Whichever team wins the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, one thing is certain: women will face violence at the hands of their partners.
Today, as England are set to play Wales, Gemma Williams has told how her ex-boyfriend bit his ear watching the national team lose a game.
On the day of the brutal attack, England faced Italy at the World Cup in June 2014, a game they lost.
Her then-partner David Barr, now 46, left her concussed for months and “mentally scarred for life”.
Gemma – who was 29 at the time – spoke about the link between the World Cup and domestic violence, which increases by 38% when the national team loses.
The cleaning company assistant, from Mold, North Wales, said: ‘It was absolutely awful. I couldn’t leave the house for two months, I was off work for three months and the concussion lasted even longer.
“He had shown signs of aggression, but I didn’t understand it correctly because I had never experienced this before.”
“The day it happened England were playing Italy in the World Cup. David was drinking and watching the game and then a former colleague texted me and just asked how I was doing.
‘David saw it and took it badly. He got up and smashed my phone to pieces, before punching me and continuing to beat me as I lay unconscious on the kitchen floor.
“I ended up in hospital the next day with a severe concussion, a broken jaw and bit off part of my ear.
“I couldn’t even run a hairbrush through my hair because it was so bloodstained.
“He tried to get me to tell people I had run into the dog, but after a few days I told my friend and she called the police – thank goodness.”
Alcohol is a major player in the relationship between football and domestic violence.
Earlier this year, a report from the London School of Economics (LSE) found that excessive alcohol consumption is the key factor, with alcohol-related violence against partners occurring more often on match days.
The research used detailed and confidential data from Greater Manchester Police, combining five data sets on domestic violence calls and crimes over an eight-year period.
These records contain the time, place, description, type of relationship, and whether the abuser was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Gemma is now happily married, but says the recovery from the attack is “endless”.
She hopes the high rates of domestic violence associated with the World Cup will improve.
Her story comes to light just days after Women’s Aid launched a new campaign highlighting the increased frequency and severity of existing domestic violence at major football tournaments.
“The short-term impact of the attack was absolutely horrific,” Gemma said.
“I had to have post-it notes around the house to remind me of things because my concussion was so bad.
“It took a long time to trust again. Fortunately, I married someone I’ve known for 20 years, so the trust is there.
“But at first I was so scared, all I walked around the corner I thought he would be there.
“The World Cup is definitely a trigger for domestic violence because of the amount of alcohol and how excited everyone is.
“It’s also about the personality of the individual, but when you see football clubs rioting during a match, it’s just ridiculous.”
“The culture of football and the World Cup encourages violence against women, it must change.”
Gemma’s ex-David was arrested and then sentenced by the Mold Crown Court in August 2014 to six years behind bars.
He pleaded guilty to a charge of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
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