Domestic abuse figures soar in Hampshire but experts reveal a promising picture as victims speak up
The news comes in the wake of a heartbreaking case in which a victim of domestic violence took her own life following years of abuse – prompting her family to urge others in the same situation to seek help.
The number of recorded domestic abuse incidents has increased by 27.5 percent since 2017/18 where the number stood at 34,927 for Hampshire. This current year to date, the data has climbed significantly, reaching 44,534 incidents in total - but experts within the local authorities and charities explain that this could pave the way to a brighter future for victims.
Despite alarming figures depicting the increase in reports of domestic incidents, officials say this is because more and more victims are finding the courage to seek help. The numbers are also a decrease of 3.9 percent of incidents over the last 12 months which follows a national trend with more people coming forward sooner.
A domestic incident is defined as an incident that the police have been made aware of via a report, about a possible crime, but it is clear from the outset or after further enquiries that no crime has been committed. In contrast a crime relates to an incident where it has been ascertained, via evidence, that criminal offences have been committed.
In relation to domestic abuse, Formal Action Taken refers to whether someone has been charged/summonsed, given a caution or youth caution, given a Community Resolution Order or issued with a Domestic Violence Protection Notice / Order.
Detective Chief Superintendent Fiona Bitters, domestic abuse lead for Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary, said: “In the last 12 months, we have seen a decrease in domestic-related incidents (-3.9 percent) and a further decrease in repeat incidents (-10.8 per cent) across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight – which follows a similar trend being seen at a national level.
“We are absolutely clear that we do not tolerate any form of domestic abuse or violence We will do everything in our power to identify offenders, engage with our victims and pursue an appropriate outcome.
“We know that a large number of domestic-related incidents cases are not prosecuted due to the incredibly complex nature of the circumstances that have usually occurred in the privacy of a home.
“We are fully committed to identifying children and adults who are living with violence and abuse, and increasing their trust and confidence to report domestic related incidents.”
Domestic abuse currently accounts for just over a quarter of all crimes in Hampshire for the current year, 20,607 of which are repeat incidents.
On February 1, 2023, Chloe Holland, Portsmouth, took her own life after being abused by her partner over the course of a year. During that time, she was isolated by him, controlled, assaulted on numerous occasions and manipulated continuously. Her perpetrator has been sentenced to 41 months in prison for controlling and coercive behaviour.
The 23-year-old found the bravery to go to the police two weeks before her death and her mum, Sharon Holland is now trying to raise as much awareness as possible.
Sharon said: “She said she was terrified, absolutely terrified. It is just horrendous to think that she went through all that time. She had no one.
“We want massive awareness where this is concerned because I have never heard about this type of thing until now and I don’t want other families to go through this.
“Reach out to your daughter or son, as this happens to men as well. If you have suspicions that something is going on, reach out to them. Be patient with them because once they are strong enough, they will leave and come forward but it is getting them to that stage.”
Sharon commended the police who supported Chloe and made her feel comfortable whilst having to relive the trauma during interviews.
Hampshire Police and Crime Commissioner Donna Jones said: “In recent years there has been a national drive to encourage victims to come forward which means we have seen more people contact the police for help.
“Domestic abuse is a despicable crime that grows insidiously through relationships, families and communities, and I’m doing all I can to make sure we support victims at every stage, and that we tackle the root causes effectively.”
Donna Jones has recently announced new contracts that provide further support for domestic abuse including Project Foundation which will offer perpetrators pathways to help change their behaviour as a long-term solution to protect victims. According to the Office for National Statistics one in twenty adults, aged over 16, experienced domestic abuse in the UK. Whether this is physical or non-physical abuse, it is still prevalent and there is a push urging victims to come forward to tackle the issue.
Portsmouth City Council has also invested in a number of resources and services that domestic abuse victims can access including Stop Domestic Abuse, Yellow Door and You Trust all of which support victims in numerous ways.
A domestic abuse strategy was outlined in 2019 in a bid to make people feel safer in their homes and since the scheme was initiated, domestic abuse has started to find its way into conversations with less of a stigma surrounding it.
Councillor Ian Holder, Cabinet Member for Safety in the Community at the council, said: "Tackling domestic abuse is an absolute priority for the council. We recognise the terrible harm it does and we're working hard to reduce it and to help those who are victims.
“On behalf of the Safer Portsmouth Partnership we regularly run publicity campaigns to raise awareness of the signs of domestic abuse and encourage people to think about their relationships. We also organise talks in schools, and training for community organisations, both run by Stop Domestic Abuse.”
The Stop Domestic Abuse charity supports victims of domestic abuse across Hampshire in a number of different ways. It has 18 refugees across Hampshire, Portsmouth and Southampton which can accommodate 106 women and their children and it offers support to anyone struggling with domestic abuse.
During the year 2022/23, the charity responded to 36,509 calls for advice and support and there has been a noticeable increase in the shift from medium risk victims to high risk victims.
“There has been an increase in people asking for help. We don’t know if there is a rise in domestic abuse, the statistics remain the same that one in four women will face domestic abuse in their lifetime and two women a week are killed by a man.
“It is estimated that a further 200 women take their lives every year due to domestic abuse. If your life is so awful sometimes women feel like their only way out is by taking that route and these aren’t necessarily women living in a violent relationship.”
In the first six months of 2023, 49 percent of people accessing the service were experiencing financial abuse and there was a 20 percent increase in referrals overall.
An anonymous user of Stop Domestic Abuse said: “I was scared to go out as my ex used to bomb my phone with messages and I used to be on egg shells and I was financially abused by him wanting to have my money all the time.
“Stop Domestic Abuse’s refuge has helped me because now I have my own space and freedom to do what I want and have my money to myself and staff help me to budget and now hopefully get my own place to continue my journey after fleeing domestic violence”.
Another anonymous service user of Stop Domestic Abuse said: “So many people I know experience it, it was everywhere. I was so scared, I felt like I couldn’t lead any type of life.”
The Office for National Statistics found that more than three quarters of victims accessing independent domestic abuse advisers between 2022 and 2023 were aged between 20 and 44 years.
Aurora New Dawn is another service which is frequently accessed by victims of domestic abuse and last year alone, the team helped 2,300. The charity supports survivors of domestic abuse, sexual violence and stalking and the charity’s website is carefully designed to ensure victims feel comfortable whilst seeking help.
Shonagh Dillon founded it in 2011 and since then the team has expanded, awards have been won and victims have a safe haven where they can be themselves and speak freely about their experience. During the pandemic, the team saw a 63 percent increase in victims using the helpline service, which is open every night Monday to Thursday 6pm to 8am and 24/7 at weekends and bank holidays.
Shonagh said: “Sometimes it is good news that numbers of reported incidents are increasing, it means that more women and girls feel able to come forward, however, what happens next is vital and we still have a woefully inadequate conviction rate for domestic abuse, and far too few offenders are held to account.
“Having worked in the Violence Against Women sector for nearly thirty years now I am honoured to be able to head up an organisation that serves the community I grew up in and I am really proud Aurora has also expanded to areas across the UK.”
If you are in an emergency, call 999.