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October 20th 2021


Domestic Violence Awareness Month: How this devastating crime is likely ‘happening to someone on your street’

Nicola Bailey-Gibbs

Nicola Bailey-Gibbs

Associate, Criminal Injuries and Civil Liberties

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: How this devastating crime is likely ‘happening to someone on your street’

October has been Domestic Violence Awareness Month for more than 30 years and it is as important now as it was when it launched in the late 1980s to give a voice to victims.

October has been Domestic Violence Awareness Month for more than 30 years and it is as important now as it was when it launched in the late 1980s to give a voice to victims.

Domestic violence is a devastating crime that often goes unseen and unreported, so official data can only ever provide a partial picture of the actual level of the abuse experienced.

And yet the official figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) still paint a stark snapshot of how prevalent domestic violence and abuse is – with an estimated 2.3 million adults experiencing some form of domestic abuse in the year ending March 2020, according to the Crime Survey for England and Wales.

Police records, meanwhile, reveal that there were more than 1.2 million domestic abuse-related incidents and crimes in that same period. Of these, 758,941 were recorded as crimes, an increase of 9% from the previous year and up from 421,185 in 2015/16.

This all serves to demonstrate just how common domestic violence and abuse is. You wouldn’t think it, but if you take the street you are living on and think that, with the number of cases that are reported, it is undoubtedly happening to someone on your street.

This awareness month is invaluable if all it does is alert people to how much domestic violence there is – but the ultimate aim is to reduce it, and talking about the issue is a great starting point for that.

Domestic violence and abuse comes in many different forms

There are many different forms of domestic violence and abuse. Physical violence is often accompanied by emotionally abusive and controlling behaviour and the devastating consequences can mentally and physically scar the victims for life.

Millions of people are impacted by domestic abuse each year, but it’s not only women who are the victims. You automatically think of a wife being beaten by her husband, but that’s not always the case, it’s sometimes the other way round.

We also see incidents of children abusing their parents – with Met Police figures showing reports of child-to-parent violent offences increased 95% from 2012 to 2016. Furthermore, we’ve had cases where one sibling was abusing another, so it comes in all different shapes and sizes.

It is also important to stress that domestic abuse does not always involve physical violence. It can be sexual, financial and emotional abuse and can happen to anyone. Sustained controlling behaviour such as regularly intimidating, bullying, criticising or threatening someone in a relationship, are all forms of what is called ‘coercive control’. This is a form of domestic abuse and is a criminal offence.

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on domestic violence

Domestic Violence Awareness Month is also a good opportunity to highlight how much worse this horrible crime has got during the Covid-19 pandemic.

When the first lockdown was announced in March 2020, charities such as Women’s Aid highlighted the increased risk of harm and isolation for those affected by domestic abuse.

Although there is limited official data so far on the impact of lockdown, the ONS reported that in mid-May 2020, there was a 12% increase in the number of domestic abuse cases referred to victim support, while between April and June 2020, there was a 65% increase in calls to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, when compared to the first three months of that year.

In April 2020, the Home Affairs Committee said there was “evidence that cases are escalating more quickly to become complex and serious, with higher levels of physical violence and coercive control” – with the police recording 259,324 domestic abuse offences between March and June 2020 during the first lockdown.

Furthermore, in February 2021, Domestic Abuse Commissioner Nicole Jacobs told the Home Affairs Committee that the “tail” of the pandemic’s impact on domestic abuse would extend “well beyond” the easing of lockdown.

The ONS sought to play down this increase in offences flagged as domestic abuse-related during the pandemic. It said: “There has been a gradual increase in police recorded domestic abuse-related offences over recent years as police have improved their recording of these offences; therefore it cannot be determined whether this increase can be directly attributed to the coronavirus pandemic.”

The new Domestic Abuse Act, which passed through Parliament in April this year, is also to be welcomed. The Government hopes the Act will “provide further protections to the millions of people who experience domestic abuse, as well as strengthen measures to tackle perpetrators”.

Among its many measures include creating “a statutory definition of domestic abuse, emphasising that domestic abuse is not just physical violence, but can also be emotional, coercive or controlling, and economic abuse”.

Month helps highlight CICA redress route for victims of domestic violence

There are so many people out there who are the victims of domestic abuse who shouldn’t suffer in silence and most are unaware of the redress that they could claim for outside of the criminal route with the police.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month is a good opportunity to shine a light on the help victims can receive through the CICA route and how we can help with that.

Victims should consider making a CICA claim as a lot of the time people have had to take time off work and they will have lost earnings, so while no amount of money can ever change what has happened this can help make their lives easier and help them a bit financially.

However, there is a lack of awareness of what the CICA is as the police are not obliged to publicise this. The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) was set up by the Ministry of Justice to provide compensation to blameless victims of crime who have been mentally or physically injured as a result of crimes of violence or abuse.

Even if the police haven’t done anything about it or the criminal claim hasn’t gone through, this doesn’t mean to say that victims can’t make a CICA claim. Often it will be the case that they need to have discussed it with a professional – like their GP or they’ve had counselling. If there is something on record to back up what they’re saying, then the CICA claim should go through.

As a general rule, there is a two-year time rule in place for a CICA claim, but with abuse cases they are very flexible with that, particularly if they have spoken to their GP or had some counselling.

If the claim is out of time, we would help get the evidence needed to support the claim. If they’ve had mental health issues or they have been scarred, we’ve got a standard letter we send to their GP explaining what we need so we can help them.

With most CICA cases it is supposed to be reported within 48 hours, but with abuse cases like domestic violence that is not the case, so even if it happened some years ago they can report it now.

For more than two decades, our team of CICA lawyers have worked on behalf of hundreds of clients to help them secure the maximum amount of damages from their CICA claim.

If people are unsure about the process then they can come to us for free, no obligation advice. Click here to get in touch >> 

We also signpost our clients to services like Women’s Aid and Survivors UK for further support.

Blog by Nicola Bailey-Gibbs, Associate Solicitor in the CICA team at Hudgell Solicitors

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