Essex County Council and Essex Police are joining together for domestic abuse awareness week this week to highlight the less obvious signs of domestic abuse.

The Home Office estimates that 43,000 people suffer from domestic abuse in Essex (4.3 per cent of the population).

More than 30,000 incidents are reported to Essex Police each year.

Research carried out by Essex County Council found that one of the biggest barriers to victims seeking support was not recognising that they were experiencing domestic abuse.

Educating the public about what constitutes abuse, recognising what is an abusive relationship and knowing where support and help can be found could help bring the numbers of incidents down.

Leader of Essex County Council Peter Martin said: "We know that victims often suffer in silence for a long time before they feel able to seek support.

"By educating friends and family to spot the signs of abuse we hope we can encourage people to get help sooner."

DCI Denise Morrissey from Essex Police said: "Domestic abuse comes in many forms and is a crime which often takes place behind closed doors.

"Children, family members, friends and work colleagues all have a part to play in recognising the first indicators of the hidden problem.

"The victims of such crimes need support -support from their friends and family members.

"This way through the provision of such support and through close working between partners across schools, health and social care we will have achieved that vital exchange of information which forms the bedrock of keeping people safe."

Michelle, a survivor of domestic abuse, said: "My heart goes out to anyone who is suffering abuse.

"My advice to any woman suffering is that you have to stand up for yourself, it can be so hard to do particularly when you have children but if it gets too bad you have to get out.

"I didn’t tell anyone and no-one knew what happened behind closed doors but I also believed he would change but he never showed remorse.

"Now I’m free from him I feel more confident about the future.”

Throughout domestic abuse awareness week hospitals, GP surgeries, libraries and council offices will display posters that give people a better understanding of how they can recognise abuse and support sufferers.

Police officers, Police Community Support Officers, councillors and some hospital staff will be wearing badges that challenge the public to think of the hidden signs of abuse.

Domestic abuse can happen to anyone; in Essex just over 75 per cent of victims are female and just under 25 per cent of victims are male.