Nearly 7,000 women in Lewisham were referred to domestic violence services in five years, according to a Freedom of Information request.  

Lewisham commissions the Athena service, which is run by domestic violence charity Refuge. 

It offers support to residents in the borough who are experiencing gender-based violence. 

1,065 women were referred to Athena in 2015, 1,416 in 2016, 1,525 in 2017, 1,585 in 2018, and 1,318 in 2019.  

The number of men referred to the service was three per cent of the figure for female referrals at 270 in five years, although male referrals went up by nearly 10 per cent between 2015 and 2019.  

36 men were referred in 2015, 48 in 2016, 53 in 2017, 72 in 2018, and 61 in 2019.  

According to the latest crime statistics, an estimated 2.4 million adults between 16 and 74 experienced domestic abuse – 1.6 million women and 786,000 men – in the year ending March 2019.  

6.8 per cent of women were victims of non-sexual domestic abuse, compared with 3.5 per cent of males. 

But these figures are not reflected in the number of women or men being referred to services in Lewisham with more than 300,000 people living in the borough. 

And the number of domestic violence cases is estimated to be much higher as it often goes unreported.  

Charity Living Without Abuse estimates that domestic abuse will affect one in four women and one in six men in their lifetime. 

It leads to, on average, two women being murdered each week and 30 men per year.  

Mark Brooks, chairman of the ManKind Initiative charity for male victims of domestic abuse, called on the council to fund a campaign to encourage more men to come forward.  

He said: “Given that around one in three victims of domestic abuse are men, the fact that so few are being referred to local domestic abuse services is shocking – something is not working. 

“The figures show that not enough are coming forward to get help and there is clearly a need for a specific awareness campaign to encourage them to do so. 

“It also asks the question why they are not being referred to services and whether too many people, including professionals, are still thinking that domestic abuse only happens to women.  

“We believe the council should fund a campaign to encourage more men to come forward and provide specialist training for the police, GP’s and other professionals. We could certainly help with that.”  

Lewisham Councillor Brenda Dacres, cabinet member for safer communities, said the council is “absolutely committed to doing everything possible to tackle domestic abuse in all its forms”.    

“Next month we’re relaunching the Lewisham Athena Service which provides confidential, non-judgmental support to victims of domestic abuse.  

“It will have a renewed focus on enhancing the support and services available to all victims of domestic abuse.  

“Domestic abuse is a gender-based crime and while it disproportionately affects women, we know that men experience domestic abuse and often require a more tailored approach to assist them to get the help and support they need.  

“We work closely with ManKind and benefit from their expertise in helping men who are suffering from domestic abuse and we will continue to do so,” she said.