Helen Janes will never forget the hate in her partner’s eyes as he picked up her son’s PlayStation and swung it against her skull.

“He grabbed the console with both hands and twisted his body round so he could whack me with full force, as if he was playing baseball,” she recalls. “His second blow knocked me unconscious. The police later told me that my son Joseph, then 12, had to crawl over my body and beg him not to kill me.”

During a brutal 10-year relationship, Helen, 40, from Windsor, was routinely battered by her partner Lawrence Feek, 44. He’d throttle her, pull out her hair, punch and kick her, and spit in her face.

What’s shocking is that her experience is far from uncommon. The latest figures reveal that around 1.3 million women a year in the UK report experiences of domestic abuse,* while police are called to such incidents every 30 seconds. In 2017, 147 women lost their lives to domestic violence.

To put these figures into perspective, over the last 17 years, 126 people were killed in terrorist attacks on UK soil,** while from 2001 until the end of 2017, 136 British servicemen and women were killed during operations in Iraq and 405 in hostile actions in Afghanistan. Yet between 2009 to 2015, in the safety of their own homes, 936 women were killed as a result of male violence.*

“Two women a week are murdered by a current or former partner, and many more attempt to take their own lives as a result of domestic abuse,” says Suzanne Jacob, CEO of charity Safe Lives. “That’s more than 100 bereaved families a year. If that many lives were lost to terrorism, we’d be doing more to reduce deaths, yet there are no such plans for domestic abuse.”

But why are men behaving this way in the first place?

“There’s a long history of male on female violence,” explains psychologist Emma Kenny. “It was still legal to rape your wife until 1991 in the UK – that’s less than 30 years ago, which shows just how ‘acceptable’ it used to be.

“In recent decades, women have found more freedom in society in terms of jobs and money, which has weakened the ability of men to control them – but some males find this difficult to deal with.

“They see the female as part of who they are and that she belongs to them. Often, domestic violence turns fatal when a woman chooses to leave the relationship. There is nothing more humiliating, angering or upsetting for a man who wishes to have power over his partner than a woman who rejects him. For an abuser, it’s easier for them to kill the woman and eradicate the possibility of not being in control of her or letting her have another sexual partner, than to let her go.”

Helen met Feek at a friend’s party in February 2005 and instantly fell for him.

“He was really charming and so lovely,” she remembers. “We’d see each other often and he was great with Joseph, who was just two at the time. They got on so well that after six months, Lawrence and I decided to move in together in Lincolnshire.”

However, within weeks Helen, a stay-at-home mum, saw a different side to her boyfriend’s personality.

He picked up the PlayStation and smashed me in the face with it until I was unconscious.

“He seemed obsessive about housework, getting agitated if cushions were untidy or the washing-up was still in the sink,” she says. “I put it down to him being a bit of a neat freak. But then in December 2005, Lawrence hit me over the state of the house. I can’t remember exactly why, but I was standing by the sofa and his slap stunned me into silence. I never thought I was the type to let that happen, but he frantically apologised straight away and, stupidly, I let it go.”

Over the months that followed, Feek’s attacks became more frequent and severe, and Helen’s self-confidence began to crumble.

“There was no pattern,” she recalls. “Sometimes everything was great between us for months, but then he’d erupt and I’d be pinned up against the wall for not smiling the right way. It’s hard to explain why I didn’t leave or confide in anyone, but he’d slowly started chipping away at me and controlling my life. He’d come to the hairdressers with me to suggest how they could do my hair, or we’d go clothes shopping and he’d select outfits for me. At first, I thought he was being really attentive, but after a while I felt like I had no control over my own life. I didn’t dare say anything in case he kicked off. He slowly isolated me from my friends and I honestly thought I couldn’t cope without him. Plus, he was always amazing with Joseph and I didn’t want to ruin that.”

Helen put up with Feek’s abusive behaviour for nearly 10 years – until he knocked her out on New Year’s Day 2015.

“We’d been at our neighbour’s house in the evening and I’d gone home to put Joseph to bed,” she remembers. “Lawrence came flying through the bedroom door and started throwing punches. Then he picked up the PlayStation and smashed me in the face with it until I was unconscious.”

