Content warning: This article includes descriptions of domestic violence and use of explicit language.

As the run up to the 2022 World Cup begins, men and women all over the world are filled with excitement at the prospect of their beloved football team bringing home the gold. However, a nation of boozed-up football lovers, chanting patriotic love letters to their favourite players doesn’t reflect every Brits experience of this time of year. 

Though the outcome of the Quatar World Cup is uncertain; we can expect many things at the time of the tournament; full pubs, the consumption of alcohol and, tragically, a rise in domestic abuse. 

This dark truth to the world’s favourite sport overshadows a game which, otherwise, would bring people together. Statistics from the National Centre of Domestic Violence say that reported incidents of domestic abuse (DA) increase by 26% if England plays, 38% if England loses and 11% the next day, whether they win or loose. 

Jean Arliss, a 62-year-old grandmother of six, from Sheffield, said her abusive ex-husband used football as a way to “get involved with all the fighting.”

“He was horrible, he used the matches as a way to pick on people and me,” Jean opened up about the abuse she received over the years of marriage to her ex-husband.

“I’m a happy person now, not like I was before.” Jean said she met her ex-husband when she was 13, and he was 16.

“We finally got married when I was 19 and he was 21. It was fine when we were first courting, and through the first year of our marriage, but after that it all went downhill. That’s when the nightmare started. The first year of our marriage he was in prison for grievous bodily harm (GBH), but I still stuck by him until he got out, and it all went downhill. When he came out of prison, I had the children.”

Things took a turn for the worst after Jean’s ex-husband was released from prison, in a series of events that nearly led to the death of Jean and her two boys.

Jean said: “This particular day he went out, got drunk and came home. That’s when the abuse started. He abused me verbally at first, but then pushed me down onto the floor and sat on me.”

It was at this point in the attack when Jean’s ex-husband attempted to sexually assault her.

“I was kicking my feet while I was on the floor, trying to get him off me. My friend lived underneath me and heard. Her boys came running upstairs and hit him on top of the head with a piece of wood to get him off me. I wouldn’t be here now if it wasn’t for that. He was strangling me, being nasty and horrible.” Jean continues.

“That was it for me. I still stuck by him for a bit, but the verbal abuse didn’t stop. “You’re nothing but a fat ugly bitch,” “You’re a bitch,” “Nobody wants you,” “Nobody will have you,” is what he used to say.

“I had my two babies, my boys were only babies. He tried to gas me and my boys by trying to rip the gas metre off the wall so the gas would come through.

“I finally decided, after three years of it, to walk away. He got into trouble near Christmas, for attempting to harm and rob someone with a hammer and a screwdriver after the football. While he was inside I decided to break free and leave with the two babies. It was hard but it wasn’t, at the same time. I had to take my babies, he was an evil horrible man, now I’ve found out after 43 years he’s passed away.

“I put a barrier up, I couldn’t and wouldn’t trust another man. Until I met my second husband, he’s the most caring.”

Jean told the Echo she and her second husband met while Jean was in her late 40s, at work.

“It’s taken me all these years to get the barrier down because I couldn’t trust anybody. You can’t trust anybody, you don’t want to. You want to have this big barrier up.” Jean continues.

“Neil and I have been together 16 years, we’re happy, and Neil’s got health issues so I’m a carer for him. We met in Lockley, we’ve got two lovely lads and six grandchildren. If you ask them who their grandad is they’ll say my second husband. 

“If my story helps somebody else to realise what it’s like to live in an abusive relationship, I’m glad. As soon as someone is abusive to you, walk, I’m alive, but I’m lucky. A woman doesn’t need to be abused, she has the right not to be abused, she’s got the right to be loved and cared for, not a punchbag. 

“Don’t be afraid to walk, there’s always someone out there who can help you. I had my late dad and my mum; and my late uncle and auntie around to help me. A lot of women think that they deserve it; a woman doesn’t deserve to be abused, no body deserves it. With men as well, it’s not only women, no one deserves it.”

Statistics taken from 2017-2018 (the year before, and the year of the last FIFA world cup) show a 1488% increase in assault with injury, and a 1545% increase in assault without injury offences recorded with a domestic abuse keyword and victim. Meaning, there was a major increase in offences linked to domestic abuse from the year 2017-2018.

These statistics, taking us from 2017 to 2019, show a sharp increase in cases of domestic abuse recorded. The major jump from 2017-2018 correlates with the last World Cup (held in 2018).

A report by the BBC in 2018 found that “more than 60 cases of domestic abuse were reported after England’s semi-finals defeat by Croatia.” Compared to the, previously, highest figure of 24 during the 2016 Euros.

While, football its-self does not cause the increase in offences, these surges in reports of domestic abuse strongly suggest their links with the timing of key England fixtures.

Football is usually associated with rowdy ‘hooliganism’, but this cannot be used to justify the acts of abuse linked so closely with the games.

“Me, my now-husband and my family are all football supporters, I don’t agree with people using football games as somewhere to go and use foul language and fight. It’s there for entertainment and for families to go too. ” says Jean.

The South Yorkshire Echo have created the campaign ‘Blow the Whistle’ on domestic violence in response to these statistics, and to raise awareness of this tragic issue in the run up to the Qatar 2022 World Cup. The Echo want to help women like Jean get the help and resources they need at a time where they feel the most isolated.

You can donate to the ‘Blow the Whistle’ campaign here.

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