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By Claire McCormack

-Women's safety advocates say a recent report about a spike in domestic violence in Northern Ireland could be a good sign for a problem the region has long neglected.

"It is a good thing in terms of reporting," said Marie Brown, director of Foyle Women's Aid, based in Derry City. "Domestic violence and sexual assault have been hidden from Irish society for too long and I'm glad to see women exercising their human rights and demanding freedom."

Safety advocates have a host of plans and reforms on the way for 2013, including the development of a family justice center in Derry City, being created by Foyle Women's Aid and the European Family Justice Centre Alliance and modeled on the Brooklyn Family Justice Center in New York.

In the first six months of 2012 in Northern Ireland, 1,200 more people called the region's police service to report domestic violence, according to the authority's report issued in December.

The report cited 13,558 alleged incidents between April and September, compared with 12,364 for the same period in 2011. Domestic abuse was reported to authorities every 21 minutes during this period.

The highest rates were recorded in Belfast, Foyle and Craigavon.

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