DOMESTIC violence needs to be looked at as an epidemic, a survivor has said.

Rachel Williams decided to turn her life around after suffering within a violent relationship for almost two decades and is now inspiring dozens of women every day to speak out about their experiences.

According to statistics from White Ribbon UK, two women are killed by a current or ex-partner every week and six out of seven victims are female. Further data from Women's Aid shows that on one day in 2017, 94 women and 90 children were turned away from refuge and 60 per cent of all referrals were declined due to lack of space.

According to Safelives (2016), the estimated cost of domestic abuse is £5.5b a year, costing the NHS £1.73b and Rachel said that although men can fall victims to violence, figures show it is predominately male violence that is the problem.

She told the Leader: "I don't think there's enough support out there, there's too many cuts. We should be investing in it, there's no point just scratching the surface. If it was looked at as an epidemic, the Government would be chucking millions to find a cure.

"I think until society looks at them as domestic terrorists, we're not going to go any further. People seem to have that mindset that what goes on in that house is their business, it's not, domestic abuse is everyone's business. We all need to be doing more, it's changing the cultural beliefs and the mindset of people, that's what we need to do.

"Some people don't realise they are in an abusive relationship. For them, it's the norm, especially when you're younger you have nothing to compare it to. Certainly for me, even though I knew I wasn't in a nice relationship, I didn't recognise it as being domestic abuse. Seven years ago I didn't even know what Women's Aid was. Thankfully things have progressed since then but I do feel not a lot of women know they are victims, this is where we need to be educating the younger generation more than what we're doing."

Rachel has commented after figures, received from a Freedom of Information request by the Leader, showed reported incidents to North Wales Police were at their highest in 2017 with 3,140 across Flintshire and 3,806 across Wrexham.

The National Police Chiefs' Council defines domestic abuse as 'any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults, aged 16+ who are/have been intimate.

In 2018, Flintshire saw 317 incidents reported in August which was the highest month of the year, compared to the lowest in February with 215. Similarly, Wrexham saw the highest number of reports this year in July with 344 compared to 261 in January, but Rachel said many incidents are unreported, particularly during the Christmas period.

Last year, December was the month for both counties with the highest number of reports - 308 Flintshire and 353 Wrexham.

She said: "I think people put up with it, especially this time of year because they don't want to end up in a refuge over Christmas. I don't think enough is done to keep women safe in their own homes and there's not enough deterrent to stop perpetrators."

Rachel wrote a book called 'the Devil at Home' which takes readers on a journey about her experience of domestic violence and how her partner left her for dead and she said with the help of people with power, like Jack Sargeant AM for Alyn and Deeside, steps are being taken in the right direction.

She added: "I wanted to show people all perpetrators are the same, they want to cause fear, mayhem and panic but there is life after and help out there when you're ready to make that move.

"Carl (Sargeant) was probably one of my biggest supporters and fully supported what I was doing. It's a massive loss, not just as a friend but as a senior figure in the Government. We will never replace Carl but thankfully Jack has got the same heart and commitment he had, and wants to carry on his legacy which is amazing for us."

Former AM Carl Sargeant was a keen advocate for victims and survivors of domestic abuse and the services that support these people - including the White Ribbon UK Campaign. He also initiated the Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Violence Act (Wales) and his son Jack has pledged to continue the hard work he started.

The AM is working with third sector organisations, the public and raising awareness within Government about domestic violence in all forms and is also an Ambassador for White Ribbon UK.

He said: "I will continue to scrutinise Welsh Government on what they are doing to support services that provide help and support to those in need and question how effective the services are both in the short and long-term.

"I believe awareness is key, there is no excuse for domestic violence. We all have a duty to play in raising awareness in schools, workplaces and in our day to day lives.

"Dad was instrumental in initiating the ground-breaking legislation but there's still more to be done, that's why I will continue his work, in his memory and in support of the victims and survivors.

"Wearing a white ribbon is incredibly important as it's a constant reminder to the public to never commit, excuse or remain silent about male violence against women. I would encourage everyone to take the pledge on the White Ribbon website.

"If you are, or know anyone, who is in an abusive relationship please know you're not alone. There are support networks out there such as DASU and Women's Aid that can provide you with information and guide you through this difficult time. No-one should feel scared because of someone else's actions, especially in their own home."

Chris Green, president of the White Ribbon campaign also praised the AM for his work in the community and said raising awareness is key to ending domestic violence.

He told the Leader that there is a huge issue on unreported incidents of abuse and despite a spike during the Christmas period - due to financial stress and increased alcohol consumption amongst other things - domestic violence occurs all year round.

Anyone who is, or knows of anyone in an abusive relationship can call the 24 hour Women's Aid hotline on 0808 2000 247.