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World News

Christians urged to speak out as 1 in 4 women worldwide suffer domestic abuse

by Donna Birrell

More than a quarter of women worldwide have experienced domestic violence by an intimate partner according to new research. 

The study, published in medical journal The Lancet, suggests 27 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 have suffered physical or sexual violence. 

Around one in seven said this was in the past year - the equivalent of 492 million women worldwide.

The responses, from two million women, were obtained from 161 countries and areas covering 90% of the global population of females over the age of 15.

Bekah Legg, the CEO of the Christian charity, Restored which supports victims of domestic violence, has been giving her reaction to Premier :

"It's a really horrible statistic, but in some respects, I'm probably a bit too jaded and experienced to be that shocked, because it's a statistic that has been around for quite a long time in various different ways. 

"But it's awful because I think we don't believe it's true. 

"We look around the world and we look down our street and we look around our friendship groups. 

"Critically, we look around our churches and we think, 'no, not here.' 

"But actually the reality is we will know somebody who has been subjected to domestic abuse."

The research is based on self-reported experiences so Bekah Legg believes the number of cases in reality is much higher: 

"Many will be through GPs, who I suspect might get more referrals than would be made to the police. 

"But the number will be higher because so many women  - or men - suffer in silence and don't tell anybody because they're terrified of the repercussions."

The research found that the violence starts early on with young girls and women particularly affected. 24% of 15 - 19 year olds and 26% of women aged 19-24 said they had experienced violence at least once since the age of 15. 

Bekah Legg believes this has a lot to do with the type of society we live in: "I think it's really devastating, but our young people are so vulnerable to violence and to abuse within relationships.

"Some of that, I think is about the change in the way that our media has been over the last couple of decades - the easy access to porn, and the expectations that that creates around relationships and what's normal.  

"Ofsted told us in June last year that our schools have got a rape culture, which is a horrifying thing, because that means it's seen as normal for there to be sexual violence. 

"That's a terrible way and if that's the norm, then no wonder that there's this extra prevalence of abuse going on within relationships."

It's feared the pandemic has made the problem of domestic abuse more prevalent. Bekah Legg agrees: "The pandemic closed the doors ever more firmly on something that happens behind closed doors at the best of times. 

"Domestic abuse by definition is done in secret. It's done when nobody else can see. There was no way of getting out and seeing somebody and being able to let somebody know what was going on, it was so much harder to reach out for help. 

"The pressures around all of that escalated it, although, of course, they never cause it, they're a contributing factor. 

"Abuse is always a choice for somebody who's chosen to abuse. 

"We can pray for those who have been subjected to abuse, that they would know that they're known and loved by God who created them for much better than this. 

"We can also do something really quite practical about beginning to speak up about this, about bringing it into our churches, whether that's praying for survivors, whether that's connecting with your local refuge, whether that's choosing to get training, or preaching about it, or doing something within your church, putting up posters that signpost where to get help locally. 

"All of those things begin to lift the lid off this hidden abuse and say actually, we recognise this happens. This matters - we care."

The research can be read here 

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