It's reckoned Devon victims of abuse in the home suffer for an average of five years before they seek help.
The abuse can start by undermining a partner's confidence with continual criticism and can escalate to serious violence and mental abuse.
Around 45 per cent of women who die suddenly are murdered at the hands of a partner or ex-partner.
As part of Domestic Abuse Awareness Week we're looking at how we can help stop domestic abuse escalating by alerting police or other agencies if we suspect a friend, relative or neighbour could be a victim.
Karen suffered for years until she was brave enough to call police herself: CLICK HERE
Domestic abuse has a higher rate of repeat offences than other crime and anyone worried about an abusive relationship is urged by police to report it sooner rather than later.
Home Office research suggests that domestic abuse is rarely a seldom occurrence; 44% of people are victimised more than once and almost one in five (18%) are victimised three or more times.
The figures are high as often victims do not report incidents through fear that abuse may become worse or they are reliant on their abuser for financial support.
Abusive relationships often grow in frequency and severity, and sometimes the early incidents may not even be thought of as abuse. Many begin with emotional abuse such as name calling and put downs, and this escalates over time to more severe emotional abuse and sometimes physical violence.
Detective Inspector Andy Berry, from Devon and Cornwall Police and Chairman of the Northern Devon MARAC (Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference) said: “Most victims experience several forms of abuse and these may begin very subtly and then escalate. This escalation can sometimes be very quick and lead rapidly to a significant incident with other victims, or the escalation can be gradual over a longer-period of time.
“Domestic abuse is one of the most under-reported crimes and often many incidents of abuse happen before the victim will seek help." To hear more CLICK HERE
“If people are worried about family, friends or colleagues it important that they or they advise or assist the victim seek help and advice. But if the victim can’t or won’t and they are really concerned that someone may get hurt then they should be prepared to raise the alarm themselves”
For advice and information call the National Domestic Abuse helpline on 0808 2000 247 or contact Devon and Cornwall Police by calling 101.