New feature: From the front lines

// 23 October 2008

One in four women experience domestic violence during their lifetime. Ella Alexander spent a day at a women’s refuge learning about the human toll of a crime so common it is no longer considered newsworthy

Sitting in her office in Canterbury, Janet Thomas, manager of the city’s Women’s Refuge, doesn’t hold back about the scale of the domestic violence problem. “Two women a week are murdered by their partners and the media still fails to recognize this as domestic violence. They report it as a one-off tragic incident, when the reality is it’s often the culmination of months, perhaps years, of physical and emotional abuse. People still don’t understand what domestic violence is let alone how broad it is. We see wives of policemen, GPs, social workers and teachers. One in four women experience domestic violence in their lifetime, one in four women live in fear and still people ignore the signs.”

Statistics like these are not hard to come by. Domestic violence accounts for between 16% and one quarter of all recorded violent crime. Ten suicides are ascribed to it per week. Its cost on society is huge. In London alone, an estimated £278 million is spent per year on domestic violence.

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