If I was in my house and could clearly hear a fight going on and a woman clearly in distress because of the behaviour of a man what is my duty as a citizen?
I have absolutely no doubt that it is three things if I had my wits about me.
The first action would be to knock on the door or otherwise try and engage with what was happening with my neighbours. Sometimes we can hear wrongly and what we think is a problem is not necessarily one. Sometimes a bad situation can be defused by quick intervention.
The second action would be to phone the Police. A large proportion of murders arise in domestic abuse situations and a considerable number of hospital appearances.
Thirdly (and this is where the wits about me comes in) I would record the fracas in case the matter ended up in court.
I hope I would do that and I hope that you would do so to. None of us should walk away from tackling head on matters of domestic abuse. Of course, it’s easy to moralise but sometimes for a variety of reasons it is difficult to take action regarding our neighbours. Many women for a variety of reasons are too scared to report abuse and often go to extraordinary lengths to disguise what is happening to outsiders and perhaps to themselves. Let us not forget also that in 20% of domestic abuse cases the man is the one subject to abuse and men find it even harder to report and deal with than women.
Too often women are tied to men because of concerns about him being the ‘bread-winner’ or the effect hat reporting the abuse could have on the lives of their children. When I have spoken to abuse victims, they sometimes take responsibility for the abuse on themselves. “I didn’t have his tea ready on time” or similar excuses. Another one that police hear often is, “he really does love me it’s just when he’s had a drink”.
You know as well as I do why I am writing this now. The apparent fracas involving Boris Johnson and his partner. I don’t know precisely what went on in that household and will not speculate. However, it was loud enough not only to hear but also record what was happening then quite clearly through walls so those who reported it to the Police were right to do so.
My comments are concentrated on the gutter press and Tory MPs who have sought to attack those neighbours who reported the matter. I have no doubt that they were absolutely right to do so and that to denigrate their actions is either being done just for protection of an individual or because some people have no idea of the corrosive effects of abuse ether on individuals and their children or on society as a whole.
Let’s just look at how serious this matter is by referring to the statistics on the ‘Living Without Abuse’ website.
- Will affect 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men in their lifetime
- Leads to, on average, two women being murdered each week and 30 men per year
- Accounts for 16% of all violent crime (Source: Crime in England and Wales 04/05 report), however it is still the violent crime least likely to be reported to the police
- Has more repeat victims than any other crime (on average there will have been 35 assaults before a victim calls the police)
- Is the single most quoted reason for becoming homeless (Shelter, 2002)
- In 2010 the Forced Marriage Unit responded to 1735 reports of possible Forced Marriages.
In addition, approximately 400 people commit suicide each year who have attended hospital for domestic abuse injuries in the previous six months, 200 of these attend hospital on the day they go on to commit suicide
The cost of domestic abuse
It has been estimated that domestic abuse costs the public £23 billion per annum. This includes the cost to the criminal justice system, to the health service, to social care and to housing. It is widely accepted however that this figure is an under-estimate as there are so many costs that cannot be measured.
The Home Office estimates that each domestic abuse murder costs the country just over £1 million and totals £112 million per annum.
So domestic abuse is no small matter. It damages families, damages children’s lives, costs us a fortune and pulls in huge amounts of police resources. People who report it should be thanked and not vilified. I don’t care whether the reporters are Brexit or Remain; hate their neighbours or love them; have a grudge against the neighbours or not. It is the job for all of us to report these issues; to bring in the Police if that looks necessary and then let the Police bring in the courts and social services to deal with it.