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Broadcast: Monday 19 March 2007 08:00 PM

Dispatches examines why women frequently refuse to press charges against their abuser. It follows one young victim from the point at which she walks into the police station to make a complaint.

When Did You Last Beat Your Wife?


The Government claims it has made domestic violence a priority but this edition of Dispatches investigates the effectiveness of its policies and the funding set aside for a crime that affects one in four women (Source: Home Office)

Government figures show that around two women a week are murdered by their partners, and up to ten suicides every week are attributed to domestic violence. Yet preventing it and bringing perpetrators to justice is hugely difficult.

This type of violence is usually hidden away behind closed doors but Dispatches uses extraordinary video footage taken by police using mini video cameras attached to their heads to record the immediate aftermath of domestic incidents: the distressed women who have been abused; evidence such as blood-covered clothing and the perpetrators denying their involvement.

The police hope this footage will help achieve more convictions. At present, only five per cent of all domestic violence incidents end in a conviction, but the programme shows that even with head-cam evidence, there is no guarantee the case will even make it into court.

Dispatches examines why women frequently refuse to press charges against their abuser. It follows one young victim from the point at which she walks into the police station to make a complaint and reveals the pressure, threats and violent language from her ex-partner who is trying to get her to drop charges.

It is when trying to end a violent relationship that women are most likely to be seriously injured or murdered but the programme reveals that services for women trying to flee are patchy and under-funded. It follows the working week of one over-worked domestic violence advocate desperately trying to keep women safe at the point of leaving. Shockingly, she tells Dispatches that some of her clients are beyond help and tragically will probably end up dead. The programme interviews one survivor who had 86 stitches to her face after being attacked with a Stanley knife by her ex, despite asking for help from the authorities.

The film looks to the future and at how new information-sharing schemes might force the many agencies who encounter domestic violence victims to share that information - before it's too late. A senior policeman with responsibility for domestic violence speaks of his concern that women are regularly murdered because no one spoke out in time, calling domestic violence murders, 'preventable homicides'.

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