THE Government announced its new plans for tackling domestic violence yesterday.
Some of the proposals include giving extra powers to police to tackle the issue. Abusive partners could be placed on a register, monitored by police, who could then warn future partners of their history.
The idea of police being able to ban abusers from the family home for up to a fortnight has also been put forward.
The ideas are set out in a consultation document – Together We Can End Violence Against Women And Girls Strategy – which has been published by the Home Office.
It will also include ideas for tackling issues such as partner abuse, honour killings, female genital mutilation, and the sexualisation of young girls.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said: “We’ve already made real progress with domestic violence incidents more than halving in the past 12 years. But I want to start a national debate on what more we can do to prevent it and challenging attitudes which condone it.”
Public consultation will be held on the document across the country over the coming months. Domestic violence groups have welcomed the fact that the issue has been highlighted.
In the UK, two women are murdered every week and 30 men die every year as a result of domestic violence. National research suggests it has more repeat victims than any other crime and it costs £23bn a year to deal with. On average, a victim suffers 35 assaults before calling the police.
However, some domestic violence groups, like Refuge, have questioned whether simply giving more powers to police will work.
Having a database of abusers relies on them being reported by their victims – something which often does not happen.
So, what do the experts in Kirklees think? Thelma Singleton, domestic violence co-ordinator for Kirklees Safer Stronger Communities Partnership, said: “We do know generally that it is under reported and the cases different agencies hear about are often the tip of the iceberg.”
In Kirklees, between April 2007 and March 2008, 5,796 domestic violence incidents were recorded by the police. Of these, 26.5% were violent crimes, 41% were verbal disputes, 22% involved breach of the peace and 5% involved criminal damage.ŠDomestic violence comprised 20% of all recorded violent crime in the district.
In total 53% of the perpetrators in those incidents were charged and 45% were cautioned.
The range of victims involved was between 16-years-old and 65-years-old.
The majority of victims fell into the 25 to 34 age bracket. The next most affected group was 35 to 44-year-olds, followed by 16 to 24-year-olds.
Alcohol was a major contributory factor in 48% of the cases and children were present in 41% of incidents.
Ms Singleton said domestic violence can happen anytime, anywhere and to anyone – even men. She said: “The issue affects all communities. Most victims are women but some incidents were reported by men.”
At least six men have reported being victims of domestic violence in Kirklees this year. Ms Singleton said: “I understand anecdotally that the number of men contacting the team has risen this year and this may be due to increased awareness around domestic violence in general.
“Male victims are a minority because there is more of a stigma for a man admitting to being a victim of violence. The team welcomes calls from male victims and also other minority groups such as those in same sex relationships.”
She urged people who are victims of domestic violence not to keep quiet but to seek help. “Domestic violence incidents are rarely a one-off event. One violent incident tends to lead to another, often increasing in frequency and severity over time. We would urge anyone in this situation not to suffer in silence but to seek support.”
You can get help from Kirklees Safer Stronger Communities Service’s Domestic Violence Team by calling 01484 223221 or 416849.
For more details, visit www.saferkirklees.co.uk. To see the Government consultation document, go to http://www.homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk/keepwomensafe.