Good news! Experts know how to stop domestic abuse, with crimes reduced by up to 30% among some of the most prolific offenders – and it costs a fraction of what we spend now.
Bad news – it works only on abusers who have been jailed, and a mere third of reported crimes result in an arrest.
And in unsurprising news, the government response to calls for a nationwide rollout of the programme is: “Yeah, at some point. Blah blah justice. Message ends.”
Two million men and women in the UK suffer domestic abuse. There are fewer abusers as they usually do it to more than one person. We spend billions mopping it up.
The University of Bristol says each offender can cost the state £63,000.
For just £2,400 a head, it spent three years counselling 506 people behind bars, giving advice on relationships, empathy, and drug and alcohol abuse.
The university also monitored the offenders closely, intervening to stop harassing phone calls, and helping victims gather evidence.
It worked – and the effects lasted more than a year. A control group, on the other hand, carried on committing crimes after their release.
The logic is undeniable.
The Government plans a new domestic abuse bill – the last one was spiked for the general election, which was SO much more important – and says interventions will be included to “prevent future incidents”.
But half of those on the trial were already involved in legal proceedings. All of them were behind bars. And it takes on average 30 incidents before a victim calls the police.
Most tell themselves it’s just a row that got out of hand. It won’t happen again – he loves me. He might, but it always happens again. And it only ever gets worse. Abuse is a crime of control, not necessarily violence – a wife bounced off the walls repeatedly will never ring the cops if he pushes rather than punches.
This is an epidemic that kills two women a week. Like cancer, it’s invisible until it’s almost too late. But unlike cancer, we don’t tell people what to look out for and we intervene only when it’s terminal. We know what medicine to use, and we don’t.
Prevention is the only cure – that means teaching children in Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) classes how to spot the signs in themselves and others.
One in five children already suffer domestic abuse, and they’re four times more likely to do the same as adults.
Talking about it in school would prevent decades of “future incidents”.
Bruises fade, bones mend, and time can heal the hurt. But far better to start the brain, and stop the hand.
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