The Silent Shame of Domestic Violence in Britain

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Author: Emely Dugan

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One in eight emergency phone calls made to the police relate to serious domestic violence incidents, new figures show today. In some areas, as many as one in five serious 999 calls are connected to domestic abuse, a survey of police forces has revealed.

The statistics show the chilling levels of domestic violence that women in Britain continue to face. Experts say these represent the tip of the iceberg, since many are never reported. A quarter of women will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime, and every week two women are killed by a current or former partner.

Three women a week kill themselves as a result of domestic abuse – and another 30 try to.

The Independent on Sunday has learnt that the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is investigating 11 cases around the country where serious failings are alleged in the police response to domestic violence.

The domestic violence charity Refuge – which The IoS is supporting for this year’s Christmas appeal – is working to prevent more women from adding to these grim statistics.

Sandra Horley, the charity’s chief executive, said: “We hold ourselves up as the pinnacle of the developed world and yet, in Britain today, thousands of women and children are brutalised and terrorised in their own homes. And services to support them are vanishing.”

The figures for emergency calls, published today by Labour to highlight International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, cover “grade 1″ incident 999 calls – those that require an emergency response – that forces in England and Wales responded to between April 2010 and August 2012. Of 20 forces that responded, an average of 12.5 per cent of these calls were related to domestic violence.

The highest rates were recorded in Merseyside, with 21 per cent, Lancashire and West Mercia, both with 18 per cent, and South Yorkshire and Humberside, both on 16 per cent.

According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales, an estimated 1.2 million women experience domestic abuse every year, a figure that includes verbal as well as physical abuse. It was estimated that last year, about 392,000 of these incidents were violent, a figure 35 per cent higher than in 2010.

Among the casualties was Sabina Akhtar. The 26-year-old had warned the police that her husband, Malik Mannan, 36, was planning to kill her two months before he burst into their Manchester home and stabbed her through the heart.

She explained to officers in graphic detail how Mannan had assaulted her 25 times, throttling her and saying: “One day I will kill you.” But he was arrested and released without charge. After he repeatedly breached his bail conditions to threaten Ms Akhtar, she made a second terrified call to the police and he was re-arrested. Again he was questioned and released without charge. Four days later Ms Akhtar was dead.

Earlier this month, a coroner ruled that “serious and significant failings” by the police, social services and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) “possibly contributed” to Ms Akhtar’s death in September 2008.

Every year, IPCC investigations show forces making the same mistakes, repeating failings in the most basic police duties. Amerdeep Somal, the IPCC’s commissioner with lead responsibility for gender abuse and domestic violence, said:

“Sadly, I have seen through my work that [police] protection is not always provided. It is a great scar on our collective conscience when a woman’s fears are not taken seriously and she is not given the protection that she deserves.

“If we are to see any fall in domestic violence deaths, year on year, it is crucial that the police and other agencies take domestic violence seriously – by listening to the concerns of the victims and taking appropriate, timely action. It is not enough that police officers should simply take a report and then file it, leaving a woman to her often inevitable fate.”

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