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Domestic Violence Women
The principle purpose of this report is to provide details on the current domestic violence situation for Women’s Aid. The report also aims to put forward recommendations for improving the response to domestic violence.
For this report no personal research has been undertaken, instead the report takes the form of a review of existing literature on the issue. This information has been obtained primarily from the Women’s Aid Federation Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Office and the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
3.0 Results of enquires
3.1 What is domestic violence?
The definition of domestic violence which is used for the purposes of this report is: ‘Any incident of threatening behaviour, Violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) by one family member against another or adults who are or have been intimate partners, regardless of gender and whether a crime has occurred or not, will be recorded as domestic.’
Domestic violence and abuse is a serious problem. It has a devastating impact on victims and their families. Each year in Northern Ireland around 5 people are killed and over 700 families have to be re-housed as a result of violence in the home. On average, every week, the police attend over 400 domestic incidents and deal with over
100 domestic assaults on women and men, yet we know that most domestic-related incidents are not reported. The abuse affects people right across our society from all walks of life, from all cultural, social and ethnic backgrounds and across all age groups. The vast majority of victims are women, but a significant number of men are also affected and abuse also occurs in same-sex relationships. Violence in the home is particularly disturbing for children and local research shows that at least 11,000 children here are living with domestic violence on a daily basis.
3.2 Common misconceptions regarding domestic violence
Domestic violence is a crime. It is abhorrent and often hidden. Within our society, traditionally, the issue has been a taboo subject, not discussed openly and dismissed by many as a private matter, with little or no emphasis on prevention.
Some myths exist about the causes of domestic violence and abuse. These myths include loss of control by, or provocation of, the perpetrators. Many people also believe that alcohol is the main cause. There are clear links between alcohol misuse and domestic violence, in that the problem may be exacerbated and the violence more severe when there is alcohol involved, but alcohol is not the cause. In reality domestic violence and abuse is usually a pattern of persistent behaviour by the perpetrator designed to achieve power and control over the victim.
3.3 How prevalent is domestic violence in Northern Ireland?
Data from the PSNI’s statistical review1 show the following:
- Between 2004/05 and 2005/06 the number of domestic incidents increased by 2,100 (+10.0%).
- There were 10,768 domestic crimes recorded in 2005/06, an increase of 11.5% (+1,112) on 2004/05 when breach of non-molestation order offences are included for both years.
- During 2005/06 two thirds of all crimes with domestic motivation fell within the category of violent crime (offences against the person, sexual offences and robbery). There were 7,206 such offences, representing 66.9% of the total. Of the remaining offences, criminal damage accounted for 15.3% and breach of non-molestation orders represented 13.1% of the total.
- The overall clearance rate for crimes with a domestic motivation in 2005/06 was 77.5%.
Table 1: Domestic Motivation: Incidents and Crimes
Total number of incidents
Total number of crimes
3.4 Crime statistics in context
It is important to recognize that the rise in incidents being dealt with by the police does not necessarily mean that there is an increase in the level of domestic violence. Rather, it is a combination of factors including the PSNI’s more proactive approach in recognising domestic abuse as a crime and taking the abuse very seriously. Also, domestic violence is now on the agenda for society in general and women in particular.
More women in abusive relationships are aware that support is available. PSNI statistics show that there are three times as many domestic related crimes as drug offences; nearly twice as many domestic related crimes as there were car thefts and more domestic crimes than domestic burglaries. Most shockingly, six women were murdered last year.
Despite the fact that PSNI figures indicate that domestic violence is a very prevalent crime, it is believed that it does not show the true extent of the abuse happening in Northern Ireland. It is likely that there are thousands more people who are living with abuse and have not yet contacted anyone for support.
3.5 What is the government’s response to domestic violence?
The Government is determined to hold perpetrators of this insidious crime to account for their abuse. The introduction of legislation such as ‘The Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004’ focuses more attention on perpetrators and provides better protection for victims, for example, by giving the police greater powers of arrest.
Millions of pounds are spent every year across a range of services in dealing with domestic violence and its consequences. It is estimated that the direct cost of services plus the loss of economic output in Northern Ireland due to domestic violence could amount to about £180 million each year.
3.6 Criminal justice system progress
In recent years the Police and the Courts have developed better support for victims; in particular the provision of dedicated PSNI Domestic Violence Officers with specialist training, in every police district.The Domestic Violence Officer receives information about every domestic incident and will contact the victim to provide support, information about police procedure and legal proceedings. And there has also been the introduction of more informal proceedings and special measures in court (such as live link and the use of screens) to assist victims.
In addition, the Probation Service, in conjunction with Social Services has undertaken some successful work with perpetrators aimed at reducing the incidence of re-offending while offering increased support to victims.
Clearly, therefore, a lot of good work has already been done. These developments and the ongoing work of a variety of agencies have collectively contributed to an increasing awareness among the general public about domestic violence and its consequences and about the services available to victims.
4.0 Discussion of findings
So what does the above information reveal about the current situation of domestic violence in Northern Ireland? Well, as the statistics clearly indicate domestic violence is still a major problem in our society. There are various reasons for this
5.0 Conclusions and Recommendations
Domestic violence is a complex issue that requires a strategic approach. It can be very difficult to deal with because much of the violence and abuse takes place behind closed doors. Many victims suffer in silence, afraid for themselves and their children and so most incidents of this crime go unreported.
Some myths and outdated attitudes remain within our society about a form of violence that was historically acceptable. The abuse occurs in relationships where emotions may be high and loyalties divided. Victims may disregard their own safety and stay in abusive relationships for reasons such as embarrassment, fear and confusion, financial insecurity or a desire to keep their families together. These difficulties may have been complicated by an overall response which has not always been consistent and has not been co-ordinated across Northern Ireland.
There is still a need:
- To raise the profile of domestic violence much further
- To develop education and training
- To transform attitudes
- To extend preventive work
- To make improvements in service provision
- To advance co-operation and co-ordination among the range of policy-makers and service providers who have a role in addressing the problem
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