When Helen came to, she tried to escape through a nearby window.

“But Lawrence pulled me back inside by my hair and headbutted me,” she says. “Joseph saw everything and begged him not to kill me before running barefoot to our neighbour for help. Thankfully, the police turned up quickly and arrested Lawrence and charged him with assault. If they hadn’t arrived when they did, I’m sure I’d be dead.”

Helen was taken to a hospital where she discovered she had an imprint of Feek’s shoe on her face after he had stamped on her head while she was passed out. However, she discharged herself after just six hours, desperate to escape before her attacker was granted bail.

“I picked up Joseph from the neighbour who was looking after him and drove to my father’s house in Windsor,” she remembers. “I was so badly bruised that Dad barely recognised me.”

When Feek was bailed, he skipped his court hearing – later paying a £1,200 fine – and began texting Helen, vowing to see a counsellor.

“He’d message me constantly, pleading forgiveness,” she says. “I knew I should go to the police, but I felt so overwhelmed that I eventually gave in and took him back. Dad was distraught, but I assured him it would be different as Lawrence was getting help. Somehow he’d convinced me he deserved a second chance.”

But nothing changed and in March 2015, Feek launched his final attack one Saturday evening.

“He started shouting and swearing at Joseph as we watched TV, and then he tried to strangle me,” Helen remembers. “That was the first time he’d turned on my son and it was enough for me to realise I had to leave him for good. I couldn’t risk Joseph being his next victim.”

Thankfully, Helen managed to escape Feek’s grasp and she and Joseph fled in their car. But even though she was quickly rehoused by Windsor council, Helen couldn’t get away from Feek completely.

“Lawrence managed to hack into my email and find out where I lived. I was petrified he’d turn up,” she says. “One night, he left 62 threatening voicemails. They were vile – one even said he was going to eat my insides.”

Feek was arrested and charged with harassment by fear of violence. Despite being found guilty, he was sentenced to just four weeks in prison – and served only two.

“The judge was lenient as Lawrence told the court he’d financially supported us,” remembers Helen. “I was absolutely devastated. Dad said it made a mockery of the justice system as he’d been umemployed most of the time.”

On top of a custodial sentence, Feek was also issued with a non-molestation order, preventing him from going near Helen. However, this expires in May.

“Who knows what will happen then,” she admits. “I’m terrified he’ll track me down or move on to someone more vulnerable. It’s an awful situation to be in.”

But is there any more that can be done to eradicate male on female violence?

According to psychologist Emma, while there’s no clear evidence that watching violent films or playing aggressive video games increases levels of violence, extreme online porn could be a trigger.

“I often work with men who are no longer able to get turned on in traditional sexual situations, as they can’t be titillated by anything other than extreme, hardcore sexual violence towards women,” she explains. “Men who kill women will often have looked at incredibly violent pornography and there must be tougher regulations in place to stop this.”

Teaching men how to “emotionally regulate” could also help lower the statistics, says Emma.

“We need to help men voice how they feel,” she says. “We need to teach people how to be good parents so that men are brought up in homes with powerful women around them, and men who are not afraid to show emotion.”

Safe Lives CEO Suzanne agrees. “We have to change their behaviour to stop this happening to other women,” she says. “When we talk to survivors, they want two things: strong action from the criminal justice system but also mental health interventions or recovery programmes for perpetrators.”

Appalled by the number of women being murdered in domestic abuse cases, feminist campaigner Karen Ingala Smith set up the Counting Dead Women website seven years ago,

and began logging every woman killed by a man in the UK. By the end of 2012, the number had reached 126 – fast-forward to 2019 and it’s just hit 1,000.

Writing on her blog on January 1 this year, Karen revealed that, in reality, the figure is even higher. “Every year, there are a number of unsolved cases where women have been killed and statistically almost all of them would have been committed by men,” she said.

