The old saying that we don't know what goes on behind closed doors is only partly true. For we have been given a disturbing peek into one of the most hidden of crimes – domestic violence. While this newspaper has previously reported the astonishing 27,190 violent incidents last year, today we reveal that 2,525 of those cases were against men.
Even more alarming is the contention that the real figures are even higher because men and women are ashamed to admit that they are attacked by their partners.
It is a crime which knows no gender or class boundaries and it is increasing at a worrying rate. Indeed, such has been the growth in the abuse of men that the first centre to offer them help was opened this year. But clearly more needs to be done to remove the stigma associated with domestic violence so that those in abusive relationships will seek help. It takes a lot of courage for both genders to admit to being a victim of this particular type of crime.
A particular concern is that as the number of incidents increases, the rate of detection is actually falling. The Criminal Justice Inspectorate said the PSNI needs to sort out problems surrounding the use of specially trained domestic abuse officers and the role of public protection units which are seen as key elements in tackling this type of crime. It is very disappointing that most of the 13 recommendations made by the CJI three years ago have not been brought forward by the police.
It is obvious that all those concerned with the welfare of domestic abuse victims – including those who give them shelter – need to liaise and work closely together to bring the perpetrators to justice. Those who inflict injury, mental and physical, on other family members will continue to do so unless they fear that they could end up in the dock. In the meantime, victims should not be discouraged from seeking help. This hidden crime must be exposed at every opportunity.