Cayman’s domestic violence reports appear to be continuing the upward trajectory they have been on over the last couple of years.
According to statistics released to the Cayman Compass following a Freedom of Information request, 1,876 domestic violence reports were made between 1 Jan. and 30 Sept., this year. During the same period, there were 771 crimes that involved elements, or ‘markers’, of domestic violence, 330 of which remain under active investigation.
Louise Desrosiers, a family lawyer at Travers Thorp Alberga who reviewed the newly released statistics, expressed concern about the number of domestic violence reports.
She said the 2019 RCIPS report detailed a “significant increase in the number of recorded offences involving domestic violence”.
“Therefore, any indicators that either figure is likely to remain steady or possibly even increase for 2020 would not be surprising, COVID or not,” she told the Compass.
However, she acknowledged that an increase in domestic violence reports does not necessarily mean there is more domestic abuse in the community.
“Instead, increases may be attributable in part to improved recording and understanding of the issues, coupled with an increased willingness to report on the part of the victim and the greater range of services available, such as the Family Support Unit and MASH (Multi-Agency Safe-Guarding Hub,” she said.
According to the RCIPS, of the 771 reported crimes with a marker for domestic violence:
- 330 remain under active investigation as of 7 Oct.
- 220 were resolved with no further action being taken.
- 103 were closed as undetected or the investigation is currently inactive
- 96 were resolved by means of an arrest.
- 14 were closed at the incident (at the time officers attended)
- 8 were resolved by means of an adult caution.
How COVID featured in the stats
A change in how the RCIPS presents domestic violence statistics makes it difficult to assess increases or decreases in incidents, Desrosiers pointed out. In its 2020 statistics, the RCIPS has added a field for recorded crime with a ‘marker for domestic violence’, when in earlier reports this would have been listed as recorded crimes or referrals to either the FSU or MASH.
“However, if we compare the COVID-reported incidents with a marker for domestic violence for the period 1 Jan. 2020 to 30 Sept. 2020 with 2018 and 2019, we can see that the figures remain fairly steady. According to the RCIPS 2019 report, in 2018 there were 2,224 domestic violence referrals, and 2,846 in 2019 (an increase year on year of 28%), with 1,876 crimes with domestic violence markers Jan.-Sept. 2020, we appear to be on track for similar figures,” she explained.
The attorney acknowledged that presenting accurate statistics regarding crimes that occur within the home or involve children victims can present a challenge, “since such violence or abuse does not typically fall neatly within the parameters of specific offences, but may span across different offences, depending on the circumstances”.
When Cayman initiated lockdown procedures in March, there were fears that it would lead to a spike in domestic violence as victims would be trapped at home with their abusers.
However, Desrosiers said the lockdown does not appear to have significantly impacted the figures, as the average for the nine-month period was around 208 incidents per month, with March and April registering 224 and 197 incidents, respectively.
This, she said, lends weight to the fact that causes of domestic violence are more to do with long-standing personal issues concerning the abuser, and not necessarily environmental factors.
“There are many ‘myths and excuses’ about domestic abuse which might cause one to believe that lockdown will increase the likelihood of the incidence of domestic abuse,” she said. “These include sentiments like alcohol, drugs and stress cause violence, all of which may be factors that have been more prevalent in the home during the lockdown period.”
However, Desrosiers added, this is not always the case, and domestic abuse occurs while perpetrators are not under the influence of alcohol or drugs or suffering from additional stressors.
The RCIPS, using a random sampling method on a quarter of crimes with domestic violence markers between January and September, found that 78% of the victims were female and 22% were male.
“This should be representative of the victim profile for all recorded crimes with a domestic violence marker Jan. – Sept. 2020,” the RCIPS report said.
Most reported domestic violence cases are perpetrated by men towards women and the RCIPS figures continue to show that tendency, Desrosiers said.
“If we compare this against the Office of National Statistics results in the UK, where 15% of men and 26% of women and aged 16 to 59 were recorded as reporting that they had experienced some form of domestic abuse since the age of 16. In the UK, this suggests that for every three victims of domestic abuse, two will be female, one will be male. So a rate of 22% is not surprising, but it does mean that approximately 1 in 4 victims of domestic violence in Cayman, compared to 1 in 3 in the UK, are reported as male,” she added.
Desrosiers pointed out that an increase in the reporting of domestic abuse may be an indicator that Cayman is doing better, rather than worse, at dealing with domestic crimes.
“It may be that there is more abuse in our communities, but just as likely, or more so, it may instead indicate that the police are better able at recognising when a referral should be made, that there is more support available and that members of the public are better educated at knowing the signs in the relationships of loved ones and in their own homes,” she added.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, there are options and steps you can take to be safe.