“Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence.”
After I read the other day that the fathers’ rights charity Families Need Fathers has launched an online survey aimed at assessing the experiences of male victims of domestic violence I toyed with the idea of writing a post here about domestic violence against men. In particular, I was wondering just how prevalent it is – whilst I have often myself made the point that men can be victims of domestic violence as well as women (and not just men in same-sex relationships), I don’t recall actually dealing with a case of serious domestic violence against a man in the twenty-five-odd years that I was practising as a family lawyer.
In the end I decided not to write that post, but not before looking for some basic domestic violence statistics. These statistics are nothing new, and are very easy to find with a quick internet search. However, they provide very sobering reading, and are therefore I think worth repeating.
For example, in its 2013/14 Crime Survey for England and Wales the Office for National Statistics (‘ONS’) found that 8.5% of women and 4.5% of men reported having experienced domestic abuse in the last year (that is, partner / ex-partner abuse (non-sexual), family abuse (non-sexual) and sexual assault or stalking carried out by a current or former partner or other family member). That is equivalent to an estimated 1.4 million female victims and 700,000 male victims.
Let’s just stop and think about that. More than 2 million people a year suffer domestic abuse. This is not a minor infection, it’s an epidemic.
The same survey tells us that overall 28.3% of women and 14.7% of men have experienced any domestic abuse since the age of 16. That is equivalent to an estimated 4.6 million female victims and 2.4 million male victims. On the basis that the current population of England and Wales is about 57 million, that means that about 12% or about one in eight of the population will suffer domestic abuse during their lifetimes. Yes, I realise that there are flaws with my (very rough) calculations, but I think the point is still made: the chances of you suffering domestic abuse are worryingly high.
Moving on, the domestic violence charity Women’s Aid tell us that one incident of domestic violence is reported to the police every minute and that on average 2 women a week are killed by a current or former male partner (another figure that comes from the ONS). Two women killed every week. It hardly bears thinking about.
But there are other victims as well. As Women’s Aid also points out, one in seven children and young people under the age of 18 will have experienced living with domestic violence. That trauma must live with them for the rest of their lives, clouding their views on relationships, and tragically even making some young people believe that such behaviour is the norm, leading to a new generation of abusers.
And then there is the economic cost of domestic violence. Domestic violence costs the state in many ways, including costs of criminal justice, healthcare, social services, housing costs and legal aid. The total cost of all of this has been estimated at £16 billion per annum. Yes, that’s billion (and that is believed to be an under-estimate).
I could, of course, go on, but the evidence is already very clear: domestic violence is not just a minor issue that sometimes occurs behind closed doors. It is a major problem that blights a huge proportion of the population, and that has effects that are felt by all of us. We must therefore continue to strive to reduce it by all possible means, including bringing it out into the open, providing information and educating potential perpetrators.