Domestic abuse crimes soared in Bedfordshire over the last six years – and thousands were recorded during the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, figures show.
Nearly 850,000 such crimes were reported to police across England and Wales last year, and that is merely "the tip of the iceberg", according to charity Women's Aid.
Rates for many other crimes dropped during a year that included coronavirus restrictions and national lockdowns, yet domestic abuse rose by 6 per cent nationally.
Home Office data shows 8,313 offences were recorded by Bedfordshire Police in 2020-21, making up 17 per cent of all offences recorded that year.
That is the equivalent of 12 for every 1,000 people in the area, the same rate as in the previous year.
But the area has seen a 79 per cent rise in domestic abuse offences since 4,655 were logged in 2015-16, when records began.
The data shows women are disproportionately more likely to experience abuse and they have accounted for more than three-quarters of those killed in domestic homicides since 2018 nationally .
Farah Nazeer, chief executive of Women's Aid, said to tackle domestic abuse, society must work together to tackle the "inherent sexism and misogyny which underpin women's inequality and violence against them".
She said: "Women will not report domestic abuse if they aren’t confident they will be believed and action will be taken on their behalf.
"We all have a part to play in unlearning sexism."
The figures suggest most cases of domestic abuse will not see perpetrators charged, with just 8 per cent of cases concluded nationally last year resulting in a charge or summons.
Cases handled by Bedfordshire Police were even less likely to end with a suspect before the courts, with 6 per cent concluding with a charge or summons.
Ms Nazeer said work was needed to restore faith in policing after more than three quarters of investigations were dropped due to evidential difficulties nationally – more than half because the victim pulled out of the investigation.
In Bedfordshire, 83 per cent of cases were closed due to problems gathering evidence in 2020-21, with 66 per cent% abandoned because the victim did not wish to support the investigation.
The National Police Chiefs' Council lead for domestic abuse, assistant commissioner Louisa Rolfe, said the "complex and entrenched societal problem" was a policing priority and highlighted an increased number of victims reporting abuse in recent years.
She said forces could still pursue cases to keep victims safe, even when they are reluctant to support prosecution but said arresting offenders was a temporary respite from the problem.
She called for a multi-agency approach to provide effective and sustainable support and solutions.
A Home Office spokeswoman said the Government is committed to ending violence against women and girls, and said its landmark Domestic Abuse Act would improve victim support and strengthen legislation.
She said funding had been doubled for 2021-22 to £25 million in an effort to tackle perpetrators.