Reported figures just ‘tip of the iceberg’.
Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Veterans Keith Brown is encouraging people experiencing domestic abuse to seek help, advice or support – and where appropriate, report incidents to the police.
Official statistics for 2021-22 released today, show a 1% fall in the number of domestic abuse incidents recorded by the police. Of these, just over four-in-five had a female victim and a male suspected perpetrator.
It is the first time since the ground-breaking Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act, which criminalised psychological domestic abuse and coercive and controlling behaviour and came into effect in 2019 - that the number of reported incidents has fallen.
However, the most recent results from the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (for 2018-20) estimated that fewer than one-in-five cases of domestic abuse are reported to the police.
Since the launch of the 2018 Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act, Scottish Government has introduced a range of measures to create a victim-centred justice system which helps people feel more confident in reporting crimes. This includes:
- Establishing a Domestic Homicide Review taskforce to help prevent homicides in Scotland where domestic abuse is suspected
- Providing £26.5m of funding to courts in 2021-22 to maintain enhanced court capacity, helping to address backlogs
- Introducing new Evidence by Commission suites – to improve the experience of vulnerable victims when providing evidence for court cases.
- Awarding £48m of funding to 23 organisations in Scotland over the next three years, through its Victim-Centred Approach Fund, including £18.5m for specialist advocacy support for survivors of gender-based violence.
The 2022-23 Programme for Government also commits to a consultation on new justice powers to tackle misogynistic behaviour, helping to address the root causes of inequalities and men’s violence against women. The Scottish Government is also considering the possibility of a specialist sexual offences court to help improve victims’ experience of the justice system.
Mr Brown said: “I am grateful to everyone who has felt able to come forward over the past year to report incidents of domestic abuse to the police. Behind each of these numbers is a story in itself, of months or even years of abuse and control, which is why the Scottish Government legislated to give police, prosecutors and the courts greater powers to tackle such crimes.
“While the small drop in the number of domestic abuse incidents reported to the police may be welcome, the reality has always been that figures drawn from police reports represent only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the true extent of violence against women and girls.
“My message to anyone experiencing violence, including coercive and controlling behaviours, is to seek help, advice or support – and where appropriate, report incidents to the police.
“We are continuing to make changes to the justice system to make it easier for people to come forward and report incidents and for perpetrators to be appropriately dealt with – to help realise our vision of a Scotland as a place where women and girls live free of violence and abuse.”
Assistant Chief Constable Bex Smith, Police Scotland said: “Domestic abuse remains an under-reported crime. Abusers manipulate and control their victims, and it can be difficult for victims to recognise what’s happening and then to seek help.
“Friends, families and colleagues can often be the first to recognise abuse and to call it out. I would urge anyone who is a victim of abuse or is concerned someone they know is a victim, then please get in touch. Help and support is available from the police and from support agencies.
“All it takes is one call or one person to alert us and we can help end the threat and harm caused by domestic abuse.”
Victim Support Scotland chief executive, Kate Wallace, said:
“Victim Support Scotland (VSS) is here to support people when they need it most. Looking beyond the statistics, our teams witness the devastating impact gender-based violence has on peoples’ lives.
“We all have a collective duty to unite and respond to people’s needs and do what we can to tackle gender-based violence. In response, our staff and volunteers continue to provide practical advice, emotional support as well as financial support through our Emergency Assistance Fund.
“VSS has also recently introduced remote evidence rooms where victims can pre-record or give evidence via video link to anywhere in the world, in a safe, supported and comfortable environment.
“Anyone who is experiencing domestic abuse can access support through our helpline on 0800 160 1985 or through online chat by going to victimsupport.scot.”
Scottish Women’s Aid chief executive Marsha Scott said:
‘’There are many complex and legitimate reasons why women experiencing domestic abuse decide not to report their abuse to the police. At Scottish Women’s Aid, we offer practical and emotional support to all victim-survivors of domestic abuse - whatever they decide to do—after all, they are the experts. Throughout the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, Scottish Women’s Aid’s ‘Cost of Leaving’ campaign will highlight the impact that the cost of living crisis is having on women and children experiencing domestic abuse.
“Like Covid, children and women’s experience of poverty is the crisis within a crisis. Fear of destitution and homelessness, mountains of debt, and threats from their abusers to child maintenance and other pressures make already constrained choices a set of worse-case scenarios.
“The domestic abuse statistics hardly begin to describe the abuse and fear that are made worse by the cost of living crisis. Scotland must put an appropriate financial safety net in place so that children and women seeking safety and freedom don’t face these draconian choices.”
For more information and support for people experiencing domestic abuse, please visit: Where to get support - Safer Scotland
Scotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline is available 24/7. Call free on 0800 027 1234 or email and web chat at www.sdafmh.org.uk
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