DOMESTIC abuse-related crimes in England and Wales increased by 6% on last year according to the Office of National Statistics figures released last week. The figures, collected from March 2020 to March 2021, so covering the height of the pandemic and lockdowns, reported that 845,734 domestic abuse crimes had been reported.
There was also a 22% increase in calls to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline in England for the same period. Speaking exclusively to Woman Alive, Bekah Legg from domestic abuse survivor’s charity Restored UK, explained that the church needs to be more aware of what’s going on behind closed doors.
Bekah said: “I’m not surprised to see that the figures have risen in first lockdown. We knew as everyone went behind closed doors those things that happened behind closed doors would increase. The figures reflect what the sector has been saying.”
Despite the shocking increase in these crimes, there was one positive to draw from the new figures. Bekah said: “It is good that people felt they could report the crimes. But we know that research shows one in four women will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime, and that’s not good enough.
“At a policy level much more needs to be done to help survivors. We need to ensure that refuge and support is in place for women and children when they disclose. But aside from helping victims, we need to prevent this from happening in the first place. That is done by addressing young men’s attitudes towards women and making sure they learn about healthy relationships. So many young people learn about relationships from porn which doesn’t build a good foundation and unless we tackle that, we’ll never see change.”
“Unless we stop young people learning about relationships from porn, we’ll never see change.”
It’s not just the government and parents that need have a job to do to reduce these behaviours and support victims, Bekah explained that the church has some learning to do as well.
She said: “The Christian perspective should be that abuse is always wrong but actually within the church there is confusion. Some leaders who aren’t educated enough about domestic abuse will prioritise the institution of marriage over that person’s safety.
”I think we all need to become aware of the reality that this is happening on our street and in our church too. We need to acknowledge that it’s real and then get equipped to understand how to respond. In some cases that means wrestling with our theology, if our theology gets in the way.
“Some leaders who aren’t educated enough about domestic abuse will prioritise the institution of marriage over that person’s safety.”
“It is devastating to be in a relationship with someone who’s supposed to love you but doesn’t and is harming you, and then to get an equally unloving response from the church. We need to be ready to support those who speak out, tell them they aren’t alone, help them rediscover their value worth and help them find freedom.”
Restored UK is a survivors network for Christian women that provides a safe space for women who have been subjected to domestic abuse. They have a 400-strong community and host regular digital get-togethers. For more information or to donate take a look at their website.