Domestic violence ‘reaching crisis’

Domestic violence against women in the UK has reached “crisis” proportions, according to a hard-hitting report released recently.

One in four British women will experience abuse at the hands of a partner during their lives. The same proportion will be sexually assaulted or raped – normally by someone they know.

‘Culture of tolerance’

These shocking statistics are being unveiled by human rights charity Amnesty International, which is blaming a “culture of tolerance” for the epidemic of domestic violence.

It is also calling on the police and Government to drastically improve the way such crimes are investigated and punished. “In the UK violence against women in the family is at crisis point,” said Amnesty International secretary general Irene Khan.

“Behind closed doors and in secret, women are subjected to violence by their partners and close relatives, are too ashamed and afraid to report it and are seldom taken seriously when they do.”

Hitting woman ‘is okay’

There were 635,000 incidents of domestic violence in England and Wales in 2002 and new figures reveal the extent to which domestic violence is tolerated in Britain. One in three adults believes hitting a woman is “okay” under certain circumstances.

Amnesty International also points to the poor record of prosecutions for such violent crime. Less than three out of 10 domestic violence incidents reported to police result in conviction and only one in four are recorded.

Not treated seriously enough

Recent court cases, Ms Khan added, prove that domestic violence is not treated seriously enough.

Andrew Dexter, for example, will serve a minimum of just seven years in jail for the GBH, torture and manslaughter of his girlfriend Sharon Franklin. The 33-year-old, from Nuneaton, inflicted an appalling catalogue of injuries upon 32-year-old Ms Franklin, who suffered blowtorch burns, 17 skull scars and a collapsed lung. But parole laws mean his two life sentences could see him freed in 2011.

Sex trafficking rife

The Amnesty campaign also highlights the crisis in domestic violence across the rest of the world. Sex trafficking is also rife, with 700,000 women caught up in global prostitution every year.

Myra Johnson, policy chief for UK domestic violence charity Women’s Aid said: “In this country alone the statistics are shocking.

“Two women die every week as a result of domestic violence. Our relationship with the police in assisting victims has improved but there is still a long way to go in changing attitudes.”

A Home Office spokeswoman said it was working closely with other government departments to “prevent domestic violence happening or recurring, to protect and support its victims, and to bring offenders to justice”.

She added that the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Bill currently going through Parliament will modernise the law while Home Secretary David Blunkett has assigned £14 million over three years for new projects.

“We propose to strengthen police powers through a string of initiatives, including making common assault an arrestable offence and criminalising the breach of non-molestation orders.”