Belfast Telegraph

Plea to victims at peak period for domestic abuse in Northern Ireland

 

By Allan Preston

Domestic abuse victims in Northern Ireland have been urged not to suffer in silence during the summer period when violence in the home is at its height.

Some 80 incidents a day were reported to police last year during July and August - 4,960 in total and 165 more than the previous year.

The overall figure for 2016/17 also increased, with 29,166 domestic abuse incidents reported.

That was 774 more than the previous year and the highest level since police started recording the data in 2004/05.

The figures come as the PSNI launches a summer domestic abuse campaign. The message is: "If you feel like you're walking on eggshells that's domestic abuse."

Detective Chief Superintendent George Clarke, head of the PSNI's Public Protection Branch, said it was positive more victims were reaching out.

"We welcome the increase because we believe this shows confidence is increasing in the police," he said.

"It also reflects our continued commitment to working in partnership with many statutory and voluntary organisations to increase reporting and improve our response to victims of domestic abuse."

He warned, however: "Despite the rise in the number of reported incidents, we still believe that a large number of domestic incidents are going unreported."

Last month a survey from the Department of Justice found that police were not told about six in 10 of the worst cases of domestic abuse.

The annual survey was based on 1,209 interviews with individuals aged between 16 and 64.

Just over a third (36.6%) said they reported the very worst cases of domestic abuse to police.

A fifth (21%) of those surveyed also believed the most serious offences were "wrong, but not a crime" and one in eight (12.3%) accepted it as "just something that happens".

The PSNI has said it responds to complaints of domestic abuse every 18 minutes and has dedicated domestic abuse officers across Northern Ireland to support victims.

Speaking in June, the CEO of Women's Aid in Northern Ireland, Jan Melia, said domestic abuse remained "a hidden crime".

She welcomed the increased reporting to police but called for more awareness of the nature and definition of domestic violence.

"Women tell us that there is a particular need to highlight emotional abuse and the coercive ongoing nature of abuse in intimate and familial relationships," she said.

Ms Melia also called for more early prevention work in schools along with training for doctors, teachers and community workers to ask victims the right questions.

She argued more prosecutions would be possible with more robust legislation, including making domestic abuse a specific offence.

A 24-hour domestic and sexual abuse helpline is available to anyone who has concerns about domestic or sexual violence, now or in the past, on 0808 802 1414.

The PSNI also strongly encourages anyone suffering from domestic abuse to contact their local police on the non-emergency number 101, or in an emergency always call 999.

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