For many of us, if we’re lucky, the World Cup is something we look forward to with nervous hopefulness. Having never seen the men’s England team get anywhere near the final before in my lifetime, coupled with some nail-baiting underdog victories, this World Cup has been one of the most exciting yet. Political leaders have been quick to jump on a fresh sense of unity felt across the nation, enjoying a respite from the inescapable divisions of Brexit. However, some people are not so fortunate. For many women in particular, the World Cup is a time of heightened fear and danger as domestic violence figures soar. Surely it’s time that the UK stepped up to address this?
One of the largest studies on the correlation between domestic violence figures in England and the World Cup has come from Lancaster University, which noted that whether England win or lose, victims of domestic violence suffer. Reports of abuse go up 26% when England play, and 38% when they lose. The National Centre for Domestic Violence has pointed out that it is not football itself that is causing the increase in domestic abuse, but the intensified levels of emotion and frustration that exacerbate existing violent and abusive behaviour.
So what is being done? Domestic abuse is something Theresa May has been passionate about ending, dating back into her days as Home Secretary. However, she really needs to put her money where her mouth is. Refuges supporting women across the country are having to turn away more and more vulnerable women and children as they simply do not have the funding; domestic violence services’ funding has been cut by nearly a quarter in the past decade.
From my point of view, the challenge is not just about increasing funding and updating our laws – although these are desperately essential measures. We must also step up and combat the culture which not only perpetuates violence against women and doesn’t believe them when they come forward, but allows women to feel unsafe and unable to report abuse.
We are definitely making progress. The criminalisation of Revenge Porn and the recently introduced harsher sentences for perpetrators evidences this. Yet, there is such a long way to go. Revenge Porn is not technically recognised as a sexual offence, meaning victims are not guaranteed anonymity when reporting abuse. This is a significant deterrent for victims who may not want to risk further exposure and danger by coming forward. Furthermore, the recent blocking of the Upskirting Bill in Parliament demonstrates that sexual, physical and emotional abuse against women is still not being treated with the severity and respect it deserves
Changing deeply ingrained cultural attitudes cannot happen overnight, but we have to start somewhere. As mentioned, domestic violence services are extremely underfunded and are becoming increasingly reliant on public fundraising and donations, which is a fantastic place to start. In the run up to Sunday’s final, look out for the National Centre for Domestic Violence’s hard-hitting campaign “The Not-So-Beautiful Game”. Consider sharing it on your social media channels to put this important topic on the political agenda and help women across the UK who still have everything to lose.