Scotland’s justice secretary has warned that official figures on domestic abuse incidents are “only the tip of the iceberg” on the extent of violence against women and girls.
It comes after the country’s chief statistician revealed that 64,807 incidents of domestic abuse were recorded by police in 2021/2022.
The figure represents a decrease of 1% on the previous year, and is the first time the number has fallen since 2015/2016.
In the most recent period, 39% of incidents of domestic abuse recorded by police in Scotland included the recording of at least one crime or offence.
Common assault was most frequently recorded by officers, accounting for 32% of all crimes and offences.
That was followed by threatening and abusive behaviour, which made up 21%.
There were 118 incidents of domestic abuse recorded by police in Scotland per 10,000 population in the last year.
Dundee City had the highest number of incidents of domestic abuse per 10,000 population (172) over that period.
It was followed by West Dunbartonshire (161) and Glasgow City (147)
Around four on five incidents of domestic abuse recorded (81%) had a female victim and a male perpetrator.
There are fears, however, that the number of incidences of domestic abuse could be much higher.
It is estimated that fewer than one in five cases of domestic abuse are reported to the police.
Keith Brown, Scotland’s justice secretary, indicated that the reported incidents are just the “tip of the iceberg” on the issue of domestic violence.
“I am grateful to everyone who has felt able to come forward over the past year to report incidents of domestic abuse to the police,” he said.
“Behind each of these numbers is a story in itself, of months or even years of abuse and control, which is why the Scottish Government legislated to give police, prosecutors and the courts greater power to tackle such crimes.
“While the small drop in the number of domestic abuse incidents reported to the police may be welcome, the reality has always been that figures drawn from police reports represent only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the true extent of violence against women and girls.”
Brown explained the Scottish Government is continuing to make changes to the justice system to make it easier for people to come forward and report incidents.
He said: “My message to anyone experiencing violence, including coercive and controlling behaviours, is to seek help, advice or support – and where appropriate, report incidents to the police.
“We are continuing to make changes to the justice system to make it easier for people to come forward and report incidents and for perpetrators to be appropriately dealt with – to help realise our vision of a Scotland as a place where women and girls can live free of violence and abuse.”
Assistant chief constable Bex Smith has pointed to the support available for victims of violence.
“Domestic violence remains an under-reported crime,” said Smith.
“Abusers manipulate and control their victims, and it can be difficult for victims to recognise what’s happening and then to seek help.
“Friends, families and colleagues can often be the first to recognise abuse and call it out.
“I would urge anyone who is a victim of abuse or is concerned someone they know is a victim, then please get in touch. Help and support is available from the police and from support agencies.
“All it takes is one call or one person to alert and and we can help end the threat and harm caused by domestic abuse.”
Victim Support Scotland (VSS) chief executive Kate Wallace said that the organisations’ volunteers are able to provide practical advice, as well as emotional and financial support.
She said: “Victim Support Scotland is here to support people when they need it most.
“Looking beyond the statistics, our teams witness the devastating impact gender-based violence has on peoples’ lives.
“We all have a collective duty to unite and respond to people’s needs and do what we can to tackle gender-based violence.
“In response, our staff and volunteers continue to provide practical advice, emotional support as well as financial support through our Emergency Assistance Fund.
“VSS has also recently introduced remote evidence rooms where victims can pre-record or give evidence via video link to anywhere in the world, in a safe, supported and comfortable environment.
“Anyone who is experiencing domestic abuse can access support through our helpline on 0800 160 1985 or through online chat by going to victimsupport.scot.”
Scottish Women’s Aid chief executive Marsha Scott added: “The domestic abuse statistics hardly begin to describe the abuse and fear that are made worse by the cost of living crisis.
“Scotland must put an appropriate financial safety net in place so that children and women seeking safety and freedom don’t face these draconian choices.”