world cup domestic violenceI read a really disturbing report in The Guardian the other day which said that police forces are expecting the World Cup to have a negative impact on the levels of domestic violence across the UK. According to figures, “violent incidents increased by 38% when England lost – but also rose by 26% when they won”. What’s even more worrying, is that that figure has incresed with every tournament since 2002, with rates of domestic violence during tournaments at an all-time high. The combination of increased alcohol consumption, disappointment of losing or excitement at winning is being blamed for the spike in figures. 

The interesting (and I mean that in the gravest sense, obviously) thing is that the violence is not just ‘men hitting women’, but female on male as well as within gays couples. Husband was recently teaching Sausage about self-defence and he told her that boys should never hit girls, a sentiment with which I agree but I think there’s more to add to that statement:

1. Yes, boys should never hit girls, but girls shouldn’t be hitting boys, either.

2. If you hit a boy, don’t just expect that he won’t hit you back because you’re a girl.

3. If you hit anyone, you’re opening yourself up for retaliation.

As a mother to girls, it’s really easy to feel indignant about male-on-female violence, but I think it’s important that we also remember that violence works both ways. Yes, sexual dimorphism in humans means that men are generally bigger than women and have greater strength, but be honest – if you have sons, wouldn’t you be just as indignant about one of them being abused by a wife or girlfriend?

The other day, Husband and I were in the supermarket and we were mucking around, having a joke and a bit of banter with each other, when I jokingly said to him “I’m going to thump you when we get home!”. It was clearly said in jest and no-one batted an eyelid, but what if it had been said the other way around? If you heard a man, even jokingliy, say to his female spouse “I’m going to hit you later”, would you be able to take it with a pinch of salt, or would you secretly be wondering if he was a wife-beater? We’re hypocrites when it comes to domestic abuse, as the video below illustrates brilliantly:

What’s even more scary is that the experts now think that children who see domestic violence happening are perpetuating the behaviour as adults and continuing the negative cycle. A quote from an article in The Guardian said:

Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh said: “These trends are well established and the worrying thing is there is an increase from tournament to tournament. We have to ask – are perpetrators becoming increasingly confident? Are we seeing intergenerational abusers?

“One of the things that we are looking at is around learned behaviour and this is causing us concern. Are there now people who have seen their parent behave in this way during tournaments who now think it is acceptable for them to do the same?

Its got to the point now where concern over the rise in domestic violence during the World Cup (over 25% in Lancashire in 2010) is so significant that local authorities are running poster campaigns on bus stops and billboards, urging people not to be violent to their partners during this tournament.

I’ll just stop and let you absorb that for a moment.

We’re putting posters up to REMIND people not to abuse their significant other.

I’m sorry, but that scares the shit out of me. Has society really degraded to that point? Do we need to get the ladies in Waitrose to remind us; “Here’s your change, receipt and little green token, sir. Enjoy the match tonight and DO remember not to beat the living daylights out of your wife!”

I’m not making light of domestic violence or being glib about such a horrible situation but there’s no denying that the figures speak for themselves. What makes this even worse is that the increase is still only representative of the incidents which are actually reported…it’s estimated that 70% of domestic violence actually goes unreported, which means that the figures are nauseatingly higher than we really think they are. People are reluctant to report things because they think they won’t be taken seriously, or put themselves or their families in further danger. I have a good friend who used to be a constable in the Metropolitan Police and they’ve confided in us on more that one occasion that it’s unbearably disheartening to charge someone for a horrible, violent offence only for judges to hand out piffling, insultingly short sentences – is it any wonder people are too scared to report things when they know their abuser will be a free person within a matter of days?

I don’t know what the solution is here – I truly wish I did. All I know is, any kind of violence is wrong and we need to be doing more to teach our children this.

If you’re suffering any form of domestic abuse, be you male or female, straight, gay or anything else, you MUST get help. Refuge are an amazing charity which helps victims of domestic abuse and there are also lots of other charities working in specific areas who can help with emergency housing needs and much else besides.