Words by Lesley Welch, a long-time activist, trainer and front-line practitioner in the prevention of domestic violence and abuse
Well, sisters, it’s bad everywhere and Bristol is no exception. I am often asked if domestic violence and abuse is on the increase, as people see more and more about it in the press, TV and internet. The bad news is that the latest published figures showed that there were 7,500 domestic violence and abuse incidents reported to Bristol police in one year (2010-11), but this is less than one-third of what probably actually happened. The good news is that there is evidence that domestic violence and abuse reduced, at least from 2001 to 2008.
But I worry that some people are complacent about the situation. The good news here is that the Bristol Quality of Life survey showed that, compared to when the Council first asked in 2008, fewer people now see domestic violence as a private matter and that a high proportion of people recognise it as coming from power and control. The bad news is that from my experience of talking to people, including to my local Neighbourhood Partnership in Bishopston, Redland and Cotham, that too many people think that only poor people do this and not wealthy. Not true!
We have come a long way in Bristol and the publicity campaigns marking the November 25th Elimination of Violence Against Women day this year will be no exception. More and more professionals in all sorts of agencies are prepared to listen and give support. As we face another round of budget cuts in April 2014, owe need to concentrate on giving true quality of service to survivors of domestic violence and abuse, and their children, and giving a clear message of zero tolerance to abusers.
When elections come round in May 2015, this is one of the few chances we have to ask probing questions and vote for the people who undertake to deliver. We all have a responsibility – in our own families, with our work colleagues, behind the closed doors of our friends’ and neighbours’ homes – there is something that we can all do to end the misery of domestic violence and abuse.