DOMESTIC abuse calls in Herefordshire spiked by a third following England’s World Cup knockout, mirroring a worrying trend nationwide of incidents during major football tournaments.
On Friday alone – the day following England’s second defeat – Hereford-based West Mercia Women’s Aid (WMWA) dealt with four serious cases where women had been taken into a refuge for their own safety. Ordinarily they may see just one such case a day.
The prevalence of domestic violence during tournaments – total calls were up around 30% in the county following England matches this month – can be attributed to the widespread drinking and high emotions that often accompany them.
“It’s an excuse,” said Jan Frances, chief executive of WMWA, who has led a campaign to appeal to perpetrators during the tournament.
“Perpetrators are not monsters, but we need to make clear the message that society doesn’t find that behaviour acceptable.
“This campaign has been one of the first aimed at the perpetrators of domestic violence.”
A television advert ran nationwide before last Thursday night’s England game against Uruguay.
Ms Frances said: “Abuse is not just violence; it can be intimidation, criticism.
“Women talk about becoming a different person during these times of heightened stress.
“We take calls from across the socio-economic spectrum – it’s not the perceived working-class, football fan stereotype – but there is some link with the national football team.
“We don’t run this kind of campaign around Wimbledon.”
WMWA will analyse the calls and compare them to Christmas – a similar time of heightened pressure and increased drinking – with the hope of establishing whether they are seeing more frequent domestic abuse, or an increase in the number of perpetrators.
Last week helpline workers noted a “definite increase” in calls, with many victims also making contact via Facebook.
Often they mentioned seeing the campaign posters, produced in conjunction with West Mercia police.
The campaign is being backed up through the courts; Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPO) now enable police to remove an abusive partner from the home for a 28-day day ‘cooling off’ period without them having to appear in front of the courts.
These powers give both the victim and perpetrator the space to think, and services time begin working with offenders to change their behaviour.
West Mercia police’s Det Supt Stephen Cullen said he hoped the orders send a clear message to perpetrators of domestic abuse.
Ms Frances added that Herefordshire is already fighting a significant domestic abuse problem – with the isolating factors of rural population making it hard to get both and awareness and services out to smaller communities.
She said: “I think there is still a big stigma surrounding domestic abuse in rural areas and small villages.
“And in smaller communities women can feel increasingly cut-off, isolated by transport links, and simply by seeing less people.
“With funding cuts to services, it is increasingly harder to get out to communities to help.
“The DVPOs will help but they are not the solution – the solution is raising a generation who do not think abuse is acceptable.”
For help and advice call West Mercia Women’s Aid 24-hour helpline on 0800 783 1359, visit http://www.westmerciawomensaid.org or check West Mercia police’s website.