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17 December 2014, 12:08
Scotland's most senior police officer has urged domestic abusers to "think again'' about the impact of their crimes on their families, as he warned that hundreds of youngsters will witness attacks over Christmas.
Police Scotland were called out to more than 42,000 domestic incidents between April 1 and December 16 - with children in the home at the time in 34% of cases.
Chief Constable Sir Stephen House said this could have a "lifelong and devastating'' impact on youngsters, who he said were the "unacknowledged victims of domestic abuse''.
Sir Stephen was speaking as he met Justice Secretary Michael Matheson ahead of the annual campaign to raise public awareness of domestic abuse, which runs for 13 days from Christmas Eve.
Police Scotland will have an additional 651 officers on the streets across Scotland on Friday, in a bid to prevent domestic attacks and help keep people safe.
Sir Stephen said: "The festive season is traditionally a time for families, but it is also a peak time for incidents of domestic abuse. The biggest victims of domestic abuse are often the smallest. Children are often the unacknowledged victims of domestic abuse, yet for them the effects can be lifelong and devastating.
"Police Scotland will not tolerate domestic abuse, working with our many partners in the public and voluntary sector, we will tackle it and we aim to prevent it destroying the lives of its victims, and those children who too often witness this abuse.
"Our message to domestic abusers is stop, think, and think again of the effect on your family and your children. There is support out there, please use it. But understand this, if you are an abuser, there is no place to hide - we will find you.''
Mr Matheson said domestic abuse is "an appalling crime, particularly for children who are forced to witness the suffering of someone they love''.
The Justice Secretary added: "Police Scotland's domestic abuse campaign is not only timely but also exactly the right message we should be sending to everyone across Scotland - that tackling domestic abuse is a key priority for justice organisations across the country and there is nowhere for offenders to hide.
"Ridding our country of the scourge of abuse requires a range of activity and that is why we have invested £34.5 million between 20120-15 to provide funding for a range of projects to tackle domestic abuse across Scotland.
"There has been a lot of action to tackle domestic abuse in Scotland over the past few months with the introduction of two new disclosure pilots in Aberdeen and Ayrshire, and it is right that people in relationships should have the opportunity to seek the facts about their partner's background if, for example, they have concerns that they might have a history of domestic abuse.
"We have also recently announced our consultation on introducing a specific offence to tackle domestic abuse, which will run in the new year.''
Mhairi McGowan, from the specialist domestic abuse advisory service Assist, said: "In our work with victims, we see the devastating effects of domestic abuse every day.
"Adults and children all over Scotland are living in fear of what's coming next, wondering whether Christmas will be disrupted by someone choosing to abuse them.
"Every child, young person and adult deserves to live a life free of fear and intimidation, a life where everyone can reach their potential.
"I very much welcome Police Scotland's proactive campaign to tackle domestic abuse and urge all victims to come forward and report what is happening in order that those who act in this way can be stopped.''