Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Domestic violence 'misunderstood'

A group of women marched across Westminster Bridge to commemorate those who have died as a result of domestic violence
A group of women marched across Westminster Bridge to commemorate those who have died as a result of domestic violence

Many women do not understand what constitutes domestic violence and awareness of the issue, which is "shrouded in myth and misunderstanding" is "shockingly low", according to research by domestic violence charities.

Yet more than half (51%) of the women questioned said they knew or suspected that someone in their life had experienced domestic violence, and two women are killed by current or former partners every week in England and Wales.

The research, part of Avon UK's Speaking Out In Her Name campaign, in conjunction with Refuge and Women's Aid, was presented at the Houses of Parliament on Tuesday evening in the hope that domestic violence will receive the same level of attention as other high-profile issues such as drink-driving. The three organisations believe that education is key to improving awareness and changing attitudes of future generations.

Earlier on Tuesday, Alesha Dixon, Avon's beauty and empowerment ambassador, led a group of women - domestic violence survivors, families of victims and campaigners - across Westminster Bridge on a symbolic walk of hope to commemorate the women who have died as a result of domestic violence.

A survey of 2,000 women aged 16-55 revealed a lack of understanding about what domestic violence is, with more than half (56.6%) of women saying they either disagreed or did not know if excessive jealousy counted as domestic violence.

Nearly half (47.4%) either disagreed or did not know if going through a female partner's private electronic messages counted as domestic violence. Just over half either disagreed (35.1%) or did not know (16%) whether a partner making all the monetary decisions was domestic violence.

Although physical and sexual violence was widely recognised as domestic violence by the majority of women questioned, there was still a level of uncertainty in younger women. One in five (20%) 16 to 18-year-olds did not think or were unsure if pressure from a partner to have sex or do other sexual things constituted domestic violence, while 18% did not think or were unsure if slapping or hitting was a sign of domestic violence.

When asked what they thought they should do if they knew someone was experiencing domestic violence, 70% of the women said they should call a domestic violence helpline. But when asked what they would do, only 58% said they would do this, and this figure dropped to 45% and 35% respectively in the youngest age groups.

Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, said: "Refuge has worked hard to bring domestic violence out of the shadows ever since we opened the world's first refuge in 1971. But this issue is still shrouded in myth and misunderstanding. The Government needs to invest in powerful awareness-raising campaigns to change the attitudes that allow violence and fear to darken so many homes up and down the country."

Polly Neate, chief executive of Women's Aid, said: "It is terrifying that many young women do not know where to get help if they are experiencing domestic violence, although that is to be expected when so few young people have been taught about domestic violence at school."

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