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The Silent Epidemic: Britain’s Domestic Abuse Problem

Every time an international football league kicks off, fans around the globe come together to cheer on their sporting heroes. The Euro 2020 season is no different. When the group stages began two weeks ago, people of all nationalities once again turned their attention and their hopes towards their national teams. Everyone wants their side to win, but when it comes to footballing success in England, women have more than one reason to hope England meet with success.

Recent data from the Clarewalkerconsultancy has shown that domestic abuse rates increase by 38% when England lose. This data may be shocking, but it is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to harrowing data about domestic abuse in the UK.

While the issue of domestic violence is not isolated to male-female violence alone, women do face this issue at a significantly higher rate than men. Data from women’s aid shows that in the year ending March 2019, 92% of defendants in domestic abuse related prosecutions were male, while 72% of the victims were female. It is rarely the case that we can isolate crime to gender alone, but this data certainly suggests that domestic abuse is a gendered crime.

Such clear data is thought provoking and begs questions. What makes men act abusively? Why is the data so clearly skewed towards a picture of male violence? Why do women not act in the same way? These are all questions which have been asked before, but the problem of domestic abuse persists. Asking these questions is not enough, and we must find new ways to do more to prevent domestic violence in the UK. If we do not, women will continue to be abused and nothing will be done to stem the flow of unjust violence.


What are the challenges to solving this problem?

Any preventative measures of domestic abuse must draw on research about the root cause of said abuse. Once we know what causes violence, we will be able to develop strategies to prevent it. Research suggests that one key factor in generating domestic violence is domestic violence. Studies have suggested that abusers learn violent behaviour from watching it happen or experiencing it themselves. Once victims of this violence are exposed to it, they can become predisposed to the idea that this is a reasonable manner of behaviour, and so transform from abused to abuser.

In addition to this, there are certain risk factors at play which can make it more likely someone will become an abuser. These include poverty, lack of education, low self-esteem, and substance abuse. While there are studies which suggest a link between alcohol abuse and domestic violence, there are differing opinions as to what formula actually creates violence.

With this in mind, any strategy aimed at reducing domestic violence will have problems. While the symptoms of this disease are clear, finding a treatment will prove much more difficult. The aforementioned risk factors are not only widespread issues in their own right, but also significantly hard to change. Poverty, for example, is a malady that affects 22% of the British population. Tackling any issue that reaches around 14 million people is going to present challenges, and that does not even include the additional risk factors.

Preventing domestic abuse is one thing, but it is also quite a task to realise that it is occurring. Data on domestic abuse is mainly gathered from administrative institutions (e.g., police reports) and sample surveys. Although these efforts to collect data have clearly highlighted the problem, they will undoubtedly have fallen sort of accurately depicting the real level of domestic violence in the UK. This difference between actual prevalence and incidence of violence versus the disclosed violence recorded is known as the “grey zone” and the chances are that it is quite large.


What can be done now?

As it currently stands, there are three main areas which need to be addressed if we are to make lasting steps to halting the wave of gender-based domestic violence in the UK.

First, we must see the solution to this issue as one that is invested in the solutions to numerous other issues too. By simultaneously tackling alcoholism, poverty, the mental health crisis, and cracking down on pre-existing abusers, we will help to prevent the creation of new abuse.

Secondly, data gathering must be updated. By relying on police reports and sample surveys, the real depth of this problem will never be known. We must go further in our investigations, potentially to the point of giving each and every person the chance to answer questions on domestic abuse during the census. Only by developing our research process can we understand just how much British women suffer silently.

Finally, we must get better at teaching our children that violence is not an adequate solution to life’s problems. The best example that a child will ever get is their parents, no matter what that example is. We have a vested interest in ensuring that the next generation is the best it can be. Part of that moral obligation is educating those who will outlast us in what is right and what is wrong. Domestic violence is wrong and the time for Britain to realise that is long overdue.

Written by Isaac Knowles


Isaac Knowles is a columnist at DecipherGrey.