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Football and the off-pitch violence at home

By Janey Stephenson

While football fans enjoy the World Cup, there's an issue off the pitch that deserves more attention. It's not the riots in Brazil, or corruption in Qatar. Across the UK, domestic violence levels are surging.

And, because of Government cuts to support services, women in abusive relationships are facing an unprecedented danger.

During the 2010 World Cup, UK domestic violence services experienced a sharp increase in calls. Physical incidents increased by 26% when England won and 38% when they lost.

England's first game is tonight – a date that could see the highest rate of World Cup-related domestic violence in the UK.

The charities that provide lifelines to domestic abuse victims are in a very different position compared to the last World Cup. They rely on Government funding to operate; yet between 2010-2012 alone, the onslaught of austerity measures depleted 31% of funding to the domestic violence sector.

Over the past four years, strained refuges have been forced to permanently close their doors; services have dissolved completely, or lost specialist members of staff, such as interpreters; local authority funding has disappeared and helplines rely on volunteers to stay open.

As Sandra Horley of Refuge says: "Violent men may choose to use match times to inflict further violence on their partners, blaming their actions on things like stress, or alcohol."

The Government has commissioned awareness-raising posters and police services will be paying special attention to existing offenders.

Mary Mason, CEO of Solace Women's Aid, said they "expect referrals to escalate" and are working with local police to provide on-call support.

But with 90% of respondents saying they have faced post-separation abuse, this need for long-term support is crucial.

In 2012, 40% of domestic violence organisations lost staff and 28% cut essential services, such as outreach and children's workers.

Over the next month, national attention will fixate on the pitch instead of on the thousands of frightened children who will witness their fathers brutalising their mothers at home.

Sporting victories pale in comparison to the Government's failure to support victims of domestic violence.

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