This week marks the celebration of International Women's Day on Tuesday 8th March yet less than 4 weeks ago I was stunned at figures being presented to me during my IRIS* domestic violence training course. Initially I thought the figures were inaccurate but unfortunately they weren't. Every week 2 women are killed by an abusive partner in England and Wales. Yet there is virtually silence by the media and government on the issue. Shockingly, women are more likely to die as a result of their abusive partner than from an act of terrorism. Despite being a G.P. for almost 12 years I was horrified at how little I knew about the scale of the problem.
If International Women's Day is about empowerment and pledging for parity then more needs to be done to empower those women who will be assaulted 35 times before they seek help from agencies.
Nationally an incident of domestic violence is reported to an already overstretched, underfunded police force every minute. In Greater Manchester 60,073 incidents of domestic abuse were reported to Greater Manchester Police in 2015 alone.
The cost of domestic violence and abuse to the health service is £1.7 billion per year with the major costs being to GPs and hospitals. This does not include mental health costs, estimated at an additional £176 million yet sadly mental health cuts continue when depressive illness is 4 times more likely in women suffering domestic violence. Drug and alcohol misuse also play a huge role as women experiencing domestic violence are 15 times more likely to abuse alcohol or be 9 times more likely to use non-prescription drugs. Drugs, alcohol and mental health not only affect the victims but also the perpetrators, both of whom need to be supported.
These three factors play a part in everything from political to domestic violence so it's vitally important more is done to tackle these issues.
The impact of witnessing DV can have a lasting effect on a child. Department of Health figures indicate that nearly three quarters of children on the 'at risk' register live in households where domestic violence occurs.
Some readers may be wondering why these women don't leave their partners. Many stay for the sake of their children or a lifestyle they have grown accustomed to, others have a fear of the unknown as they have always been financially or emotionally reliant on their partners (some even stay to keep their passport) and are frightened by the prospect of being alone. A low self esteem, guilt, social isolation or shame will prevent some women from speaking out or seeking help whilst others may simply be unaware of the support available.The reasons are endless and most still love their partners despite the way they are being treated.
The decision to leave a violent partner is not an easy one and unfortunately statistics show women are at greatest risk of significant harm or death at the point of separation from their partners. but with support this can change.
A testimonial by a GP describes IRIS training as 'transformational' and I couldn't agree more. The statistics are frightening and more needs to be done to raise awareness of the scale of the problem and to address an issue that affects women from all communities. Until then its up to us as women to #PledgeForParity for victims of domestic violence ( both men and women), raise our voices for the silent, empower them and make a difference, because if those statistics don't shock you then what will?
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*All figures are from IRIS training and website. IRIS is a general practice-based domestic violence and abuse (DVA) training support and referral programme to train practices to improve their identification and referrals for women being subjected to domestic violence.