Domestic violence a 'hidden issue' in Axe Valley

POLICE in the Axe Valley and Lyme Regis say they support a recent study that found violence against women is more of a hidden issue" in rural areas.

POLICE in the Axe Valley and Lyme Regis say they support a recent study that found violence against women is more of a "hidden issue" in rural areas.The report, commissioned by the National Federation of Women's Institutes (NFWI), shows that, although women in rural and urban areas are equally likely to be victims of violence, rural residents are less likely to think it is happening in their own communities.PC Steve Speariett, neighbourhood beat manager for Seaton rural, said domestic violence in rural areas tends to be more difficult to detect as people are more isolated.He said: "In inner cities, neighbours live closer and are more likely to highlight the problem. They will report it if they hear shouting and screaming. "But, if people are isolated, it can be very hard to detect as you won't have friends or neighbours ringing up."In general, people don't expect it. Very often a couple present a united front and come across as a happy, loving couple. But what goes on behind closed doors can be shocking."He pointed out that abuse could be both mental and physical, and both men and women could be the culprits.He added that Devon and Cornwall Police take the issue of domestic violence seriously. He said the force has a 'positive arrest policy' and, if an assault took place, they would arrest the offending party. Support is offered to the victim.PC Richard Winward, of the Lyme Regis safer neighbourhood team, said domestic abuse crossed social and geographical divides.He said: "A victim of domestic abuse who phones us for the first time has probably been a victim of domestic violence 30 or 40 times before that but, for various reasons, they haven't phoned us."Sometimes it's because of the financial consequences, or they are worried about their future, or about the reaction of the other party and that it will make things even worse."PC Kevin Bennett, neighbourhood beat manager for Axminster rural, also believes domestic violence is of much concern in rural areas. He said: "Offenders come from all walks of life."More than 5,000 women were surveyed by the NFWI and more than half of the respondents had experience of some form of violence or abuse.The NFWI highlighted that psychological abuse, such as controlling behaviour or constant put downs, can be just as damaging.l Anyone who has been a victim of domestic violence can call the 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247.