We all have our own traditions which we follow at Christmas and New Year but there are common themes which we associate with this festive period including time off from work and school, the giving and receiving of gifts, families and loved ones coming together to celebrate and fun times for children. Sadly for too many families affected by the scourge of domestic abuse, this time of year can be anything but relaxing, happy or peaceful and one of the bad traditions we’ve come to recognise has been the notable increase in domestic abuse incidents generally occurring during this period.
It’s disgraceful that in 2015 this insidious behaviour still pervades our society and in such volumes (with 36, 667 charges reported to COPFS in 2014-15 and as we know, from research, crime surveys and countless victim experiences, significantly more incidents continue to be hidden and unreported to the police).
While we recognise that anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse, regardless of gender, ethnicity or sexuality, it’s also shocking that women are still the victims in over 80% of the domestic abuse crimes reported to the Procurator Fiscal, which starkly illustrates the inequality at the root of this abusive behaviour.
The Police Scotland annual festive domestic abuse campaign is underway and is a really positive recognition of the seriousness of domestic abuse and the level of priority rightly given by the police, and the Prosecution Service, to preventing further abuse through robust enforcement and prosecution.
The campaign, this year entitled ‘Love Doesn’t Control’, also provides vital awareness raising of the different forms which domestic abuse can take – the fact that it’s not just about violence but can involve a whole range of tactics designed to control, degrade and dominate the victim and often their children. With the Government about to consult on a new domestic abuse offence which would tackle this controlling and abusive behaviour, the message in the campaign is timely and also sends out a very strong message to perpetrators of the consequences for them if they behave in this way.
There is no place for domestic abuse over the festive period, or at any time, and we all have a role to play in preventing it. Police and prosecutors will be responding quickly and robustly to any reported incidents to ensure the safety of victims and their children is paramount and that perpetrators are held to account for their actions. We will also continue to work closely with other agencies that can provide support to victims, and some key contacts for help and support are provided below.
We encourage anyone experiencing or witnessing domestic abuse to contact the police to report it and this year let’s hope as many families as possible can enjoy the good traditions of this festive period without experiencing domestic abuse.
Anne Marie Hicks
National Procurator Fiscal for Domestic Abuse
Contacts for help or support
Police Scotland – in an emergency call 999; to report a crime call 101
Scottish Domestic Abuse Helpline – 0800 027 1234 - www.sdah.scot
Scottish Women’s Aid – www.scottishwomensaid.org.uk
Rape Crisis Scotland – www.rapecrisisscotland.org.uk