Domestic violence takes place every single day, in households across the world. People often think that it only happens in certain families, but the truth is that domestic violence affects women of all ages, classes and backgrounds. Domestic violence is a massive social problem.
In Northern Ireland, domestic abuse incidents have increased year on year since 2004/05. The figure of 29,404 incidents for the latest twelve months (October 2016 to September 2017) is continuing this increase and represents the highest level recorded since 2004/05.
Regardless of your gender, age, ethnicity, ability, sexual orientation or what type of family you come from, anyone can become a victim of violent and abusive behaviour by a partner or a family member.
The majority of victims are women and children. Research and statistics, including MARAC statistics show that about 90% of reported cases are perpetrated by men against women. It is estimated that one in four women will suffer domestic violence at some point in their lives and in Northern Ireland there is one incident of domestic violence every 19 minutes.
What is domestic violence and abuse?
Domestic violence and abuse is violent behaviour of any kind including emotional abuse within a family or a relationship. This includes one family member abusing another or violence between a couple in a relationship. Domestic violence is deeply rooted in issues of power, control and inequality.
Women’s Aid defines domestic violence as:
‘The intentional and persistent physical or emotional abuse of a woman, or of a woman and her children in a way that causes pain, distress or injury’.
You don’t have to be physically hurt to be a victim. If you’re constantly being sworn at, teased or told that you’re unwanted, this may also be classed as emotional abuse. It can also take the form of financial abuse which can involve a partner spending your jointly-earned money, taking out loans in your name, making you pay the utility bills, or scrutinising every penny you spend. This can be the fore-runner of even more serious or physical abuse.
If you’re being hurt
If you’ve been physically or mentally harmed by a relative or someone you’re in a relationship with, remember that you are not to blame. Many victims of domestic violence believe that they have created or caused the problems that led to the violence but this isn’t the case. The only person to blame is the one who is committing the violent acts.
If you feel confident enough, you should call the police. They take crimes like this very seriously and will be able to act quickly. If you don’t want to call the police, talk to a friend or a teacher that you can trust. The worst thing you can do is stay quiet and allow it to continue.
You can also contact the 24 hour domestic and sexual violence helpline for support on:
- phone: 0808 802 1414 (Freephone)
- email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- text: ‘support’ to 07797805839
Domestic violence is not a private issue. It is a social issue. It is a political issue. It is a moral issue. Above all, it’s a crime – a crime as serious as any other violent crime. Domestic violence affects us all. We all have a part to play in ending it. You can join the fight against gender-based violence by calling out victim-blaming or rape jokes. You could call the police instead of turning a blind eye if you see violence against women. You could carry the number of the 24 Hour Domestic and Sexual Violence Helpline with you, in case someone you know ever needs it.