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High emotions on the field and off it

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This first appeared in the Wigan Observer on May 21st 2014.

Q: I have read an article that suggests the amount of domestic abuse cases rises during the World Cup. Is this true?

A: As England’s domestic football season comes to a close with last weekends FA Cup Final, the culmination of another vintage season, football fans and perhaps the wider country’s attention turns excitedly to our national team’s prospects in Brazil. The World Cup should be a time of excitement and celebration when football fans from all over the world come together to celebrate the ‘Beautiful Game’. Unfortunately, the reality is that passions and heightened emotions are not likely to be restricted to the football tournament itself and with alcohol having an additional influence will spill over back into the domestic home situation too.

One in four women will be a victim of domestic violence at some point during their lifetime and a considerable proportion of men. It is important to note that domestic abuse is perpetrated by and upon both men and women with national statistics indicating that in the worst cases as many as 2 women a week are killed by their partner, with Office of National Statistics indicating that in 2011/2012 1.2 million (7.3%) women and 800,000 (5%) men having had experience of domestic abuse during the year.

Incidents of domestic abuse and violence are found to peak during times of great stress or emotional turmoil, and particularly where there’s alcohol involved, such as Christmas time, summer holidays and big sporting occasions such as the World Cup. Unfortunately some still don’t treat the potential for abuse, or its damaging effect seriously as evidenced by recent Twitter comments about a female football’s fan likelihood of experiencing domestic abuse at the hands of her partner because his team lost. Although that is a bad and misplaced attempt at inappropriate humour, it does sadly reflect what happens in reality.

While some may suggest an increase in domestic violence at this time might just be scaremongering, there are solid statistics to back it up. A research paper released by the University of St Andrews in 2013 found that there was a “statistically significant” increase of incidents of domestic abuse and violence, following all “Old Firm” derbies between Glasgow Rangers and Celtic between 2008 and 2011. Further there was a near doubling of incidents over a 10 year period to a staggering 59,847 in 2012, the majority of whom were women living within the Strathclyde Police area. Whether this reflects an increase in reporting because of increased intolerance of such abuse or an actual increase in incidents is uncertain.

Further, during the last World Cup, on 27th June 2010, Greater Manchester police logged 353 incidents of domestic violence – the day on which England was defeated 4-1 by Germany and was knocked out of the tournament. The figure was 15.7% higher than that recorded on the same day the year before and the highest figure since the start of that year. The fear from many legal professionals and those who work with those experiencing domestic abuse and violence is that when the World Cup starts this year it will be the same story all over again.

For anyone who experiences domestic violence, at any time, there are steps that can be taken to get help, no matter what the circumstances and there is a duty on everyone to try and recognise the signs that a relative, close friend or work colleague is experiencing such difficulties.

The Home Office definition of domestic abuse is "Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass but is not limited to the following types of abuse:

•           psychological

•           physical

•           sexual

•           financial

•           emotional

It is important for those who have experience abuse at the hands of their partner, whether male or female, to understand that the abuse cannot be excused by stress, illness, or drug and alcohol abuse.

If you are concerned for your own safety or that of another the first step is to speak to someone, whether than is a friend, family member or charity. There are a number of local support groups for help for anyone who is in this position. You may also speak to a medical professional, or call 0808 2000 247, the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline. Remember, in an emergency, always call 999.

Although we may all hope for an England win, the likelihood might be disappointment again. Whatever the result it’s still a time all are entitled to enjoy without fear of abuse. Just remain vigilant to ensure that they can.


Media information:       Lianne Tracey and Chloe Kendall

                                    Stephensons Solicitors LLP

                                    Tel: 01616 966 229 or 01616 966 229

                                    Email: lct@stephensons.co.uk or cke@stephensons.co.uk