On top of her blog, Karen also works alongside domestic violence charity Women’s Aid to produce an annual Femicide Census, with the aim of identifying patterns of fatal male violence against women. Its latest findings, published last December, revealed that in 2017, three-quarters of women killed by men knew the perpetrator. Of those 139, nearly half were murdered by a current or former partner.

Tragically, this is something the family of Hollie Gazzard know all too well. The 20-year-old hairdresser was brutally killed by her ex-boyfriend Asher Maslin in February 2014.

“She had been such an outgoing and fun-loving girl until she met him in a bar in January 2013,” remembers her older sister Chloe, now 28. “She’d been planning to work as a hairdresser on a cruise ship for nine months. While she still went that April, she was back after just a week, claiming she’d been homesick – but now I wonder if Asher was already beginning to control her.”

Initially, the family wasn’t concerned about Hollie’s relationship with Maslin after she introduced them to him in March.

“Although he seemed a bit of a charmer, he appeared to make her happy. Of course, we had no clue what he was capable of,” Chloe says.

The first time Chloe realised Maslin could be violent was when Hollie confided that he’d pushed her to the ground at the Notting Hill Carnival in August 2013.

“She said he’d got angry when he wasn’t able to find her,” recalls Chloe. “Hollie was upset, but later backtracked, claiming she didn’t know what had actually happened.”

Even so, it was enough for Hollie to move from London, where she’d been working and living with Maslin, back to the family home in Gloucester.

However, Maslin soon followed and they continued their relationship, even moving in together again.

“By then, I’d told my parents what had happened and we were all worried,” says Chloe, who lives in Gloucester with her partner Lucas, 30, and children, Ruby, seven, and Ivy Hollie, two. “We tried to talk to Hollie, but she’d brush it off. She then began to lose weight and become withdrawn. Once, she even told me Asher had threatened to throw acid in her face, which was shocking. But whatever I said, I couldn’t persuade her to leave him. It was awful – she was my little sister and I wanted desperately to protect her.”

Much to her family’s relief, Hollie finally ended the relationship on Valentine’s Day 2014. However, four days later Maslin stormed the hairdressing salon where she worked and stabbed Hollie 14 times in front of horrified staff and customers.

“My parents were round at mine for dinner that evening and I remember my dad Nick, 54, had to pop home for something,” says Chloe. “When he arrived, the police were waiting and told him Hollie had been stabbed to death. Dad had to then tell us the news. When the police asked if we knew Asher Maslin, everything clicked.”

In July 2014, Maslin received a 24-year life sentence for Hollie’s murder. Her shattered family continue to live with the trauma of his actions.

“I still agonise over the ‘what ifs’,” says Chloe, who has since launched a safety app with her dad. “Having to tell Ruby that a bad man hurt Aunty Hollie was the hardest thing I’d ever done.

“We’ve also learned just how controlling and abusive Asher was.

Friends have told us how he’d belittle Hollie all the time and there’s CCTV footage of him strangling her in the street one night. I will always hate him for taking such a beautiful person away from us. The pain will never go away.”

With such shocking stories hitting the headlines on a near-daily basis, the government published a revised draft of its Domestic Abuse Bill in January this year. As part of the new legislation, economic abuse – such as stopping someone from accessing a bank account – will also finally be recognised as abuse, alongside controlling behaviour.

“We know from the harrowing experience of victims and their families that there is still more to do to stamp out this life-shattering crime, and the Domestic Abuse Bill will lead the way in bringing about the changes we need to achieve this,” said PM Theresa May at the time.

The Bill will also mean Clare’s Law, which was championed by Fabulous eight years ago, will finally become official, giving women the legal right to check out the offending history of potential partners.

Plans for a Serial Stalker and Domestic Abuser Register, which would record offenders in the same way as the Sex Offenders Register, has also been debated in Parliament.

Chloe believes that if such laws had been put in place sooner, Hollie’s life could have been saved, as it was only after her death that her family discovered Maslin had been arrested 23 times for offences before they met, including domestic violence and criminal damage.

“If she’d known his history, my sister would never have dated him,” insists Chloe.

“But while it’s too late for Hollie, we need to keep sharing her story so we can raise awareness and stop other women going through what she did.”