Women's violence protestors standing outside The Senedd. Photo credits: Zeenia Naqvee

Big sports events can trigger violence against women, vigil for survivors told

Campaigners at the Senedd event urge men to step up in the face of toxic and threatening behaviour

MAJOR sporting events like the World Cup can trigger a spike in attacks on women, a Cardiff vigil for survivors of domestic violence was told.

More than 100 people attended the event at the Senedd, which took place as Wales prepared to take on the USA in their opening game of the tournament.

Research led by Lancaster University has shown that domestic violence rates increase after sporting events, particularly if the offender’s team lost.

“There’s something quite chilling about this vigil coinciding with the World Cup, an emotional event that can lead to violence against women when the result is wrong,” said speaker and Plaid Cymru MS Rhun ap Iorwerth. 

“Whatever the context, violence against women is never acceptable.”

Leader of the opposition in the Senedd, Andrew RT Davies, spoke of his wife’s experience as a midwife.

“She dreaded to go in to work after the rugby when a woman was inevitably on the receiving end of the drinking,” he said.

The event, organised by the National Federation of Women’s Institutes to commemorate survivors of domestic violence, was held days before White Ribbon Day and the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

White Ribbon Day encourages men to step up in the face of toxic behaviour against women, particularly in sport. The campaign is supported by teams including Swansea City, Newport County, and the Cardiff Devils.

Labour MS Jack Sargeant told men in the audience: “You can start by making the promise to never stand for violence against women.”

“Don’t be bystanders. We’ve got to recommit ourselves tonight,” said Labour MS Joyce Watson, a long-time campaigner on women’s issues, who sponsored the NFWI event.

She was pleased that Wales is introducing an updated curriculum in schools to combat unhealthy ideals of relationships.

“We found children are more respectful the younger they are but when they get older, we start to see the influence of society,” said Ms Watson.

Steve Barnbrook of White Ribbon UK told the vigil: “We don’t speak of sexual violence in cafes, at the bus stop. My challenge is to ask you to talk about sexual violence with your family, your friends.

“Very often, victims feel they’re the only ones going through this torture. It is not acceptable in the 21st century to have such numbers of domestic violence in this country.”

 The Crime Survey for England and Wales found almost six per cent of adults in England and Wales faced domestic abuse in 2021.

Minister for Justice Jane Hutt was keen to end the stigma attached to being a victim of domestic violence, which can hand power to abusers.

“Think of what the world may become if we were free of this violence. You are going to help us make that change,” she told the vigil.

ITV broadcaster Ruth Dodsworth highlighted that domestic abuse can happen to anyone.

“You’d never have known that I was a victim of domestic violence; you can hide bruises with makeup,” she said.

Ruth’s ex-husband was recently released from prison after being convicted of coercive control in a well-documented case.

The Wales Millennium Centre lit up for Wales in the World Cup. Credit: Zeenia Naqvee

Ruth reminded the audience that escaping an abusive relationship is often difficult, especially given the cost-of-living crisis. But there is always hope.

“Domestic violence does not define us,” she said.

The vigil was part of a day of events on issues including gendered workplace violence. Other speakers represented organisations including the Welsh TUC and Welsh Women’s Aid.

  • The Welsh Government’s Live Fear Free campaign offers practical advice to victims of domestic abuse.
  • Welsh Women’s Aid’s helpline can be accessed here.