Norfolk and Suffolk Police want to let victims of domestic abuse know that they do not have to suffer alone or live in fear, as they back a national week-long initiative aimed at encouraging more victims to seek help.
As part of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Domestic Abuse week - being held from today to Saturday - forces across the country are explaining what they do to protect victims of abuse and highlighting the support available from voluntary organisations, local authorities and probation services.
They will also be launching Clare’s Law, an initiative which gives individuals the power to request background information about their partner to find out if they have an abusive past.
During the last quarter of 2013 - October 1 to December 31 - there were 2,102 recorded incidents of domestic abuse in Suffolk, an 11 per cent increase when compared to the same quarter in 2012. Of these 2,102 cases nearly a quarter had experienced abuse before.
Of the crimes committed, 74.6 per cent were of a violent nature, with 38 per cent resulting in the victim suffering some form of injury.
Detective Superintendent David Cutler, Suffolk Police’s head of protecting vulnerable people, said: “Suffolk Police, working closely with its partners, is committed to supporting and protecting those who suffer domestic abuse. This week is an excellent opportunity for us to raise awareness and encourage those experiencing abuse in its many forms to come forward and get the support and assistance they deserve.
“We do understand how very difficult it can be for someone to take that step in speaking about what they have endured and suffered. We know the things that go round someone’s mind when making the decision to seek help and we know it is often a very difficult thing to do.
“Being hurt, threatened, intimidated, called names, told who you can talk to, stopped from going out, harassed and isolated from your friends and family are all signs of domestic abuse. This is not acceptable behaviour and you do not have to put up with it. Along with partners, we are here to help you. Please talk to us or any of our partners and we will work together for you to offer the support you may need.”
Between April 1 2013 and March 1 2014, there were 3,358 recorded incidents of domestic abuse in Norfolk, up from 3,210 recorded between April 1 2012 and March 31 2013.
Detective Superintendent Julie Wvendth, who heads the vulnerability and partnerships directorate for Norfolk Police, said: “Norfolk Constabulary will always take positive action against domestic abuse which includes supporting victims, ensuring a full risk assessment is carried out, conducting a vigorous investigation and charging and convicting the perpetrators.
“We do not only focus on matters which are criminal offences - often issues such as emotional and financial abuse can be subtle but are methods of control which need to be addressed.
“We work with other agencies to provide the support needed to break the cycle of abuse for families affected by such terrifying experiences. It is about working together to offer long term support and not just ensuring victims and their families make it through the criminal justice process.”
As well highlighting a new domestic abuse leaflet bearing the statements ‘Domestic abuse can happen to anyone,’ ‘You do not have to live in fear’ and ‘Be a survivor not a victim,’ this week’s events include a multi-agency risk assessment conference being held in Suffolk and the launch of Clare’s Law in Norfolk and Suffolk on Saturday.
Clare’s Law, also known as the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, is named after Clare Wood who was murdered by ex-boyfriend George Appleton. Its introduction locally follows a successful 14-month pilot in four other police forces, which provided more than 100 people with potentially life-saving information.
Ms Wood, 36, was killed by Appleton at her home in Salford in February 2009. The mother-of-one met him on Facebook, unaware of his history of violence against women including repeated harassment, threats and the knifepoint kidnapping of another ex-girlfriend.
Det Supt Wvendth said: “Norfolk Constabulary has been monitoring the progress of Clare’s Law in the pilot forces and welcomes the wider roll out on a national level.
“We are committed to supporting and protecting victims of domestic abuse and welcome any legislation that will assist us to do this.
“The idea is to give individuals a formal mechanism in which to make enquiries about people who they are in a relationship with. It represents a valuable addition to existing safeguarding measures and will enhance the efforts of all agencies and the public to keep vulnerable victims safe.
“Clare’s Law enables potential victims to take control of their life and make informed decisions about whether to stay with someone or not. It may be that somebody is in a relationship but feels unhappy about some of the behaviour of their partner is showing. If warning bells are ringing, then we would want to hear from you.”
The disclosure of people’s history of domestic violence under Clare’s Law can be triggered in two ways:
Right-to-Ask: the law will allow people to apply to police for information on a partner’s history of domestic violence. The request can be made by an individual in a relationship or can be from a third party who has concerns on their behalf.
Right-to-Know: police can proactively disclose information in prescribed circumstances for instance where information or intelligence suggests an individual is at risk of harm from their partner.
Every request under Clare’s Law is thoroughly checked by a panel made up of police, probation services and other agencies to ensure information is only passed on where it is lawful, proportionate and necessary. Trained police officers and advisers are then on hand to support victims through the difficult and sometimes dangerous transitional period.
The ACPO week has fallen in a month in which domestic abuse is Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Tim Passmore’s priority, with the PCC’s Police and Crime plan outlining a force priority to reduce the percentage of ‘repeat’ victims of domestic abuse crime/incidents.
Mr Passmore said: “Domestic violence is very complex issue and can manifest itself in many ways, this includes, psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional abuse.
“Since taking on this role I have spent time talking and listening to those who support people affected by domestic abuse and it is sadly all too apparent that one of the difficulties we have, from the victim’s point of view, is the lack of trust and confidence in the whole system from reporting to police to trial.
“Building confidence to enable victims to report these crimes is extremely important and we need to take a multi-agency approach so I wholeheartedly support this week of action.
“It is crucially important that we do all we can to prevent this terrible crime as well as support the very vulnerable victims and this is a key part of my Police and Crime Plan. I have allocated funding to domestic violence organisations across the county and will continue to do all I can to support this valuable and important work.”
Cllr Jenny Antil, chair of the Domestic Abuse Partnership, said: “I am pleased to support APCO domestic abuse week. We are committed to working in partnership with Suffolk Police and other agencies, a broad approach that gives victims in Suffolk much better opportunities to seek help and support. We recognise how hard it can be for someone experiencing domestic abuse to come forward – if it is happening we encourage victims to not suffer alone and to get help from the police or another of our partner agencies.”
As well as highlighting the support that is given to victims, Det Supt David Cutler also wants those who are in an abusive relationship to know that their reports will be taken seriously.
He said: “This week of action gives me the opportunity to re-enforce the commitment of Suffolk Constabulary to take positive action against those who carry out this type of abuse. Those suffering from domestic abuse should and can expect to be dealt with sensitively and professionally by the police and for us to take the steps necessary to make them and their families safe.
“The introduction of the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (Clare’s Law) will allow those suffering abuse or concerned as to the behaviour of their partner to ask for information about that person’s background and so be aware of any risks and make informed decisions about their relationship.”
If you would like to report an incident of domestic abuse or seek advice and or support then please call 101. In an emergency always call 999.
Within Suffolk there are many agencies which offer help, including Women’s Refuge based in Bury St Edmunds which can be contacted on 01284 753085, Lighthouse Women’s Aid based in Ipswich which can be contacted on 01473 745111 and Liberty Women’s Refuge based in Waveney which can be contacted on 0845 467 1420.
Within Norfolk there is Leeway Domestic Violence and Abuse Services in Norwich which can be contacted on 0845 2412171.
There is also the Domestic Abuse Outreach Service contactable on 0800 977 5690.
There are also national help lines and support available. For details, visit http://thisisabuse.direct.gov.uk/