'My husband hit me' - Four in 10 cases of all violent offending in West Midlands is domestic abuse

ITV News Central went to a refuge in the West Midlands to meet the women behind the statistics

By ITV News Central journalist Barnaby Papadopulos

Domestic abuse made up of more than four in 10 cases of all violent offending in the West Midlands last year, data released at the end of April shows.

In total, reports of domestic abuse increased by 7% in the UK in 2021.

But in the West Midlands it was four times higher than the UK average, increasing to 28%.

In a safe house, somewhere in the region, ITV News Central encountered some of the stories behind these statistics. Women who suffered abuse so severe they are now living in secure accommodation - many with children.

"My husband hit me every time, my sister-in-law hit me too," said one woman, who we are keeping anonymous to protect her identity.

"He's hit me, and he's going outside," she recounts before adding: "And when he brings food to my home, my daughter tells Dad: 'Can you give us some food?'"

She adds: "He says, 'I can't give you food. Why would you ask me for food?' And he hit my daughter.

"She is so scared when my husband is at home."

Some women stay here for up to a year, and the shelter works to provide education, employment opportunities, and practical life-skills. The atmosphere is warm, and friendly - although the site manager suggests, off camera, that safety is, in some ways, a facade.

Over the last few years, she says, and out of hundreds of residents, just one women's case is being heard in a crown court.

Many others, then, live in the knowledge that their perpetrator(s) are still out there.

"The baby no longer has a heartbeat," a translator speaking on behalf of a resident at the refuge says

Speaking through a translator at the refuge, one resident says that she got pregnant, but, "due to all the stress, and obviously the physical assaults that carried on, she ended up with heavy bleeding.

"She went to the hospital and the hospital said that the baby no longer has a heartbeat."

"Because of that, she miscarried the baby."

In a statement, West Midlands Police said the rise in case numbers is a result of more people experiencing domestic violence feeling able to come forwards and report it.

There could well be some truth in that, especially after a year that saw a national conversation about women's safety.

At the one ITV News Central visited, the manager told us that often she would receive calls from safe houses around the country, seeing if she had space for an at-risk woman.

More often than not, she wouldn't.

"Victims need more support," Victims' commissioner says

The Victims' Commissioner for the West Midlands, Nicky Brennan, said that more needed to be done.

"Violence against women and girls, including domestic abuse, is always going to be our top priority," she said.

"It could be that West Midlands police are doing a good job, and are encouraging people to come forward and report. We also need the government to step up and put more money into services that support victims."

It's a debate that Labour's Jess Phillips - who has worked in women's safeguarding for over twenty years - has heard before.

Jess Phillips, who is Shadow Minister for Domestic Violence and Safeguarding, as well as the MP for Birmingham Yardley, says the increase in figures is not surprising.

She told ITV Central it's due to a reduction of safeguarding services, and during the pandemic more and more people became isolated from friends, family, neighbours, and their GP.

She said: "There is a worsening environment for where people can go for support.

"We've seen a retraction in all different services, whether it's mental health services, women's rights organisations and refuges, as well as people accessing GPs or social workers.

"What we're seeing is it's just causing a strain on the system so victims of domestic abuse find it very difficult to get the support they need when they come forward."

The UK government has said they are investing £230 million in their tackling domestic abuse plan - which gives police new powers including domestic abuse protection notices which provides long term protection for victims of domestic abuse. 

Help and support

If you need support or advice about anything visit our advice page.

Call the 24-hour National Domestic Abuse helpline on 0808 2000 247 for confidential, non-judgemental information and support.

Women's Aid - for information and support, email or use the instant messaging service.

Call 07542513099

Contact a local domestic abuse service by using the Domestic Abuse Directory.

If you are in immediate danger, call 999.