World Cup's link with increased domestic violence musn't be ignored: Eleanor Gauld

White Ribbon Day, a global awareness day that is dedicated to working towards ending violence against women and girls, took place on November 25 and we are now in the midst of 16 days of action to support that cause.

The annual event encourages supporters to wear a White Ribbon and raise awareness, with a view to creating a greater understanding among the public about what needs to change, and letting people know where to find help.

As an abuse law specialist, it has always marked an important day in my calendar, but this year’s White Ribbon Day is particularly poignant for a number of reasons.

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Firstly, according to the Office of National Statistics, police recorded crime data showed an increase in offences flagged as domestic abuse-related during the pandemic.

Eleanor Gauld gives her expert view.Eleanor Gauld gives her expert view.
Eleanor Gauld gives her expert view.

Demand for domestic abuse victim services generally continued the increasing trends seen in the year ending March 2021, with the ONS data also suggesting that just over 6 per cent of all adults from 16 to 59 suffered from domestic abuse in England and Wales in 2018.

Secondly, domestic abuse campaigners, including the singer Mel B, have spoken out recently about concerns that the issue of domestic violence has moved down the agenda during the times of “economic chaos” we’re facing.

And finally, we cannot ignore the fact that this year it also coincides with the men’s World Cup.

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Commonly referred to as the greatest show on earth, major football tournaments are also sadly affiliated with an increase in domestic violence. In fact, a study published in 2013 pointed to a direct correlation between domestic abuse rises when the England Football team plays, regardless of whether they win, lose or draw.

Although there was an increase in reported domestic abuse win, lose or draw, the biggest increase of 38 per cent was when England lost compared to 26 per cent when they either won or drew.

With that in mind, it’s great to see that the organisers behind White Ribbon Day have also launched their #TheGoal campaign, working in partnership with HerGameToo - a voluntary organisation which is run by female football fans, who are committed to fostering an ethos in football in which women are welcomed and respected equally.

The partnership is designed to highlight the synergy between White Ribbon UK’s aims to educate men and boys about gender equality, and HerGameToo’s focus on culture change to create safe environments for women and girls to live the lives they want to lead.

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As abuse lawyers we feel strongly about the message of the White Ribbon Day campaign.

We sadly see the impact of both physical and emotional abuse regularly when speaking with our clients and we know how devastating it can be.

We hope that by linking White Ribbon Day to a global event like the World Cup, the message of unity and support for ending violence against women and girls will be heard far and wide and real changes will be made.

It’s incredibly important that we continue to fight for meaningful change for the future, while also being there to support those affected by domestic violence now.

Eleanor Gauld is an Abuse Law Expert at Simpson Millar