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Euros 2020 may be 'catalyst' for domestic violence, charities warn

Football and alcohol do not directly cause domestic violence but can “exacerbate” pre-existing abusive behaviour, charities warn.

Photo by Alex Green from Pexels

Domestic violence incidents could increase during the UEFA Euro 2020 football tournament as abusers use the coronavirus pandemic and increased emotions and alcohol consumption as an excuse to further their abuse, charities have warned.

As England prepares to face the Czech Republic on Tuesday, domestic violence charities fear a surge in calls from victims reporting domestic abuse.

“Football doesn’t cause domestic abuse, perpetrators do,” Farah Nazeer, chief executive of the organisation Women’s Aid, teold The Big Issue. “But we know that football can be a catalyst for domestic abuse – there are stats to show that.”

A 2013 survey from Lancaster University found the risk of domestic abuse rose by 26 percent when the English national team won or drew, and a 38 percent increase when the national team lost.

Police confirmed there a “significant rise” in domestic abuse reports during the 2018 World Cup, with more than 60 incidents reported after England’s semi-final defeat by Croatia.

Charities are calling for the footballing community to call out sexist behaviour and send a clear message that domestic violence is never acceptable

Sport spectatorship in the UK is often intimately associated with increased alcohol consumption, which can exacerbate violent behaviour and perpetrators of domestic abuse are known to use these links as an excuse to further their violence. 

“There’s something in our culture that allows for people to say, ‘oh it was just the football, we had a bit too much to drink’,” Nazeer continues. “None of that is acceptable or tolerable. Alcohol consumption and high emotions attached to the game should never be used as an excuse for abuse.”

These factors put domestic abuse victims at greater vulnerability at a time when the country has seen a rise in cases reported since the start of the pandemic.

The charity Refuge said it has seen a 61 per cent surge in calls and contacts logged by its 24-hour national domestic abuse helpline over the course of the pandemic. 

Nazeer described the pandemic as the “perfect storm” where people experiencing abuse have not been able to leave their homes or access support.

“We are really hesitant to attribute domestic abuse to external factors but it’s clear the pandemic was used as a tool in which to increase abuse, to increase fear and anxiety, and to increase control and coercion,” she said.

“We spoke to significant numbers of survivors who felt that the domestic abuse had intensified in nature, some of these stories were really heartbreaking. There were reports of women being spat on, perpetrators using shielding or self-isolation to stop women from being able to access support services or withholding food and medicine.

“For these victims, the level of abuse became far more intense during the pandemic and it became far harder to escape the violence.”

Instead of blaming football and booze, charities want the football community to call out sexist behaviour and reinforce message that domestic violence is always unacceptable.

“The Euros are a chance for us to raise awareness of domestic abuse and to call on the community to take a stand against abuse,” Nazeer said. “There’s an opportunity for cultural change and a shift in perceptions around domestic abuse. 

Refuge’s chief executive, Ruth Davison, said: “As the Euros progress, our message to women and girls experiencing domestic abuse remains clear: You are not alone, Refuge is here for you. 

 “While of course football tournaments do not cause abuse – abuse is a choice a perpetrator makes – they can exacerbate pre-existing abusive behaviours. Abuse doesn’t come ‘by appointment’ – it happens all your round.”

If you have been affected by domestic abuse, you can find help and support at https://www.womensaid.org.uk or contact the Refuge 24-hour national domestic abuse helpline at 0808 2000 247.

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