Domestic violence : When home is where the hurt is
The huge problem of domestic violence is highlighted by the latest figures that reveal there were more than 40,000 domestic abuse incidents and crimes reported to the police in the past year.
The PSNI is responding to a domestic abuse incident every 19 minutes, and although the figures are shocking, they are only the tip of the iceberg.
Hundreds of victims suffer in silence, and it is difficult to know how many cases actually occur. The culture of domestic abuse is secretive in itself, and it takes a great deal of courage for the victim to admit to the world that this has happened and to come forward to seek help.
Undoubtedly the police are doing the best they can in the circumstances but much more needs to be done. It is important, therefore, that the victims are encouraged not only to seek help but also to become informed about the best way of doing so. Today the Belfast Telegraph is launching a special week-long series to help raise public awareness of the scale of domestic abuse across Northern Ireland.
We will provide information for those who need help, and we will also examine the work being done not only by the police, but also by the judiciary, government departments, the Probation Services and the charity Women's Aid to tackle this problem.
One of the biggest challenges for the victims is to overcome their fears, and the example of others who have done so may encourage them to seek help for themselves.
One courageous victim, Terri-Louise Graham, whose former partner was jailed for a series of violent attacks on her, has said that if she had known about his violent past she would not have entered into a relationship with him.
There may be a need for a new law to be introduced at Stormont which would allow women to find out if their partner had a violent past, but this would have to be considered carefully.
Justice Minister David Ford has disclosed that such a measure is under consideration but has warned against the danger of "mob rule" by which excessive disclosure could lead to people's families being attacked.
Clearly this is a difficult and a sensitive subject, but it is also apparent that very many people in Northern Ireland need help concerning domestic abuse and they cannot be allowed to continue to suffer in silence.