Councillors Debs Stainforth (Southlands) and Sharon Sluman (Mash Barn) warned Adur Council that domestic violence is often a “hidden crime” that affects adults and children, but has been on the increase during the Coronavirus pandemic. Their motion on domestic violence was passed unanimously by the council meeting last week.
“The silence around domestic violence must end” said Debs Stainforth.
The motion said domestic violence “is often a hidden crime unreported to the police and although both men and women are affected, incidence and severity are much greater for women.
“Domestic and family violence can affect the well-being and developmental growth of children and teenagers both in the short and long term The Coronavirus pandemic has further caused what one worker described as ‘an epidemic beneath a pandemic’.
“The charity Refuge reports that in the year between February 2020 and March 2021 72% of calls to their helpline were from women who said they were experiencing violence and abuse, and nearly a fifth said their abuser had threatened to kill them.
“Tragically, statistics show that more female homicide victims are killed by a partner or ex-partner than by strangers
“It is imperative we learn from and act on the weaknesses in our systems and structures the pandemic has so starkly exposed. The council has a well-developed network of support via the Wellbeing team, which includes Early help and Wellbeing, the Housing needs team plus links with Worth, West Sussex specialist services and the Women’s accommodation support officer. This council will continue and further develop its work with these partners and, together with all parts of society should play their part in tackling domestic violence’
Councillor Sharon Sluman (Mash Barn) said:
“Violence in the home is not an issue that exclusively affects women; however it is an issue that disproportionately affects women and I second this motion to support all victims of such violence.
“I cannot recall a time in my lifetime when the propensity for domestic violence has been so high in our communities: the lockdowns, their continued impacts on our residents and even recent sporting events are contributing factors to the increased reports of violence.
“The viral pandemic has created what has become known as ‘a shadow pandemic of violence’, the full extent of which is yet to be seen. This comes as a side effect of national lockdowns and is expected to continue as society endures the economic impacts of covid19: insecurity in employment, housing and financial matters are known risk factors for the onset of such violence.
“Even in recent weeks, violence in the home has been much exacerbated by our national love of football. In fact, data shows that the number of cases of reported violence within relationships increases by 38% when England loses a match and 28% when they win or draw.
“Do you remember your sense of excitement and anticipation before an England game? Can you recall your ardent desire for team glory on the pitch? That anticipation and desperation to win takes a whole different tone for these victims. It has been transformed into terror for at least 1 in 3 women at some point in their lifetime and that experience and terror long outlives transient events like our seasonal game.
“I’m not ashamed to say that this fear was once mine and it lives with me still. Look around. Statistics say that there are at least two or three other victims in this very room who share a similar experience, not to mention those people watching online, now or in the future.
“Domestic violence continues to be a major public health problem. In fact, an audit by Women’s Aid concludes that ‘demand for domestic abuse services continues to exceed available provision, leading to dangerous outcomes and impossible choices of returning to abusers or facing homelessness’. The human cost is huge.
“Additionally, with some 2.3 million victims of domestic abuse a year, more than one in ten of all offences recorded by the police are domestic abuse related. One in ten. Now, quite apart from the significant human cost of this violence, the financial cost is estimated to be approximately £66bn for victims in England and Wales for the year ending March 2017, pre-viral pandemic. Action must be taken.
“We have services to be proud of in Adur, but we cannot afford to be complacent. We are not yet meeting the needs of all service users because not everybody has equal access to these services; barriers to seeking help include immigration status, generational understanding and limited understandings of same sex relationships. These people are more likely to fall through the gaps and remain living in fear of violence.
“Whilst I am pleased to see the beginnings of a whole system response across all services, this vocabulary needs to enter the mainstream conversation across institutions so that people feel confident to recognise and tackle these issues. This is not currently the case. Indeed, it is telling that every woman knows at least one other woman who has been a victim of domestic violence, but very few men know an abuser. The silence around domestic violence must end.
“I second this motion and call upon us as a council and as individuals to never perpetrate, tolerate, excuse or remain silent about domestic abuse.”
The motion attracted all-party support and the two Labour councillors accepted an amendment from Conservative deputy leader councillor Angus Dunn to emphasise that the council would “continue and further develop” its work with a range of agencies to tackle domestic violence.
Support for those who have encountered domestic violence is available:
WORTH Services have teams of Domestic Violence Advisors across West Sussex available 5 days a week (Monday-Friday), 9.00am-5.00pm to help you. Call 07834 968539 or 033 022 28181, email DomesticAbuseServicesCentral@westsussex.gov.uk
Safe in Sussex is a registered charity providing help and support for people affected by domestic abuse in West Sussex. Helpline available Monday to Friday from 9.30am to 2.30pm 01903 896202. https://www.safeinsussex.co.uk
RISE is a Brighton-based charity that supports people affected by domestic abuse and violence. RISE stands for Refuge, Information, Support and Education. Our vision is freedom from abuse and violence; helpline number 01273 622 822. Alternatively, you can contact RISE via email on email@example.com Their website is: https://www.riseuk.org.uk
If you are in immediate danger call the Police on 999