Domestic violence and abuse is an issue that permeates every area of society. While it is perpetrated by women against men, and by those in same sex relationships, the majority of domestic abuse is perpetrated by men against women. In 2012, the World Health Organisation described violence against women as “a global health problem of epidemic proportions”. In Bristol there were more than 6,700 reported domestic abuse related incidents and crimes in 2015/16. The numbers have risen in recent years. This is not just a women’s issue, but an intergenerational public health issue that affects everybody.
There is increasing social awareness of the extent and repercussions of domestic abuse on families. Local data indicates that children are in the same room in 50% of domestic violence cases. Almost every boy who enters the care system in Bristol has been exposed to domestic abuse. The impact of exposure to domestic abuse is compounded by other Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s), and affects the lives of children, adolescents and adults in our city in the long term. ACEs include physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, living with someone who abuses drugs and alcohol, parental loss through divorce, abandonment or death, and living with someone with a serious mental illness. Research shows that children who experience four or more ACE’s are significantly more likely to develop problems that they carry throughout adulthood.
At City Hall on Wednesday, council staff, representatives from the police, the Police and Crime Commissioner’s office, Bristol Women’s Voice, Bristol Clinical Commissioning Group, Second Step and other local charities, a joint commitment was set out to tackle the issue together. It’s also important to recognise that, while formal institutions have a key role, tackling the issue is not just about public services, but about culture. This is why it is vital that businesses, faith groups and community groups also play a central role in our city’s ability to prevent domestic abuse from devastating lives. It is also why teaching men and boys about acceptable behaviour is also pivotal to bringing about the cultural change we need.
Together with my Cabinet Member for Women, Children and Families, Helen Godwin, and Head of Children’s Services, we have made a commitment to embedding the goal of becoming an ACEs resilient city into the One City Plan, which sets out an ambitious 50 year vision for our city. This is part of our commitment to get our city’s children off to the best possible start in life and break the cycle of devastation caused by domestic abuse.