DOMESTIC abuse is one of the biggest causes of homelessness in Scotland.

A Scottish Government paper from 2010 said that “a violent or abusive dispute within the household was the fourth most common reason for all homelessness applications in 2008-09”.

Some 11 per cent of those asking their local authority for help with housing in those two years were fleeing abuse.

Scottish Women’s Aid has extrapolated from recent research carried out in Fife that there are significant problems facing women who ask any of Scotland’s 32 local authorities for help.

Those women are, the charity says, often given a stark choice: stay with your abuser or become homeless.

It is worth noting that many of the women escaping violence and sexual abuse will be taking children with them. There are few circumstances where leaving the family home, and putting you and your children in the hands of your local council’s homelessness services, is appealing.

For those who have never experienced domestic abuse and wonder why the abused does not run away from the abuser, there are myriad reasons, but this lack of choice, this lack of opportunities will, for many, make freedom impossible.

That those who do get away, and who do have to rely on the public sector, are met with the difficulties described by the women who responded to the Fife Women’s Health Improvement Research project is appalling. Of course, housing and homelessness is a complex and heavily bureaucratic part of the work of most local councils. But there must be a better way of doing things.

Clearly, the best way of dealing with domestic abuse would be for men to stop hitting women (and it is still overwhelmingly women who are the victims of domestic abuse).

Last year, the levels of domestic abuse reported in Scotland increased by 2.5 per cent over the previous year. In 2014-15, there were 59,882 incidents. This rise is, in part, the government says, down to increased confidence from victims.

How we fix this, how we make it easier for those who are beaten and attacked by their partners to leave, should be a concern for all Scotland’s political parties between now and May 5.

Victims of domestic abuse forced into living with violent partners or risk homelessness

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