From the most recent statistics released by the PSNI, from December 2013, rates of incidents of domestic violence have increased year on year. Almost 1,100 further incidents took place in 2014-15 than in 2012-13, and in terms of recorded crime, there has been an increase by almost 2,300 in the same time period.
342 new cases of domestic violence or related crime have occurred in the period where the victim has been under the age of 18. This is an increased of almost 1,000 since 2004.
Shockingly, where the victim of the domestic violence or related crime is a male over the age of 18, incidents since 2004 have almost doubled.
In terms of offenders, whilst men are still overwhelmingly behind domestic violence and related offences, the number of women who are perpetrators is steadily rising, from 416 in 2010-11 to 558 in 2014-15.
Craigavon and Foyle have the highest prevalence of domestic violence or related crime where the victim is under 18 years of age according to PSNI statistics for 2014-15, with the same two areas top of the table for domestic violence directed at male victims.
A scheme run by the Housing Executive in conjunction with the PSNI has been put in place in recent times to assist domestic violence victims stay in their homes.
According to the Housing Executive: “The Sanctuary Scheme is a victim–centred Housing Executive led initiative, designed to assist victims of domestic violence and prevent homelessness. It involves the creation of a sanctuary room – a safe room within the home where the victim can call and wait for the arrival of the police. Additional work can include increased door and window security and where necessary, the provision of fire safety equipment.”
However, despite the figures above, it would seem that this scheme is being substantially underused.
Figures obtained by BtP via the Freedom of Information Act show that from when the schemes was introduced in May 2011, only 35 properties throughout the entire province have been adapted for domestic violence victims.
One property in the entire Belfast NIHE area has been adapted, with a cost of £123.42. In the North Region, which covers the North, Eastern and West areas of NI for the Housing Executive, only 16 properties have been adopted, at a cost of £12,663.06, and in the South region, which covers Craigavon, Armagh/Banbridge, Lurgan and Portadown areas, 18 properties have been adapted at a cost of £27,074.21.
These figures are surprising given the prevalence in Foyle and Craigavon of domestic violence, and given the Housing Executive admitted to us in their response that ‘we do not have a budget as work is carried out on request from the PSNI in agreement with the tenant’ – the question is, is enough being done to address domestic violence, especially for those victims who feel unsafe in their homes?