Woman whose ear was bitten off during World Cup match speaks out

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A woman has revealed how she was brutally attacked by her ex-boyfriend, while watching England lose a World Cup match. Gemma Williams told her story in an effort to raise awareness about domestic violence women face around key sporting events.

It is believed that there is a strong link between the results of sports teams, especially football squads, and cases of assault by fans.

Ms Williams, now 37 years old, was severely beaten and had part of her ear ripped off by her partner at the time during a World Cup match between England and Italy in June 2014.

The attack at the hands of David Barr, 46, left her concussed for months and “mentally scarred for life”, she said.

She said: “It was absolutely awful. I couldn’t leave the house for two months; I was off work for three months and the concussion lasted even longer.

“He had shown some signs of aggression, but I didn’t pick up on it properly as I’d never experienced that before.

“On the day it happened, England were playing Italy in the World Cup – a match they lost. He was drinking and watching the game, then one of my old colleagues messaged me and just asked how I was.

The cleaning company assistant from Mold, North Wales, who was 29 at the time, continued: “David saw it and took it the wrong way – he got up and smashed my phone to pieces, before punching me and continuing to beat me whilst I lay unconscious on the kitchen floor.

“I ended up in hospital the following day with a severe concussion, broken jaw and part of my ear bitten off.

“I couldn’t even get a hairbrush through my hair because it was so matted with blood.

“He tried to get me to tell people I had fallen over the dog, but after a few days I told my friend and she called the police – thank God.”

The couple had met the previous November, and Barr had moved into her house just three months later.

Shortly after beginning to live together, Ms Williams said she began feeling “trapped” and “terrified” in his presence.

Barr was arrested and later sentenced to six years in prison at Mold Crown Court, after pleading guilty to wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

Thankfully, after her ordeal, Ms Williams is now happily married, but stressed that the healing from the vicious assault is continual.

She said: “The short-term impact of the attack was absolutely awful. I had to have post-it notes around the house to remind me of things because my concussion was so bad.

“It’s taken a long time to trust again. Luckily, I’ve married someone I’ve known for 20 years so the trust is there.

“But at first, I was so scared; every time I walked round a corner I thought he’d be there.”

Eight years on, Ms Williams is now speaking out about her experience in the hope it will raise awareness of the link between the World Cup specifically and incidents of domestic violence.

According to one statistic, there is a staggering 38 percent rise in recorded cases when England lose a match.

There have been numerous academic studies into the association with the international football tournament, as well as other mainstream sporting events.

One by professors at the University of St Andrews – published the same year Ms Williams was attacked – found that there was “evidence that domestic violence increases around sporting events in wider society”.

It noted: “It is not argued that sport causes domestic violence, but that it can provide the conditions that enable forms of domestic violence.”

Prior research, which compared police data around domestic violence and England fixtures during the World Cup in South Africa in 2010, suggested that when England either won or lost there was a significant increase in incident reports when compared with non-match days in previous years.

Ms Williams commented: “The World Cup is definitely a trigger for domestic violence because of the amount of drinking and how hyped everyone gets.

“It’s also about the individual’s personality as well – but when you see riots at football clubs over a game, it’s just ridiculous.

“The culture of football and the World Cup encourages violence towards women; it needs to change.”

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