Domestic abuse takes its toll on 10,300 victims

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THE extent of domestic abuse in Sheffield was revealed this week.

More than 10,300 women and girls were victims last year – with as many as 3,200 cases ending up in accident and emergency. Six suicides were related to domestic abuse and about 400 attempted suicide.

The statistics, released by the new Sheffield Domestic Abuse Partnership, relate to females aged 15 to 59.

They also show there were around 6,800 victims of serious sexual assault and 12,200 victims of stalking in 2010/11 – although there is an overlap between the groups.

Number of incidents reported to South Yorkshire Police have also increased, although officials say this may be the result of better recording practices and greater public confidence.

Lisa King, from the Refuge domestic abuse charity, said: “These figures are not surprising to Refuge but the public may find them shocking because domestic violence continues to be very hidden.

“It’s also worth bearing in mind around 80% of domestic violence incidents are not reported to police, so even the figures revealed in Sheffield are probably only the tip of the iceberg.

I’m sure better recording of incidents will have helped to more effectively identify incidents of domestic violence. However, when you consider that on average a woman is beaten 35 times before she makes a call to the police, you realise there are likely to be many more women suffering in silence.”

The Domestic Abuse Partnership offers a professionally-staffed helpline and a city-wide community outreach support services and victims can be pointed in the direction of mental health, alcohol and drugs services. Help and advice is now offered in the Northern General’s accident and emergency unit and at the Jessop maternity wing. Initially based at Ecclesfield Police Station, the organisation is moving to Snig Hill.

According to its estimates, 10,327 women and girls were victims last year. Between 1,100 and 3,200 ended up in casualty.

“Domestic abuse also affects men and older people and therefore these estimates are conservative,” says a report to councillors today (Thursday).

The performance in dealing with the problem is “good in comparison with comparable areas”, and the co-ordinated approach – using a variety of agencies including specialist police, volunteers, probation service, hospitals and women’s refuges – results in financial savings.

Vince Roberts, the council’s interim director of neighbourhood renewal and partnerships, said: “Recorded incidents of domestic abuse rose significantly in the last 12 months but we believe this is down to better recording by police, the unique and targeted way we have marketed the new phone number, and an increased confidence in reporting by victims. It gives some idea of the scale of the issue in Sheffield, and as the partnership develops we will continue to improve the services we can offer.”