Five million suffer domestic violence every year

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More than 5 million women and men are victims of domestic violence every year, new research suggests.

More than 5 million women and men are victims of domestic violence every year, new research suggests.

Incidents of domestic abuse, including rape, beating and stabbing, occur on average every six seconds in Britain, according to the results of the first national survey into the issue which were released yesterday.

A survey of all the police forces in the UK found that on one day this year - Thursday 28 September - there were 1,300 reports of incidents involving domestic violence. This total equates to more than 570,000 cases a year, with about half the incidents of violence occurring at the weekend, according to the study by academics at the University of London.

Previous studies by Home Office criminologists, however, have shown that the real figure is up to 10 times greater because few victims go to the police. Another government study has suggested that only one in three incidents are reported.

In more than half the cases recorded on 28 September a child was present during the violence, while in 8 per cent a man was the victim of an assault by a female partner.

Professor Betsy Stanko, director of the Economic and Social Research Council's violence research programme, who carried out the research, said: "We now know that a person rings the police for help for domestic violence every minute.

"Using the British Crime Survey to gauge the truer proportion of domestic violence, we could say that an incident of domestic violence occurs in the UK every six to 20 seconds." She added that one in five of all violent crimes dealt with by police is a domestic incident.

Women's groups and criminologists - and, more recently, the police - have long complained that violence in the home between partners and family members is a huge problem that is only just beginning to be recognised, let alone tackled. Until now there has been no dedicated research into the scale of the problem.

The 24-hour snapshot of a typical day of violence in the home found that 81 per cent of the victims were females attacked by males, 8 per cent were male victims attacked by women, 4 per cent were women attacked by other women and 7 per cent were males attacked by males.

Among the injuries reported were rape, "throat slashed with a razor blade", stabbing, bleeding due to being kicked during pregnancy and intimidation.

Incidents of domestic violence made up 3 per cent of all reports to police. In England there were 1,150 reports, with the highest number in the Metropolitan Police area, which recorded 171. Other metropolitan forces with high numbers were Greater Manchester, West Midlands, Northumbria, West Mercia and Merseyside. In Scotland there were 86 reported incidents, while police forces in Northern Ireland and Wales both recorded totals of 32 incidents of violence in the home.

An American report found that on average victims of domestic violence suffered 35 attacks before they called police.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Grieve, of the Metropolitan Police, said: "The findings of this survey are a shocking reminder of the scale of domestic violence.

"Domestic violence disregards gender, race, religion and age."

As well as the police other agencies involved in the survey include women's refuge and support groups and Relate, the counselling service.

The agency Victim Support reported that 1 in 15 of the people referred to it in England by the police on 28 September had suffered domestic violence. Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, which provides the only 24 hour telephone helpline (0870 599 5443) was particularly critical of the funding for agencies trying to help victims of violence.

She said: "The government is committed to the issue, but the reality is that we have been woefully short of funding for decades. This is a national problem which need national funding."

Teena Gould, 53, from Rhyl, north Wales, who was beaten by her former partner, yesterday urged anyone in an abusive relationship to seek help immediately. She had been with her partner for two years in London when he suddenly turned on her and repeatedly kicked her in the back as she lay on the floor.

"He told me afterwards that he was very careful not to kick me where it would show," she said. "He was very jealous, demanding and controlling. He said it was all my fault. At other times he might thump me or throw things. He also intimidated me and used emotional abuse."

Despite the abuse she stayed with him for another eight years. "I tried to leave about 50 times but always went back. He was very apologetic and in order to deal with what was happening I began to believe him - that it was all my fault."

But Ms Gould did eventually find the courage to leave and is now a community arts worker who is often involved in helping other victims of domestic violence.

"I thought what happened to me was unique, but it happens to women every day," she said.