Statistics from the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) indicate that:
- each year nearly 2 million people aged 16 to 59 suffer some form of domestic abuse - 1.3 million females and 695,000 males
- one in five children in the UK has been exposed to domestic abuse, with 90% of children living in households where domestic abuse is taking place being aware that it is happening
- 130,000 children live in homes where there is high-risk domestic abuse (where there is a threat of serious harm or murder)
- 62% of children living in domestic abuse households are directly harmed by the perpetrator of the abuse, in addition to the harm caused by witnessing the abuse of others
There is widespread recognition that official statistics such as those quoted above do not give the full picture, as domestic abuse is to a large extent still a hidden crime that is not reported to the police. According to the CSEW, only 18% of women experiencing partner abuse in the 12 months to March 2018 reported the abuse to the police. Reasons for not reporting include fear of not being believed, fear of retaliation, fear of facing the abuser in court and fear of breaking up the family and losing access to children.
Such is the extent of domestic abuse in Cornwall that Safer Cornwall, the community safety partnership for Cornwall (made up of Cornwall’s statutory services and a wide range of other organisations) have made it their main priority. According to Devon and Cornwall Police crime statistics, there were 4,168 reported incidents of domestic abuse crimes in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly in 2017. However, due to under-reporting of incidents, this is unlikely to reflect the true picture - it is estimated that nationally 8.5% of women and 4.5% of men experience domestic abuse each year, equivalent to 12,400 women and 6,400 men in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Cornwall currently has only three refuges for women (accommodating up to 25 women and 34 children) and one refuge for men (accommodating up to 5 men and 10 children) fleeing domestic abuse.
In addition to immediate physical and emotional harm, domestic abuse can have far-reaching and long-lasting impacts on adults, young people and children. These impacts can include attempted suicide, self-harming, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, fear, anxiety and panic attacks, loneliness and isolation, damaged confidence and self-esteem, feelings of guilt or self-blame, difficulties forming relationships, and trouble sleeping. The effective protection of survivors and their children from further harm impacts across multiple services, including health, social care, safeguarding and housing, with the estimated financial cost of domestic abuse in Cornwall being £99.1 million in 2014-2015.
The True Butterflies Foundation is a Cornwall-based registered charity (no. 1177209) that supports survivors of domestic abuse and their children. The organisation was started by Angela Lowe, herself a survivor of domestic abuse, initially as an online forum for survivors to provide mutual support. True Butterflies has subsequently grown to the point where we offer mentoring, counselling, therapy and workshops across a large area of Cornwall. We became a registered charity in February 2018.
The charity aims to:
1. Support Survivors and their families through their entire journey, from the moment they first identify as needing support, through the process of leaving their abuser, to dealing with ongoing conditions like PTSD and anxiety.
2. Rebuild the confidence of survivors through the provision of mentoring, counselling and therapy-based support.
3. Empowering survivors by helping them to build their self-esteem and to reach their full potential and go on to have a successful life, free from abuse.
The charity also offers workshops for children including martial arts therapy, cosplay workshops and rock school. These workshops help the chidlren and their families improve well-being, communication and relationship skills whlst also reducing the likelihood of re-victimisation.
During the pandemic the charity has continued to offer support and workshops online and on the phone