By Rachael Fulton, Safe World Senior Correspondent
An estimated 45,000 incidents of domestic abuse occur within the country every year, meaning that 1 in 4 women are likely to become victims at some point in their lifetime. Statistics also highlight the dangerous lack of reporting that prevents abusive partners being brought to justice.
According to the Glasgow Community Safety Partnership, Scottish women are assaulted an average of 35 times before contacting police to report their partner’s crimes.
The key factor in this chronic under-reporting is fear.
The methods of psychological control exerted over a victim prevent them from calling the police or seeking help.
These control methods often manifest themselves in acts of humiliation, degradation or threats of violence. Even in cases in which the perpetrator is not physically violent towards their partner, manipulation and verbal abuse leave hundreds of Scots terrified in their own homes.
“Abusers often threaten to kill or stalk their victim, or have their children removed by social services,” said Heather Coady, Policy Officer at Scottish Women’s Aid.
“Many different ‘tactics’ can be employed by abusers, fear being the common denominator. Domestic abuse is about power and control and one person taking away the choices and autonomy of another through the use of fear.”
The vulnerability of women living within abusive relationships allows further control to be exercised by the abuser. The more that a woman’s self-worth is depleted by violence, verbal abuse and degradation, the more likely she is to accept her fate as a victim. She may begin to agree with her partner’s insults and believe that she deserves the abuse.
Women in these circumstances commonly turn to substance abuse as a form of escapism, or suffer severe psychological disorders such as anorexia and depression.
Abusers also purposefully isolate their victims from friends and family, encouraging their partners to cut all ties with their loved ones. This makes victims increasingly more dependent on abusers and prevents family members from intervening.
Perpetrators often try to convince their victims that assaults and abuse are deserved or provoked, whether this be through speaking back in arguments, looking at them the wrong way or not cleaning the kitchen properly. Victims withdraw from society, become more introverted and become less recognizable as their former selves.
In these households, victims are silenced and abuse rapidly escalates, sometimes ending in fatalities.
“Many women do not come forward because they are too ashamed or because they do not fully understand that they are being abused and that there are alternatives,” said Coady.
Giving a voice to these silenced women is pivotal in rescuing them from harm, breaking cycles of violence and raising awareness of domestic abuse.
In Scotland, many organisations and support groups endeavour to restore women’s self-confidence and enable them to speak up about their experiences. Scottish Women’s Aid is made up of local women’s aid groups that provide services including safe refuge accommodation, support, information, and advocacy.
Unfortunately, due to lack of funding and space, hundreds of desperate women and children must be turned away from these safe houses and return to their abusive households.
In only one day in Scotland, 54 women and their 51 children requested refuge, but only 17 women and 24 kids were accommodated. One in three fleeing families were refused.
“Sadly there isn’t sufficient funding available in Scotland. We are still turning women and children away, and some areas have had to limit the service they can provide. Scotland has done well in terms of a more strategic and coordinated approach to domestic abuse. However, we are increasingly seeing a ‘post code’ lottery approach due to the shift from national to local responsibility,” explained Coady.
“We need the government to continue to take the lead in addressing domestic abuse, keeping it as a priority and tackling the issue via good, well-resourced prevention campaigns and programmes.”
While women’s aid organisations and refuge centres struggle to support hundreds of abused Scottish women, other smaller organisations across the country comfort them by different means.
The Glasgow-based Still We Rise Choir aims to re-instate the voice of abused women through the medium of song. Formed in 2007, the choir aims to raise awareness of domestic abuse and liberate survivors.
“I think it’s important that there are groups like this for survivors of abuse in Scotland, because all too often the issue of violence against women is hidden, and survivors are silenced,” said Cath Campbell of the Still We Rise Choir.
The group is not only for survivors and their loved ones, but is open to any woman who wishes to raise awareness of domestic violence. The group performs at Glasgow’s Reclaim The Night marches and welcomes new members to support survivors.
“Coming together to sing is a way of making our voices heard, supporting each other and making something positive out of what is still a stigmatised issue,” Campbell said.
“It’s very important to us to have a space that is positive, inclusive and centred on hope, strength and celebration. Everyone is touched by the issue of violence against women in some way and together we have a stronger voice.”
While the fight against domestic abuse in Scotland is far from over, groups and initiatives such as these continue to campaign for awareness, funding and support.
With the worldwide trending of #ididnotreport helping to give sufferers an outlet for expression and legislation such as Clare’s Law allowing women to view their partner’s past convictions, it would appear that society is moving towards uncovering the nation’s domestic abuse secrets.
Despite this, the government has slashed much-needed funding for refuge centres and aid organisations.
There is still so much to be done, so much funding to be raised and, ultimately, lives to be saved.
Contact Still We Rise: email@example.com