REPORTS of domestic abuse have risen by 9 per cent in the last year in Scotland, leading to fears of an increase in violence in the home.
The sharpest jump was in the Northern Constabulary area, where figures almost doubled.Police and campaigners now want to begin a study to accurately determine the true degree of the problem. Domestic abuse is historically under-reported, with some studies revealing 30 incidents will pass before a victim contacts the police.
Nationally, there were 114 cases reported per 10,000 of the population in 2011-12. It is not clear if the latest figures, revealed in an Audit Scotland report, reflect an increase in crime or an increase in reporting the crime.
Campaigners, however, are clear on the damage domestic abuse invariably causes to families and individuals.
Heather Coady, of Scottish Women’s Aid, said: “It’s massively damaging. People have this idea that once they separate, it stops. It almost always does not.
“Most women continue to be hassled or stalked. And then there are the emotional scars.
“I spoke to one woman who’s ex-partner is dead and she still looks over her shoulder. It takes a really long time to get your life back.
“A lot of women end up with mental health problems, poverty, drug and alcohol issues. The casualty list is pretty high.”
Initiatives have encouraged victims to talk about domestic abuse, but experts say it is unclear if that has worked.
John Carnochan, of the Violence Reduction Unit, said: “We’re trying to get a prevalence study done in Scotland so we know if what we’re doing is working or not.
“There’s a lot of really good work being done – domestic abuse courts, domestic abuse taskforce, it’s a lead issue for police and health – but a key component would be a prevalence study.
“My gut feeling is this is a rise in reporting [rather than actual incidents] but that is a feeling and maybe more out of hope and optimism.”
A spokesman for Victim Support Scotland added: “Any increase in the rate of domestic violence is a matter of concern and we are well aware from the work we do with victims how traumatic and damaging a crime it is for individuals.
“However, we would hope that these figures will draw attention to the seriousness of this crime, which Scotland has to fight as effectively as possible.”
The Scottish Government insists it is investing in strategies to tackle domestic abuse.
A spokesman said: “The domestic abuse court in Glasgow underlines our commitment, both financially and morally, to tackling the scourge of domestic abuse in Scotland.
“The Scottish Government continues to work with key partners to bring about an end to this intolerable crime, with £55 million dedicated to preventing violence against women during 2008-12.”