DORSET Police are dealing with a case of domestic violence every hour of the day.
Officers receive on average 700 reports of domestic abuse per month across the county and have dealt with more than 36,000 incidents of domestic violence in the last five years.
Figures obtained by the Echo under the Freedom of Information Act revealed the shocking figures which soared last year.
A total of 29,431 incidents of domestic violence from a man towards a woman were reported to officers in the county across the five-year period.
More than 4,000 calls were regarding violence from a woman towards a man over the five-year period, reaching 1,000 incidents last year. A total of 2,678 ‘other’ domestic violence-related incidents occurred across the last five years, including same-sex domestic abuse, which campaigners claim is due to ‘a shift in perception’.
Reported incidents of domestic abuse tend to increase over the Christmas and New Year period.
Across the UK two women a week and one man every 17 days are killed by their partner or former partner.
Detective Inspector Steve Thorpe, right, of Dorset Police, said: “Dorset Police has seen a rise in the number of reported cases of domestic abuse in recent years and I believe this is largely due to victims willing to report it to the police and take action against the perpetrator.
“We have taken a number of steps to help support victims in reporting these crimes and we work in close partnership with other support agencies.
“We have a dedicated team of specially-trained and experienced officers and police staff to respond to and investigate domestic abuse and to provide the best possible support and protection to victims and their families.
“I would urge anyone suffering domestic abuse to come forward and report it so that action can be taken to keep them safe.”
“I would also warn anyone committing an act of domestic abuse – you will be arrested and dealt with robustly.
“Domestic abuse offences can attract significant custodial sentences.”
Still suffering 30 years after escape
A DORSET woman says she lived in constant fear as a victim of domestic abuse.
The mother-of-three, who does not wish to be named, told the Echo that she still suffers despite it being 30 years since she got away from a violent relationship.
She is urging both male and female victims to seek help and have the strength to walk away.
“It’s not just physical abuse – it’s mental and financial abuse.
“I’ve had glass bowls thrown at me, slaps and pushes – it’s a life spent living in fear.
“It was only when I started to speak to people that I realised it wasn’t right and I built up the strength to walk away.”
After meeting her ex-husband when she was only 16, the former abuse victim was married just one year later.
She told the Echo: “I was a troubled and vulnerable teenager and I think that’s what led me into such an unhealthy relationship.
“The first time he hit me was a week after we had been married and it was because I’d bought salad cream instead of mayonnaise.
“To begin with I took his possessive and controlling behaviour as a sign that he really loved me.”
The controlling relationship meant the young bride soon gave up her career aspirations.
She added: “He came out with all of these excuses that he was sorry and it was the pressure of working away.
“Soon I found myself with no friends and he wanted to move away from Dorset.
“Looking back I can see it was the typical situation of abuse where he wanted to get me away from my family and friends.
“If the dinner was spoilt he would slap me. I tried to leave but I soon found out I was pregnant.”
The couple moved back to Dorset and had a second child before she found the strength to leave.
“One time he threw a glass bowl and it nearly hit me and the children.
“Another time I went to the doctor with scold marks and he pretty much guessed what was happening.
“I thought that was how I was going to have to live for the rest of my life.
“I thought I was so stupid and I didn’t deserve anything else.”
She spoke of how the abuse continued following the couple’s divorce.
“One awful evening I’d gone out and came home to find that he’d smashed all the windows and been in the house with a carving knife before ripping up all the soft furnishings.
“He smashed up everything, I was left with nothing. I know he’d been waiting for me with the knife.
“I didn’t know what love was until I met my new partner. That’s when my ex-husband finally left me alone.”
She spoke of how she only dealt with her experience years later when she sought counselling.
She added: “Every person has choices and if you can’t make them for yourself make them for your kids.”
Think of children
A SPOKESMAN for the Women Action Network Dorset (WAND) group said: “It is worrying to see the upward trend of domestic violence over the past four years and we would encourage anyone, whatever their sex, that is experiencing domestic violence and abuse to seek help and support as soon as possible.
“It can sometimes seem an impossible task to escape a domestic abuse environment, but it is possible and support agencies are in place to assist you in making the break.
“I would especially urge parents to put the needs of their children first.”
Month-long operation a success
A POLICE operation to tackle domestic abuse in Dorset over the Christmas period was hailed a success.
A total of 105 high-risk victims of domestic violence were identified in Dorset as requiring home visits under Operation Maple – which ran throughout December 2013.
Seventy-three victims were visited and spoken to. A further 29 people were visited and were either not seen or did not reply. Three were not visited. No arrests were made.
The operation was so successful across the Christmas and New Year period that it will be repeated during the FIFA World Cup in the summer and again next Christmas.
Officers stepped up patrols with additional trained officers dedicated to deal with the issue over the festive period.
They carried out visits to reassure high-risk victims.
They were also tasked to put safeguarding measures in place to help children and vulnerable adults.
Known offenders were told to expect a police visit to ensure they are abiding by any special conditions or court orders.
Lesbian, gay and bisexual help
BROKEN Rainbow UK supports people of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community affected by domestic violence and abuse.
Jo Harvey Barringer, managing director of the group, said: “Research has consistently shown that the prevalence of domestic violence in LGB relationships is broadly in line with that of the general population, however the difference comes when looking at reporting – LGB people frequently do not feel confident to report incidents.
“This increase in reporting demonstrates a shift in this perception amongst those experiencing same-sex domestic abuse, a shift in line with the support we offer our helpline callers in considering reporting and with the training and advice we offer statutory agencies.
“We hope to see further increases in confidence to report, to be understood and to be taken seriously by the police.”
Since being established in 2002, a range of services include the national LGBT DV helpline, email service and partnership projects across the UK. Visit: brokenrainbow.org.uk, call 0300 999 5428 between 10am-5pm.