women are murdered each week in England and Wales by their present or former partner
3) One in four women are likely to experience DV at some point
4) Violence often starts and escalates when a victim is pregnant
5) 90% of incidents are witnessed by children who live in a household where abuse occurs*
6) Around 15% of incidents involve men as victims
7) Physical injuries caused by domestic abuse costs the NHS £1.2 billion each year
8) Many murders involve a history of domestic abuse – in West Mercia five out of six recent murders showed such a pattern

*It is worth noting, recent research appears to prove that children are as affected as much by the violence they witness as they are by any which might be inflicted upon them.

Who Are the Victims?
Anyone can experience DV – it can happen in any relationship and for any reason. Over time abuse tends to increase in occurrence and severity. Other members of the household, particularly children, often witness what is happening and may end up being abused, if not physically then emotionally or mentally. DV will not end until someone speaks out – either the victim themselves or somebody - a relative, a friend or a neighbour - who cares about their welfare.

Recognising the Sign
While every DV case is different, there may be telltale signs that indicate abuse is taking place. These include:
1) Unexplained, regular injuries
2) Children truanting / performing poorly at school
3) Low self–esteem of the person being abused
4) Withdrawal of social contact with friends and family leading to isolation
5) Lack of financial independence
6) Loss of control / extreme anger / anti-social behaviour regularly exhibited by the abuser
7) Abuse of animals

The police have a responsibility to investigate incidents of DV and can arrest and charge people who are committing these crimes. Since July 2005, the evidence of the victim is no longer required to pursue a prosecution; the police take responsibility not the victim.

Help for Abusers
My own experience of DV is via the probation service's courses for perpetrators of DV. Help is available for those who are violent, or otherwise abusive, towards their partners. If someone is worried about their own behaviour they can call: The Respect Helpline : 0845 122 8609 and Respect will put individuals in contact with the providers of counselling services.



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