Domestic violence: more than 200,000 victims each year

More than 200,000 persons in the Netherlands fall victim to domestic violence each year. This is evident from the Domestic Violence in the Netherlands investigation, which was sent to the Lower House today by Minister of Security and Justice Opstelten, State Secretary of Health, Welfare and Sport Veldhuijzen and Minister of Education, Culture and Science Bijsterveldt.

The investigation, which was performed by researchers of the Research and Documentation Centre and the Intervict institute, shows that more women (60%) than men (40%) are victims of serious domestic violence. The share of male victims is significantly higher than was assumed until now. The division between men and women was 85% - 15% in previous investigation results. Men are in the majority as perpetrators of domestic violence (83%). It concerns physical violence (65%) and sexual violence (8%) in nearly 75% of the cases of domestic violence.

The investigation confirms the insight that perpetrators of domestic violence have often been or still are the victims of domestic violence. In addition, it has become clear that perpetrators of domestic violence also relatively often commit other crimes. 30% of offenders come in contact with the judicial authorities again within two years after having committed domestic violence, often in connection with a violent or traffic offence.

Nearly 40% of victims of domestic violence have been confronted with temporary physical injury and approximately 15% with permanent physical injury. The consequences are also very serious when viewed from an emotional and work-related perspective and for relationships. A quarter of the interviewed victims reports to have attempted suicide.

Held thirteen years after the first national investigation into domestic violence, this investigation offers new and representative insight into the extent and nature of domestic violence in the Netherlands and the manner in which victims and perpetrators seeks help. The taboo on reporting domestic violence seems to have diminished. Currently, approximately 20% of domestic violence is reported to the police. This number still stood at 12% in 1997. This seems to indicate that policy efforts to reduce the hidden character of domestic violence are successful.

In a response to the report, the Ministers write that a great deal of progress has been made with the approach to domestic violence. In addition, they consider a further tightening necessary on the basis of this report.

First and foremost, the Dutch government wishes to strengthen the position of victims of domestic violence. This mainly concerns the reception and support of the various groups of victims of domestic violence, including increasing awareness of Support Offices for Domestic Violence.

In addition, the Dutch government attaches great importance to a strong approach to offenders. Additional measures are necessary, in particular as regards those who commit the most serious forms of domestic violence and repeat offenders. This is in line with the proposal of the Minister of Security and Justice not to apply community orders to those who commit serious violent and sex crimes. The intention to implement minimum punishments in adult criminal law for those who are again convicted of a very serious crime within a ten-year period is also in line with the above.

The Ministers of Security and Justice, Health, Welfare and Sports, and Education, Culture and Science will present proposals for a stricter approach to domestic violence in the first half of 2011.