The World Cup has kicked off in Brazil, and the media is awash with questions over the connection between sporting events and domestic violence and abuse.

At the same time, our sisters in Women’s Aid England have launched  their Football United Against Domestic Violence campaign, urging football clubs and supporters to pledge to send a clear message that domestic violence is always unacceptable and will not be tolerated in silence. It is a positive sign that we as a society are speaking openly about domestic violence, and that football clubs and supporters are standing with women and demanding zero tolerance to domestic abuse.

In Northern Ireland, Women’s Aid frequently sees a spike in the reporting of domestic violence during major sporting events like the World Cup, similar to the increase in reports of violence witnessed by other Women’s Aid organisations across the UK.

In our experience, the combination of risen tensions when watching matches and excessive alcohol consumption create an environment where perpetrators of abuse are more likely to commit extreme acts of physical violence.

This doesn’t mean that football causes domestic violence – in the vast majority of cases, domestic violence will already be present in the relationship, whether that is in the form of psychological, financial, emotional, physical or sexual abuse. What events like the World Cup do is act as an excuse for perpetrators to commit physical violence, and lower their inhibitions so that the violence is more extreme.

There is a growing awareness in Northern Ireland of the horror that is domestic violence, and we are increasingly becoming a society that demands zero tolerance to this heinous crime. Women’s Aid Federation Northern Ireland calls on the the PSNI to vigorously prosecute anyone who perpetrates domestic violence during the World Cup, or at any other time, and bring perpetrators to justice.

Our message to anyone suffering domestic abuse is that help is out there. The 24 Hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to all women and men affected by domestic or sexual violence.

You can call our confidential helpline on 0808 802 1414, email 24hrsupport@dvhelpline.org or text support to 07797 805 839. Our Women’s Aid network can also provide women and their children with refuge and outreach support in their local area and help with safety planning and rebuilding your life after domestic violence.