DOMESTIC abuse is largely seen as an invisible crime.

Taking place behind closed doors the abuse isn’t always obvious. In many cases, the people closest to the victim will have no idea what is taking place because those suffering are often reluctant or afraid to report it to the police or seek help from organisations.

It’s an issue we might hear about from friends or see portrayals of the crime on television or in films, but the reality is that one in four women will experience domestic abuse in their life.

Although men do suffer domestic abuse, on average two women are killed by their partner or ex-partner every week in England and Wales

The statistics make for shocking reading. Recent figures by the Office for National Statistics show that abuse-related crimes recorded by police account for around 1 in 10 of all crimes.

In the UK, an estimated 1.8 million adults aged 16 to 59, said they were a victim of domestic abuse in the year ending March 2016. In 70 per cent of domestic abuse-related cases referred to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) by the police the decision to charge was made.

Convictions were secured for three-quarters of domestic abuse-related prosecutions.

However these figures don’t come as a surprise to the people who suffer the abuse, or the people who work to support victims.

Hafan Cymru, is a charitable housing association, who provide housing and support to men, women, their children and young people across Wales. They manage two refuges in Wales, including one in Blaenau Gwent, where they offer safe, temporary, self-contained accommodation and support to women experiencing physical, psychological, sexual or financial abuse.

A spokesperson for the charity said: “These figures reflect the experience we have in the sector.

“In Blaenau Gwent Hafan Cymru has supported 200 women in one refuge alone in the past four years. There are other refuges who are also working in the area so they are also working to support women.”

Rachel Williams, of Newport, who was shot by her estranged husband in 2011 at a Newport hair salon, has been involved in several campaigns and petitions to tackle domestic violence and abusive relationships since she was attacked.

She said she felt the figures were lower than they actually are. “I think the numbers are underreported because a lot of people don’t come forward and report abuse, especially people in rural communities who tend to hide the abuse.

“I have seen a change in awareness of domestic abuse and have found that more people are speaking out and they know the help is out there. More people are disclosing that they are victims of abuse.”

In Gwent between 2015 and 2016, there were 1,165 domestic abuse cases that were prosecuted. Of these 906 cases resulted in convictions, while 259 were unsuccessful.

In the same period there were 26 rape convictions, 80 people convicted of sexual offences and 1,012 convictions of violence against women and girls.

However, the true number of abused people is likely to be far higher than the statistics suggest as many victims do not seek help from police.

There have been issues in policing domestic abuse cases in the region. In 2014, an investigation by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) reported significant concerns over how Gwent Police had responded to victims of domestic violence in Gwent. It said that although domestic abuse was a priority for Gwent Police they didn’t have the processes and systems to translate its commitment.

A further report published in 2016 showed the force had improved in the subsequent 12 months stating the standards of investigations had improved as had supervision of cases. The report felt that domestic abuse is a priority for the force, which has made good progress against its domestic abuse action plan.

The ongoing support for victims of crime was centralised in 2015. Connect Gwent was established by the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent in response to an identified need to prioritise support to victims of crime.

The hub based at the former Blackwood Police Station social club building has brought a range of agencies and organisations together under one roof including Victim Support and New Pathways, an organisation that helps adults and children that have been subjected to sexual abuse.

In the first year of their existence they reported that 983 domestic abuse cases were referred to them, 579 victims were given support including an onward referral to a specialist service and the domestic abuse case worker provided ongoing support to 198 victims.

In an effort to help prevent abuse the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, often referred to as Clare’s Law, was rolled out across all police forces in 2014. This enables the police to disclose information about a partner’s previous history of domestic violence or violent acts.

Under the scheme a person can ask police to check whether a new or existing partner has a violent past.

There are now a number of avenues for victims of abuse to get support. One victim of domestic violence, who asked to remain anonymous, praised the support they received following the end of their 10 year marriage.

She said: “With the help of the police and the family court - I was able to remain in my own home with my children and did not need emergency accommodation in a hostel.

“I would urge anyone in the same situation to contact the police, they can remove a violent partner from the family home, help you change the locks and ‘red flag’ the property so that officers will attend immediately should you call for help again. Go to the family court and obtain an injunction, a non-molestation order in the first instance.

“This will prevent an ex-partner from being able to return to your home or make threats by phone, text or on social media. Also engage with Women’s Aid counselling as soon as you can.

“Domestic violence isn’t just about physical harm, it is also about control which builds slowly in a relationship. Counselling will help you deal with the confusion, excuses made by your ex-partner and any temptation to feel sorry for him or make you believe you can’t survive without him.

“Your perpetrator will tell you he loves you one minute and want to attack you the next. This will never get better. In fact, evidence shows the violence will get worse as a violent partner gains confidence in ‘getting away with it.’

“It is possible to escape a violent relationship and there is help available, you are not on your own.”

There is set to be more change in the law as Theresa May said current domestic abuse legislation lacked clarity.

She said: “Domestic violence and abuse is a life-shattering and absolutely abhorrent crime.

“There are thousands of people who are suffering at the hands of abusers - often isolated, and unaware of the options and support available to them to end it.”

The Ministry of Justice is also in the process of scrapping time limits preventing victims of domestic violence from obtaining legal aid for court hearings. The rules meant victims seeking legal representation in disputed family court hearings had to demonstrate that they had been targeted within the past five years.

Legal Aid Agency regulations previously limited the number of official documents a person could use to provide proof, such as medical reports, injunctions and social services records. This would often incur fees of £75.

In the future statements from organisations working with domestic abuse victims will also be accepted as evidence of risk, as well as letters from solicitors and information from housing officers.

The police and crime commissioner for Gwent, Jeff Cuthbert said: “The focus should be on how we can best help people who are in their greatest hour of need. We are talking here about some of the most vulnerable members of our community and it should be the right of victims of domestic violence to gain legal aid, not a privilege.”

While groups including Gwent Domestic Abuse Services provide support for young people in the region who have been affected by domestic abuse, there are calls for schools to make pupils aware what domestic abuse is so they can recognise the signs later in life.

Recently Newport East’s AM John Griffiths spoke in the Senedd saying that young people need to be educated about healthy relationships. Mr Griffiths who is the chairman of the Assembly’s equality, local government and communities committee, spoke following the publication of a report by the group into the implementation of the Welsh Government’s Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015.

He said: “There must be requirements for schools to teach children about healthy relationships or the entrenched and harmful social attitudes about abuse and sexual violence will not be prevented.

“There is an opportunity with the development of the new curriculum to get this right. This is overdue and would be an important stride forward.”

He added: “With every day that passes we risk losing momentum and opportunities to change lives. Services are being cut, organisations are unsure about their future. We are losing time when we could be putting in place preventative measures.”

Mrs Williams said in response to the calls for changes in educating young people that she wished she had been taught about healthy relationships in school. “I believe it should be on the curriculum and not just as one lesson. We assume that kids being taught about relationships at home, but this is where many children see abuse.

“Children taught what a healthy relationship is and how to run a home. We need to speak about abuse and talk to it about children and what control and abuse looks like.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse visit or call the Live Fear Free helpline on 0808 8010 800. You can also visit Hafan Cymru at If you think this person is in immediate danger, or if you witness abuse, call 999.