AN AVERAGE of 12 domestic abuse cases are reported every day in Fife.

New statistics reveal that Police Scotland recorded 4,436 incidents for 2018-19 with figures predicted to rise even higher next year with the introduction of the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018.

The legislation recognises coercive control as a crime which had previously gone unpunished.

Despite work by multiple agencies to address violence against women, the Fife Violence Against Women Partnership's annual report for 2018-19 shows there has been no improvement in figures, remaining relatively consistent over the last five years.

The number of homeless applications due to domestic abuse continued to rise, to 253 in the last year.

Fife Women's Aid reporting they received 1,424 referrals for the year for women aged 16 or over.

Of the 42 females supported by Shakti Women's Aid, 38 were primarily due to domestic abuse, but there was one case of female genital mutilation and three forced marriages.

Despite the obvious challenges authorities face, progress made by working groups, such as improving staff training, exploring legal issues and improving housing options, has been welcomed by Fife councillors.

Dunfermline councillor Helen Law said: "There has been lots of great work going on across Fife and there are multi-agency teams for families who find themselves in a domestic abuse situation.

"For women facing violence, it is absolutely catastrophic.

"But I think folk are able to access a lot more services now.

"I think of years ago when women felt they had to put up with it because there was nowhere to go but, thankfully, there is now provision although it is still a difficult subject.

"It is horrible that domestic violence still exists today.

"Sometimes it is not physical violence, it can be controlling the purse strings for example, and that is just as distressing for victims.

"There are all types of abuse so it is great that this new legislation has been brought in."

Over the past two years, the Women’s Health Improvement Research (WHIR) project has focused on increasing options open to women, with the emphasis on keeping vulnerable women and children safe.

Where possible, the project supports women to stay in the family home and has worked with Fife Law Centre to provide independent legal advice and explore different ways of getting the perpetrator of the abuse to leave the home.

Staff training has also been a key focus of the project with staff from across the Fife Housing Partnership encouraged to take part in the Fife Violence Against Women training programme to increase their knowledge of the issue.

Cllr Judy Hamilton, who chairs the (WHIR) Project, said: "Women need to have better options, better support, and advice when it comes to improving their situation, and it's great to see the work we're doing making a difference."

There is a range of support available for anyone living with abuse. You can get help from: Fife Council Housing Service 03451 550033, Fife Women’s Aid (women only) 0808 802 5555, Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage helpline (men and women) 0800 027 1234, Rape Crisis Helpline 0808 801 0302, Fife Rape and Sexual Assault Centre 01592 642336.