Rise in domestic violence linked to economy

STRESS triggered by the current economic climate may have played a part in increasing reports of domestic violence in Suffolk.

Lizzie Parry

STRESS triggered by the current economic climate may have played a part in increasing reports of domestic violence in Suffolk, it was claimed last night.

Six cases of domestic abuse have been reported to Suffolk police every day since last April - a rise on the previous year.

Suffolk police and support groups said it was a sign more victims were willing to come forward.

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However, one charity conceded that financial problems faced by many families may have played a part in the rise.

Hilary Cadman, chief executive of Ipswich Women's Aid charity, said: “Of course any stressful situation causes more stress in relationships and some people react badly to that stress.

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“We argue stress does not cause the problem it is caused by the perpetrator, stress is the means by which boundaries are broken down, it is an excuse.

“A perpetrator is a bully, somebody who is lacking self confidence and to boost their ego they lash out at others.”

Between April and December, there were 1,777 cases reported to police, with 995 of those “detected”, according to a new police report.

In the prior 12 months, there were 2,121 offences - but the current crime rate means that figure could be eclipsed within the next few months.

Detective Superintendent Tim Beach, of Suffolk police, said the increase indicated more people were seeking help.

“There is well researched evidence that domestic abuse is under reported and therefore these figures suggest that confidence in the police - and of all the agencies involved in dealing with domestic violence - is growing, leading to an increase in reports.

“This is a positive sign and we'd anticipated that this would be the case, following a great deal of hard work and commitment by the Constabulary, Suffolk County Council and a whole range of partner agencies.”

He added an area for concern was the issue of repeat offenders and urged people to seek help to break the cycle of abuse.

Since last April the police report noted a 7% increase in the level of repeat offending stating it is “well outside the required target” of 5%.

A total of 1,193 incidents of repeated domestic violence have been recorded compared with 1,508 repeat offences last year, 2007/08 and the force report predicts by the end of the financial year in March the figures will reveal 158 offences above the target number.

“Repeat offences are always a worrying factor in domestic violence. Domestic violence and abuse can take many forms, and can happen repeatedly,” he said. “Again the increase in repeat incidents probably reflects the wider increase in reporting and the increased awareness of the issues with the wider public.

“We recognise it is a cycle of abuse that if left unchallenged can become more frequent and severe,” Det Supt Beach added.

Marianne Fellowes, county domestic violence and abuse projects manager, said the issue could manifest itself in very affluent families not just those experiencing money worries.

“General confidence in the criminal justice service has increased in Suffolk and more people are willing to come forward,” she said. “Certainly families are put under additional stress but domestic violence can manifest itself in families where there is no financial pressure.”

Suffolk police are working on a range of programmes to tackle the issue, including the introduction of three specialist domestic violence courts in Ipswich, Lowestoft and Bury as well as specialist victim care centres which have been established for some years across Suffolk.

Hilary Cadman, of Ipswich Women's Aid, said Government statistics suggested a woman was a victim 35 times before she sought help.

“Women tend to internalise it and try to change their behaviour to stop it, believing they are at fault."

Marianne Fellowes added: “The key piece of advice is to get help, to come forward and speak to somebody you trust, you are not alone there is support available that will help you. Regardless of your situation you do not deserve to be treated like this. Everyone should be free from fear in their homes, families and relationships.”

Suffolk Domestic Violence Helpline - 0800 783 5121

Ipswich Women's Aid 24-hour Helpline - 01473 745111

For emergencies ring 999 and for non-emergencies and advice call 01473 613500.

A woman who has experienced first hand the trauma of domestic violence has spoken of the help she received allowing her to break the cycle and move away from her abusive husband.

After five years of marriage and 21 years together her husband started abusing her at their home in London.

The 40-year-old, who did not want to be named, said: “It felt like the abuse had been going on forever, different issues caused different problems and I was so na�ve I did not see what was happening to me.”

After five years of suffering the mother-of-three made the brave decision to seek help. She contacted a housing office in Cambridge looking for accommodation to allow her to leave her home with her children.

She was referred to the Ipswich Women's Aid charity in March 2007 and given temporary accommodation.

Speaking about how she finally made the decision to get help, she said it had all got too much and the effect on her children made her see she needed to leave.

“It was too much for me especially with the children, I did not know where to start from I just thought I had to leave London,” she said.

“For women in a similar situation to me I would say do not wait until something tragic happens, contact someone, take advice and make the decision, if you wait too long it just gets worse and harder to leave.

“I do not regret moving, we are very happy now we have got the help we needed.”

Since moving to Ipswich the now single mother has completed a course in management and hospitality at Suffolk College and is working running a busy kitchen within an office in Ipswich.

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