LIFESTYLE

Half Of Women Suspect They Know Victim Of Domestic Violence, Research Suggests

05/03/2013 23:51 GMT | Updated 06/03/2013 09:04 GMT

Many women do not understand what constitutes domestic violence and awareness of the issue, which is "shrouded in myth and misunderstanding" is "shockingly low", according to research by domestic violence charities.

Yet more than half (51%) of the women questioned said they knew or suspected that someone in their life had experienced domestic violence, and two women are killed by current or former partners every week in England and Wales.

The research, part of Avon UK's Speaking Out In Her Name campaign, in conjunction with Refuge and Women's Aid, was presented at the Houses of Parliament this evening in the hope that domestic violence will receive the same level of attention as other high-profile issues such as drink-driving.

The three organisations believe that education is key to improving awareness and changing attitudes of future generations.

Earlier today, Alesha Dixon, Avon's beauty and empowerment ambassador, led a group of women - domestic violence survivors, families of victims and campaigners - across Westminster Bridge on a symbolic walk of hope to commemorate the women who have died as a result of domestic violence.

WATCH: Alesha Dixon Talking About Domestic Violence

A survey of 2,000 women aged 16-55 revealed a lack of understanding about what domestic violence is, with more than half (56.6%) of women saying they either disagreed or did not know if excessive jealousy counted as domestic violence.

Nearly half (47.4%) either disagreed or did not know if going through a female partner's private electronic messages counted as domestic violence.

Just over half either disagreed (35.1%) or did not know (16%) whether a partner making all the monetary decisions was domestic violence.

Although physical and sexual violence was widely recognised as domestic violence by the majority of women questioned, there was still a level of uncertainty in younger women.

One in five (20%) 16 to 18-year-olds did not think or were unsure if pressure from a partner to have sex or do other sexual things constituted domestic violence, while 18% did not think or were unsure if slapping or hitting was a sign of domestic violence.

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When asked what they thought they should do if they knew someone was experiencing domestic violence, 70% of the women said they should call a domestic violence helpline.

But when asked what they would do, only 58% said they would do this, and this figure dropped to 45% and 35% respectively in the youngest age groups.

Only 50% of 16 to 18-year-olds said they would know where to go for help if affected by domestic violence.

In contrast, over 90% said they would know where to go for help if they needed contraception, and 77% knew which resources to tap into for mental health issues.

Despite the organisations believing education is "key", only 7% of the women said their knowledge of domestic violence came from school, rising to 15% of 16 to 18-year-olds.

Dixon said: "As the company for women, Avon is a great supporter of domestic violence charities.

"One in four women will experience domestic violence in their lives, making it the single biggest issue that will affect young women and their peers in their life.

"Yet the results of research commissioned by Avon show that awareness of domestic violence is still shockingly low and that's why it's so important that we raise awareness about a subject that is too often ignored."

Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, said: "Refuge has worked hard to bring domestic violence out of the shadows ever since we opened the world's first refuge in 1971.

"But this issue is still shrouded in myth and misunderstanding. The Government needs to invest in powerful awareness-raising campaigns to change the attitudes that allow violence and fear to darken so many homes up and down the country.

"It is essential that unhealthy attitudes and beliefs about violence against women in all professional and public spheres are challenged and addressed too.

"Changing social attitudes is not an add-on. It is at the very root of preventing and ending domestic violence."

Polly Neate, chief executive of Women's Aid, said: "It is terrifying that many young women do not know where to get help if they are experiencing domestic violence, although that is to be expected when so few young people have been taught about domestic violence at school.

"Women's Aid has developed a free downloadable teaching resource, but at the moment it is a choice for schools if they decide to educate about healthy relationships.

"If we are going to reduce the level of domestic violence in the future, and educate those directly affected now about where they can go for help and support, we need the Government to support statutory education about relationships for all young people."