MINISTERS must spend more on support services for victims of domestic abuse, the boss of a Wiltshire charity has said.

It came as a new report revealed the shocking scale of domestic violence in rural communities. The National Rural Crime Network warned that victims were “all too often lost to support, policing and criminal justice services”.

Backing the report, Fran Lewis MBE, executive director of Wiltshire domestic abuse service Splitz, said demand on the charity was increasing. Splitz runs four refuges across the county.

Ms Lewis called on government to double the funding available to services supporting domestic abuse victims across the country: “We need to have a government that’s really going to get behind the support for victims and work with perpetrators. They really need to release more funding to deliver effective services.”

Splitz’s Wiltshire budget currently stood at around £1m a year, she added.

Her comments followed the publication of a major report by the National Rural Crime Network, shining a light on what has been branded the dark underbelly of rural life: domestic abuse.

The report, which saw scores of victims interviewed by researchers, warned it can take victims of domestic violence living in the countryside up to 25 per cent longer to leave an abusive partner than those living in towns and cities. The response from police was described as largely inadequate, while service providers spent too much of their time chasing funding.

Julia Mulligan, chairman of the National Rural Crime Network and police and crime commissioner for North Yorkshire, said: “All parties with a duty to help victims; the police, support services, charities, police and crime commissioners, health services, and many others, need to understand that we have missed this.

“We have let victims and survivors down. We have collectively failed. We need to put that right. And for all of that, let me be the first to apologise to those we have failed.”

“What they’ve said about some of the issues people face is spot on,” said Ms Lewis of Splitz, praising the report’s evidence-backed conclusions.

She identified rural isolation as a particular problem for those facing violence or controlling behaviour at the hands of a partner or relative.

“Often, there’s very poor broadband,” she said. “Public transport is diabolical. If you want to go from your village to the town on a Tuesday that’s alright if you don’t mind waiting until Thursday to get back. You’re lucky if there’s a mobile signal. If you are seen talking to someone in a café, someone’s going to tell your old man.”

The Home Office said it was committed to tackling domestic violence: "Whether it takes place in our rural communities or cities, we are supporting chief constables and police and crime commissioners so they can deploy resources as they best see fit to tackle crime, including domestic abuse.”