I’d like to start by making a disclaimer. Some people will read this article and move on. For others, there are words that may serve as a reminder of something that has happened to you in the past.
If that’s you, I am so sorry this has happened to you. But please know this: it was and is absolutely not your fault. And you are not alone.
25% of women have been victims of domestic abuse from an intimate partner at some point in their lives.
That’s 1 in every 4 women you know. You are definitely not alone.
With the world’s eyes on Qatar for the World Cup 2022, football fans the world over root for their teams during such a renowned competition.
But there are a whole section of people who dread the event and, with England playing in the quarter finals of the World Cup tomorrow, their fear will be increasing.
It is a scary fact that domestic violence incidents increased by 38% when England lose (based on 2010 figures). That figure fares slightly better when they draw or win – rising by 26% instead. The CPS service is expecting around 70-80 calls per hour of reports of criminal charges pending from the police during the World Cup.
The police service receives a phone call about domestic abuse every 30 seconds. And this figure is staggering when you think that less than 24% of domestic abuse crime is reported to the police.
There are many cases going unreported for fear of retribution. Others don’t report because they have been so crushed by their experiences that they believe they deserve it, or are responsible for causing the abusive behaviour in their partner. A victim can excuse the abuse because of the power their partner holds over them. This isolation can be devastating.
Domestic abuse can be defined in many forms, from gaslighting and coercive control to emotional and financial domination over another person. However, the effects of abuse will be long-lasting…and sometimes deadly.
Two women a week are killed by a partner or ex-partner (figures from Refuge). Three female suicides a week can be linked to domestic abuse. It can take up to 7 times for a woman to leave an abusive situation before the relationship is ended for good. Very often, that figure is a conservative one. Leaving relationships where domestic abuse is prevalent isn’t just as easy as saying to someone ‘just leave’. In fact, the point of leaving is often the most dangerous moment for victims, and so having an exit plan and a safe place to go is vital.
These people are trapped in scary situations, often with children in the home. Around 20% of children grow up in situations where they witness domestic violence in the home before they turn 16. These women may not have control of their money. They will certainly feel scared. They may not know where to turn, or whom they can trust to ask for help. Very often, their abusers will have eroded their confidence and made them feel that what has happened is somehow their fault.
40% of homeless women say that their circumstances are linked back to domestic violence. Victims of domestic abuse are twice as likely to experience depression in their lifetime.
These facts and figures are a devastating read. Except these are not just facts and figures, each number is a real woman who has lived through this experience.
So why has our national sport been linked to violence against women?
The truth, of course, is that football is not responsible for the violence. It is perpetuated by the abuser and is never the victim’s fault. But there is a culture amongst football fans where women are subjected to some form of abuse. This can range from experiencing unwanted attention from men (around 1 in 5), hearing sexist chanting (24%), to being told they know quite a bit about the sport ‘for a girl’ (44%).
What is meant by a bit of teasing and joking around can be linked to the culture of men thinking that it is normal to ridicule a woman for ‘laughs’. This then proliferates into everyday life and becomes the basis for a culture that normalises the ‘put-downs’ and this then allows for this kind of behaviour to slide by without censorship.
I’m not saying that this is all on the man, but 84% of domestic abuse victims are women. That’s a staggering figure.
Reports of domestic violence on the whole are on the rise – up by 6% between 2020 & 2021, with a reported 22% increase in people accessing the National Domestic Abuse Helpline during that time.
This means that people are getting better at reporting it – but how do we put an end to it?
None of this is an attack on men. We cannot blame all men for the crisis we find ourselves in. But educating the groups of people where this behaviour is prolific is key.
And the fact remains that domestic abuse is mostly perpetuated by men against women (although women are three times more likely to be arrested for domestic abuse against their spouses).
Men need to be empowered to feel that they can approach the perpetrator of this ‘banter’ that they see or hear. As a group, they should be able to shut down the behavior that drives this crisis and highlight why this is wrong. There is no need for it to be confrontational either. It can be a conversation explaining the ramifications that this has within our society.
We also need to help victims recognise the signs that they are experiencing abuse and increase the knowledge of where they can get help and support. As a society we need to be less afraid to ask someone if they really are ok if we are concerned about their welfare or think something is wrong. And, particularly in some circles, we need to stop applauding the longevity of relationships and start focusing on the quality of relationships instead. Someone walking away from something unhealthy should be celebrated more than being “strong enough” or “committed enough” to stay.
More understanding about domestic abuse and domestic violence is necessary across all communities and in all professions. For example, coercive control laws were only introduced in England and Wales in 2015 – and it’s only since then that we are beginning to realise how common it is in abusive relationships. I have no doubt that we all know someone who is going through domestic abuse or violence, but we are not aware of what is happening.
Only by growing in knowledge, changing attitudes and tackling this conduct in everyday situations can we make society a safer place for women and children to live in.
If you would like to learn more, head over to the Women’s Aid campaign video – He’s Coming Home
If you, or someone you know, is a victim of domestic abuse or violence, you can get help on the Women’s Aid website.
If you want to access support over the phone, here are some helplines to make note of:
The National Domestic Abuse Helpline (run by Refuge) on 0808 2000 247
I am aware that this post focuses on domestic abuse experienced by women, and that is something that I will focus on another time, but there are helplines for men, young adults and LGBT+ survivors:
The Men’s Advice Line for male domestic abuse survivors (run by Respect) 0808 801 0327
The Mix, free info and support for under 25’s on 0808 808 4994
National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0800 999 5428 (run by Galop)