Men 'would use force in home': As 'Zero Tolerance' campaign begins, survey reveals domestic abuse is widespread. Heather Mills reports

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NEARLY two out of three men admit they would use violence on their wives or partners in 'conflict' situations, according to one of the most detailed surveys of domestic abuse.

Confronted with infidelity, being 'nagged', a partner arriving late home without explanation, a heated row, or when expectations over housework or child care are not met, nearly one in five men said they would react violently every time. A similar number confessed to having resorted to violence in at least two of those situations. Just 37 per cent of men questioned said they would never use violence.

The survey, of 1,000 men and women in the north London borough of Islington, concludes that domestic violence is widespread and far more common than previous studies have suggested.

The response of the men is mirrored by the evidence of the women. Nearly one in three said they were the victims of what the survey termed 'composite violence' (see last line of graphic) - they were punched or slapped, kicked, headbutted, suffered attempted strangulation or were struck with a weapon - many of those resulting in injury.

Unlike some previous studies, the research shows that victims and abusers come from all social classes and ethnic groups. It appears to decrease after the age of 40.

Jane Mooney, of Middlesex University's Centre for Criminology, who carried out the research said: 'The survey has provided the statistical confirmation for what women's groups have always claimed - that there are very high levels of domestic violence. Most others have not looked seriously at how to uncover evidence which is very hidden and very private. It highlights the need for far more resources for women.'

The survey is due to be published at the end of the month but its findings are being cited as part of today's 'Zero Tolerence' campaign - London's first major crime prevention campaign focusing on violence against women.

The campaign, organised by the Association of London Authorities, follows a similar scheme launched in Edinburgh a year ago aimed at raising public awareness, and tackling the high levels of domestic crime through education, changes in the law, and providing adequate support services for women and their children.

One of its main aims is to challenge the apparent acceptance of violence in the home, particularly by men - as reflected in the north London survey, and a study of young people in Edinburgh which showed that more than two- thirds of boys believed there was some likelihood of their using violence in future relationships. Most reported witnessing or experiencing violence in their families.

Stark statistics highlighted by the Zero Tolerance campaign include:

Almost half of all murders of women are killings by a current or former partner.

In London, 100,000 women a year seek treatment for violent injuries received in the home.

Domestic violence accounts for a quarter of all reported violent crime.

Between 1990 and 1991, London police reported a 66 per cent increase in reported domestic assault.

Four out of 10 homeless young women left home because of abuse.

The Hidden Figure: Domestic Violence in North London; London Borough of Islington, Town Hall, Upper Street, London N1 2UD; pounds 8.

(Graphic omitted)