After England’s Euros 2020 finals defeat against Italy, the ugly side of football culture will have had a lasting impact on some families and many in that position don’t know where to turn or feel unable to ask for the help they need.

It’s not just at global tournaments that domestic violence spikes, it can be every fixture during football season – especially when games are scheduled early in the day, as alcohol is often a prevalent factor.  This month, the London School of Economics and Political Science , after analysing the frequency of incidents over eight years in Manchester.

Spikes in violence were found to be "entirely driven" by men abusing their partners, and that earlier kick-offs were associated with the most abuse.  Delaying the start of the games until the evening and scheduling them on weekdays would help prevent a considerable amount of domestic abuse, according to the authors of the report.

Rachel Fletcher, partner and head of Crime at Slater Heelis solicitors offers the following advice:

“When people are in the middle of a domestic abuse crisis, it can be hard to see that other people understand or can offer practical help.  Whilst football is in the spotlight at the moment as a key pre trigger for domestic violence, COVID-19 has also intensified the pressures on many individuals and families, with incidents rising considerably due to lockdown constraints which is rife across the country sadly.   We are urging those who find themselves in this situation, whether it is the first time they have found themselves a victim, or those in longer term abusive relations, to seek help and escape the cycle.

What are the first steps someone exposed to domestic violence can actually take?

First and foremost, report it to somebody, even if it’s just a friend, a colleague or somebody you can confide in.  Take steps to report it somewhere, because these circumstances can go on for years and if there’s no record of it and if the victim hasn’t told anybody, they might find it more difficult to report it years after the event, because they think they might not be believed.

Domestic abuse helplines can also be a great source of comfort and guidance.  Speaking to the police is also an option, but in the first stages of these incidences, many victims are hesitant to take this step.  Often people will confide in their GP, which can be useful because they have a duty of confidentiality which encourages confidence when coming forward about these types of incidents.

What misconceptions exist about domestic abuse?

The biggest misconception is that it is only ladies who are the victims of domestic violence.  It applies as equally to men as it does to ladies, but it can be more visible because the numbers are higher unfortunately with domestic abuse victims.  There’s also a reluctance from men to volunteer information to the police or speak out because of societal pressures to appear strong, so it’s just not reported as much.  Fortunately, there are specific helplines for male victims of domestic assault. 

What constitutes domestic violence?

The term ‘domestic abuse’ highlights more than physical violence, it can include controlling and coercive behaviour, in fact a new law came into force in 2015 dealing with that specific offence.  So domestic abuse often comes up in linked allegations, like sexual abuse or harassment.  Abuse that happens in a domestic setting means that you are in a trusted relationship, so the sentence reflects that.  Your home is supposed to be a place of safety. 

What can I expect on starting proceedings?

A family lawyer might suggest a protection order, with effect within 24 hours.  Family courts can expedite matters more quickly than the police as they have better resources.

How are people protected after taking action?

In the short term, they are better protected in the family courts, especially if they need support immediately.  Speak to a solicitor who knows about all the options.