A startling statistic was announced this week. Apparently as many as one in three British women have experienced domestic violence.
According to a survey carried out on behalf of domestic violence charity Refuge, almost two fifths of victims told no one. We can only speculate why, but 35 per cent of those surveyed said they wouldn’t want anyone to know they had been a victim.
Those are some pretty daunting numbers, but how accurate are they? Earlier this year, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released figures which suggested that 7.1 per cent of women have experienced domestic violence. That’s quite a difference.
The survey Refuge is quoting was put to 2,244 women for ITV’s Loose Women, who will soon be launching a domestic violence campaign. In it, ‘domestic violence’ was defined as “any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (ie. psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults who are (or have been) intimate partners, regardless of gender or sexuality.”
That definition is very broad, and can be interpreted differently depending on who is being asked. What would count as “emotional” abuse? A blazing row? Lots of couples have those but it doesn’t necessarily fall into the category of abuse.
This is partly why I was so sceptical about Home Secretary Theresa May’s suggestion that domestic violence should be made into a specific criminal offence. Doing so could have a significant effect on how divorce proceedings are dealt with.
None of this is to say that domestic violence isn’t a problem. It clearly is. Any time someone abuses the trust implicit in an intimate relationship it is a travesty.
This is also why male victims should not be ignored. Previous research has shown that women are more likely to be aggressive in a relationship than men.
Domestic violence against men is more common than you may imagine. Four per cent of men have experienced domestic violence, according to the ONS, yet social attitudes on the matter are very different. Earlier this month, Kelly Brook went onto a talk show and made light of her admission that she had punched two previous boyfriends.
Any efforts to stamp out domestic violence should be encouraged. I am not convinced that it is possible to eliminate it completely, but that does not mean we should not try. Whatever you think of these new statistics, I hope we can all agree on that.