During the first nine months of last year, 464 cases of domestic violence were reported in the Balearics, but it is only thought to be the tip of the iceberg. Last month, the Balearic Ministry for Social Welfare in co-operation with the Balearic Institute for Women, set up a new help programme for victims of domestic violence and the Minister, Fernanda Caro, said yesterday that, while the exact percentage is very difficult to gauge, only between ten and 15 per cent of cases are reported. Caro said that the programme is now fully operational offering both individual and group care and assistance. Director of the Institute, Francisca Mas, explained that the scheme also provides victims with the opportunity to meet and talk to fellow victims who have either suffered the same fate or have managed to escape and overcome their problems. Another new service, as the authorities move to step up the fight against domestic violence, is that the help line is open to any woman suffering or about to suffer physical, psychological or sexual abuse, not only those whose cases are in the legal process. Caro said that the aim is to immediately respond to any situation as soon as a woman has been in contact and start providing psychological assistance within 78 hours. Since the service started on December 18, 31 cases have been dealt with. According to the most up to date figures possessed by the Minister, in 2000, there were 511 reported cases of domestic violence and between January and September last year, 464. Caro said that the figures indicate that gradually, more and more victims are coming forward as opposed to an increase in domestic violence. However, social services and the Institute would like to see many more victims either contacting the help lines and care centres or going to the police. Caro said that domestic violence is a problem in all social and economic strata, but the majority of victims which contact the social services are middle aged and on low income. There has also been an increase in the number of immigrant women victims over the past five years.