Domestic violence is on the rise in South West London with over 8,000 domestic crimes in the area over the past year.
More than half of these incidents took place in Croydon and Lambeth.
Domestic crimes include threatening behaviour, violence or abuse, whether psychological, sexual or financial, between two people in an intimate or familial relationship, regardless of gender.
“If you are forced to alter your behaviour because you are frightened of your partner’s reaction, you are being abused,” said a spokesperson for Refuge, the largest UK based domestic violence charity.
“Anyone can be abused, no matter where they live or how much money they have. You only have to think of the celebrities we hear about in the papers to realise that money cannot protect you from domestic violence.”
She said that men who abuse women are as likely to be lawyers, accountants and judges as they are milkmen, cleaners or unemployed.
“Abusers learn to be violent from the society they grow up in. Inequality between the sexes means that men have more power than women – inevitably some of them abuse or exploit that power,” she added.
“We are all affected by domestic violence, and we all have a responsibility to speak out against it. Only then will it end.”
Lambeth’s Gaia Centre, which is run by Refuge offers free confidential, non-judgemental and independent support to young women whose relationships leave them feeling scared, intimidated or controlled.
25-year-old Natasha Kent* from Lambeth fell victim to a four year long abusive relationship in 2006.
“Domestic abuse and violence towards women and children is all around us. Unfortunately it’s far more common than we think,” she said.
“It is a carefully laid trap aimed to control the victim psychologically, emotionally, physically, sexually and financially.”
She met her then boyfriend when she was just 18.
“It was only once we moved in together and I was invested in the relationship that he began to become violent. It took all the support of my friends, family, the police and Refuge to get me out,” she said.
“What is needed is a change in attitude. People need to see domestic violence for what it is: cowardly and manipulative.”
The government’s definition of domestic violence widened in April to recognise that 16 to 18-year-olds also experience and perpetrate domestic violence.
“Domestic abuse is very damaging for victims of any age – but when experienced at a young age it can set a tone and a damaging expectation of what is acceptable for the rest of your life.” said Lambeth Cllr Jack Hopkins, Cabinet Member for Safer and Stronger Neighbourhoods.
“Some teens have very worrying attitudes about what is and isn’t acceptable – abuse is not normal and is never alright.
Addressing Violence Against Women and Girls is a key council priority for Lambeth council and for the Safer Lambeth Partnership.
Over three quarters of young people do not feel they have enough information and support to deal with physical or sexual violence according to an ICM poll for End Violence Against Women Coalition.
“We are determined to explain to young people who experience domestic violence that they just don’t have to put up with someone they are close to being abusive towards them and that support is available,” he added.
“We are also telling perpetrators that what they are doing is wrong, won’t be tolerated and that we will take every step to ensure we get successful prosecutions through the courts.”
Kensington and Chelsea are also playing their part to tackle domestic violence and particularly violence against Women and Girls.
They are encouraging the Royal Borough’s residents to wear a white ribbon all of next week, November 25 to December 1, to support and mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
The White Ribbon Campaign is a visible personal pledge never to commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women.
Picture courtesy of Ray Forster, with thanks