a few figures for you to think about: There were 7,000 reported
incidents of domestic violence in Devon between October 2002 and
October 2003; domestic
abuse costs Devon almost £27 million a year in police, social
services and medical expenses.
Nationally, more than 7,000 women and children are in refuges in
any one day, and on average, three women in England are killed by
their current or ex-partner every week.
Domestic violence accounts for a quarter of all violent crime, and
abused women - again on average - will be assaulted 35 times before
reporting it to the authorities.
One in four women will experience domestic abuse at some time in
Devon, all the relevant authorities got together in October 2002
to launch the Devon Domestic Violence Strategy to tackle the issue.
Mo fighting back against bully Trevor in Eastenders: The storyline
helped to highlight the problem of domestic violence
the first time, this brought together all the agencies so they could
work together to reduce domestic violence, increase reportage, and
improve services for victims.
Already, the strategy is working. In the first year of the co-ordinated
approach, the number of reported incidents went up by 21% to 7,000.
This is good news, because reporting domestic violence is the first
step to overcoming the cycle of abuse.
Devon Domestic Violence Co-ordinator Racheal Martin says the increased
reports are welcome, but have put even more pressure on the Women's
Aid groups across the county.
"We'd set a target of increasing reports by 10% over three
years, and we've already exceeded that in the first year.
it has increased the work of the Women's Aid Outreach groups, because
their referrals are up by 400% in the last year.
groups are working to capacity, and the success of the work means
we now have to increase the support that Women's Aid gets.
"We've got to have more funding. We need to expand the service
for women, and for support for children as well. Child protection
is a mandatory issue."
There are five refuges for women and children in the whole of Devon
- safe houses where they can stay until they find permanent accommodation.
With society now less willing to accept domestic violence, what
are the chances of ever overcoming the problem completely?
"Well, the issue being raised in TV programmes like Eastenders
has helped to raise the profile among the public," said Racheal.
"It's how we change views about what is a healthy attitude,
and what isn't. If children see abuse in their families, we need
them to see it as unacceptable so they don't repeat it.
"We'd be idealist to think we'll get rid of domestic violence,
but we must at least think that one day it may be possible."
Read how one Devon woman overcame years of domestic abuse, in Michaela's
And this isn't just a women's issue. Men also suffer domestic abuse,
and a helpline set up in Plymouth is getting calls from all over
the country. Read about the work of the MALE
If you want to get in touch with any of Devon's Women's Aid Outreach
groups, or with Rachael Martin, click onto the 'Useful Contact Numbers'
link on the left of this page.
The contact numbers also include refuges, Victim Support, NSPCC
helpline, Samaritans, a helpline for young women, and Social Services
(out of hours).
We also link to the Devon and Cornwall Police website.
Article first published: January 2004