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Warning of increased domestic abuse during World Cup

25 May 10 15:05 GMT

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) is warning of the threat of increased domestic violence during England's World Cup campaign.

Reports of domestic violence to England and Wales police forces increased by an average of 25% on England's match days during the last World Cup in 2006.

Acpo is recommending forces make warning visits to known domestic abuse offenders before the tournament.

The World Cup starts on 11 June, with England's first game the following day.

Acpo has written to all forces in England and Wales to ask them to highlight the problem to officers and detail their plans for dealing with it.

The association's recommendations include:

Where people are being dealt with for violence in a public place during the World Cup, any previous history of domestic abuse will be taken into account before they are released to return home.

Deputy Chief Constable Carmel Napier, Acpo lead on domestic abuse, said: "There is no excuse for domestic violence and perpetrators must be clear that the World Cup does not give them any justification for partaking in abusive behaviour."

'Under-reported'

An incident of domestic abuse was reported to UK police every minute of every day, DCC Napier said.

She said research also suggested victims suffered 40 incidents on average before they felt the situation was at "crisis point" and first reported the abuse to police.

"It is often under-reported because people do try to manage it and hope it will go away. They just want it to stop, and try to live for the good times."

She added: "People sometimes say of victims, 'If it happened to me I would leave, so why don't they?' Our experience shows that in many cases victims can't get away from their perpetrator or are too frightened to."

DCC Napier advised people who were worried that they could be at risk of violence once the World Cup starts to contact the police or victim support services in advance.

"In the 21st Century in a civilised society, it should not be allowed; this is someone not just having a difference of opinion, this is someone who is being very violent, abusive and extremely controlling - and that is not acceptable."

Home Secretary Theresa May said: "I hope this campaign will help to reassure victims that there is protection and support available, encourage more victims to report abuse and will serve as a warning to potential abusers that violence will not be tolerated."

'Come forward'

A 49-year-old woman, who suffered years of almost-daily beatings from a former boyfriend, said she would study the sports fixture lists in advance and try to be away from home when there were important matches.

"I don't think that sport overall turns a man into an abuser - they are already abusive men," she said.

"But what I think it does sometimes, the football and rugby, it makes it worse for the woman because she knows he is going to get tanked up, she knows what's going to happen if she does something wrong when he gets home."

She left her partner in fear for her life after an attack left her requiring an operation to re-attach a foot that had been partially severed when it was pushed through a window.

Years later, she is a volunteer counsellor for Victim Support and studying for a degree in crisis and trauma counselling.

"It's important to get the message out there that women don't have to put up with it," she said.

"There are support networks to help, there are refuges which provide counselling to women where they cannot be found.

"They can come forward and and we will give them all the right help they need to get back on their feet. But unless they come forward and report it we cannot help them."

During the 2006 World Cup held in Germany, Home Office data showed a 31% rise in domestic violence reports on the day of England's 1-0 victory over Paraguay.

On the day of England's exit from the tournament, beaten on penalties by Portugal, reports increased by just over 30%.

On average there was a 25% rise in domestic violence reports on the days of England games, with one in four offenders found to be under the influence of alcohol.

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