Brutal truth: ‘If England gets beaten, so will she’
WHILE millions of excited British football fans are gearing up for England's World Cup semi final against Croatia on Thursday, thousands of women and children in abusive households are preparing for the worst.
Domestic violence incidents increase during major sporting events like the World Cup and British emergency services expect abuse to spike following Thursday's game, especially if England loses.
A shocking new photo campaign from the UK's National Centre for Domestic Violence has launched ahead of the match, with the tagline, "If England gets beaten, so will she."
Research analysing domestic violence figures from England's games in the 2002, 2006 and 2010 World Cups found incidents of domestic abuse rose by 38 per cent when the England team lost and increased by 26 per cent where England won or drew, compared with days when there was no England match.
The researchers from UK's Lancaster University found there was also a carry-over effect, with incidents of domestic abuse 11 per cent higher the day after an England match.
The NCDV's campaign has also extended to other nations in the World Cup, including Switzerland, Japan, Belgium and France.
Many have suggested the figures are made up or that is it too simplistic to imply a direct link between big sporting events and domestic violence.
"What a joke, blaming football for domestic violence," commented one man on the organisation's Facebook page.
"It's to do with the alcohol consumption u morons not England playing," wrote another.
In a bid to combat this criticism of the NCDV's campaign, women who have experienced abuse following a sporting loss have shared their stories online,
A woman identified only as Lucy, shared her story with Elle magazine. She and her autistic brother Jonny were abused by their father during the 2006 World Cup, when England lost against Portugal in the quarterfinals. At the time, Lucy was 10 and Jonny was 8.
"Lucy wasn't just scared of an England defeat, she was scared for her life," wrote Elle's Hannah Price.
"When the game against Portugal kicked off, they were hiding in their room - like they tried to be every England game - anxiously awaiting the sound of a win or a loss. If England beat Portugal, everything might be okay. If they're lucky, they may even get ice cream. Because if his team won, Lucy's dad would be on top of the world.
"Those who followed the 2006 tournament will know that the game ended in a red card, penalties and bitter disappointment for England, but for Lucy and her brother it was just the beginning of a night that descended into terror."
Their father stormed off to the pub and returned drunk, sporting a black eye. He later turned on his own children.
Even now as an adult, the arrival of football season stirs up trauma.
"All of my injuries healed eventually but I often feel like the emotional scars never will," said Lucy, now 23.
"As football adverts flash on the TV in Lucy's living room, so does that familiar sinking feeling in her stomach. Just the mention of the tournament takes Lucy back to when she was a child - and the violence, the abuse."
Another woman, Penny, told the BBC she used to dread the sound of football on the TV, because she knew the partner she shared a one-bedroom apartment with was about to let loose.
"He didn't really have any friends," Penny said. "So he would want me to watch football with him to share in his hobby. But, when I did, I would just sit there silently willing, willing, willing his team [Chelsea] to win, because I knew what to expect if they lost... the physical and emotional abuse I was experiencing would escalate."
When Penny's partner's team lost, the abuse would get worse.
"He'd just sulk silently and completely ignore me for four or five days, no matter what I said," she said. "He would do things like cook dinner and refuse to give me any."
The link between sport and domestic violence isn't just an overseas problem.
Ahead of State of Origin game three on Wednesday night, a frightening new study has linked a dangerous spike in domestic violence incidents against women and children to the annual series between NSW and Queensland.
New data from the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research spanning six years from 2012 to 2017 indicates a 40.7 per cent average increase in domestic violence, and 71.8 per cent in non-domestic assaults across the state on Origin game days.
The Centre for Alcohol Policy Research at La Trobe University examined the data for recorded domestic and non-domestic assaults in NSW on Wednesday nights, from 6pm to 6am the next day for the weeks around Origin games.
The data spanned 11 weeks when games are held and included Victoria as a control measure because of the low interest in rugby league in that state.
The Centre's Dr Michael Livingston said the spike in cases was significant and consistent in NSW across the three-game series in each and every one of the years examined.
"In the twelve-hour window from 6pm to 6am on State of Origin game night, women and children in New South Wales are almost 40 per cent more likely to become victims of domestic violence," Dr Livingston said.
"Of note, when we compare those findings with Victoria, a state with less interest in rugby league, the data reveals no statistically significant increase in violent assaults on the dates in question."
Experts say the "disturbing findings" suggest the Origin's "particular celebration of heavy drinking, masculinity, tribalism, and the toxic level of aggressive alcohol promotion have collided to encourage drinking to excess and domestic violence".
They say the NRL more broadly has become a "battle of toxic masculinity and beer brands" where it's hard to know where the game ends and the violence and alcohol sponsorship begins."
Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education boss Michael Thorn said it was "crystal clear" the games were driving an increase in domestic violence, including alcohol-related incidents in the state.
"It's happening on the National Rugby League's watch and women and children are being harmed as a direct consequence of these games," Mr Thorn said.
- with Stephanie Bedo
The National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line - 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) - is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault.