An estimated 1.3 million women experienced domestic abuse in Britain last year, and 4.3 million women have experienced domestic abuse at some point since the age of 16. On average two women are killed by their partner or ex-partner every week in England and Wales. But the fact is that these shocking statistics may just be the tip of the iceberg.
The fact that it is very difficult to find statistics on cases of domestic and gender based violence that don’t make it to justice is evidence in itself that many such incidents remain completely unreported, which in turn makes the victims “invisible” and even more vulnerable.
Noticing and acknowledging potential indicators of an abusive relationship is the first step towards tackling it, and we all have a duty to do this. So says Ralitsa Peykova, of the AIRE Centre (Advice on Individual Rights in Europe) who offer free legal advice to vistims, many of whom have been trafficked across Europe and have nowhere to turn. Ralitsa and her collagues are campaigning for everyone to become more aware of the signs that may indicate a friend, colleague or employee may be the victim of domestic violence.
The initiative: Project FIRST – Networks of first points of contact for victims of domestic and gender-based violence, highlights the importance of recognising some key indicators of domestic or gender-based violence as a first step in identifying victims, and potentially help save their lives.
The AIRE Centre team invites members of the public to think of situations in their everyday lives, either at work or on a personal level, which might serve as “indicators” or “red flags” of domestic violence.
“Ensuring the early discovery of domestic and gender-based violence and providing appropriate support to victims is one of our core objectives,” says Ralitsa. “And as such, indicators will be circulated across the EU through our counterparts in other affected countries. Of course not all indicators we list will be present in an every domestic violence situation, and the presence or absence of any of the indicators will not necessarily be proof of domestic or gender-based violence, but they are a starting point for people to think of if they suspect somebody they know is the victim of such a crime.”
So what should we look for? Ralitsa and her colleagues have published a list of signs to look out for if you suspect somebody you know may be the victim of violence at home.
In friends – have they changed since meeting a new partner? Are they unable to make plans or do they have to seek consent from their partner before arranging anything, or seem to request permission t speak? Other signs include a sudden change in health, a presence change on social media, or a noticeable personality change.
In a professional environment, or one where the person is under professional care, indicators could be a lack of access to Primary Care Services, the inability to make eye contact, only showing up to appointments with their partner, or constantly missing pre-booked appointments. In the case of children in schools, they may display a disproportionate fear of punishment being communicated to their parents.
Ralitsa says: “Often the key to identifying a victim is being aware of changes in their behaviour and personality. Once you know that somebody is in trouble, there are resources out there to enable them to get the help they need. Here at AIRE we work with various agencies in Britain and across Europe to tackle domestic and gender based violence. We can offer free legal advice to victims on European human rights law and European Union law.”
- To see the full list of indicator signs, and to learn more about the service offered by AIRE, click here.