The reality is that while victims of domestic violence should not have to move out of their familial home, often this is the only realistic option, and it can be a daunting prospect. Setting up on your own is expensive, there may be children to consider and perhaps even have a pet you can’t bear to leave behind.
Sometimes victims of domestic violence will have alcohol or drug dependencies, which further complicate matters.
Sadly domestic violence is all too common in our communities. While it might not be as visible as antisocial behaviour, dangerous driving and drug abuse, the evidence tells us that levels are significant.
In the year to September, 21% of police recorded crime in Devon and Cornwall was related to domestic abuse. This equated to 22,180 offences.
One in three women and one in six men will experience domestic abuse in their lifetimes, according to the charity FearLess (formerly Splitz). Tragically two women a week will be killed by their partner this December across the UK.
With tackling violent crime one of my four Police and Crime Plan Priorities I want to do everything in my power to stop domestic violence from happening in the first place and supporting victims when it does. It’s why I have made available £1.7m this year for specialist domestic abuse and sexual violence services.
We are fortunate to have some really great projects and people working to help across Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. From perpetrator programmes which help those who commit these crimes to address their offending, to high quality support for children who witness domestic abuse.
There is justifiably a huge amount of focus on this subject at the moment. We are in the middle of the United Nations “16 days of Activism” against Gender-based violence – an international campaign seeking to end violence against women and girls (VAWG).
And on Thursday (011222) the Westcountry Women’s Awards in Plymouth celebrated the work of some inspiring local women who are doing so much to help and support female victims of violence. It is a city seeking to come to terms with violent crime, having set up a VAWG Commission in response to the terrible abduction and murder of Bobbi-Anne MCleod just over a year ago.
I was proud to have sponsored the VAWG category at the awards, organised by Alexis Bowater OBE. The category finalists were Andie Clift of First Light, a domestic abuse and sexual violence recovery service; Hannah Shead, CEO of Trevi, a children’s charity providing a safe space for women in recovery; and Collette Eaton-Harris who leads in a role for NHS Devon tackling Interpersonal Trauma and Violence.
All thoroughly deserved a night out at the City’s Crowne Plaza hotel, with Hannah taking top prize. This ‘mother of all mothers’ works tirelessly to offer a safe haven for women and children who may have nowhere else to go. It has rapidly expanded, now running three centres, the Jasmine mother’s recovery centre, the Sunflower women’s centre and the Daffodil family centre.
The charity is now supporting almost nine times as many mothers as it did just four years ago. Many women arrive at their doors broken, showing signs of complex post-traumatic stress disorder having suffered years of abuse or significant violent events. At its mother’s recovery centre in the past year 84% of women have detoxed, and 86% of children remained with their mum. In some cases they even work to keep the family pet with them.
So while violence against women and girls still remains a huge challenge to society for years to come, the presence of women like Hannah, Andie and Colette, and the success of their work, should reassure, inspire and offer hope to us all. I’d also like to pay tribute to the other incredible women who made the shortlist - Dawn Dines of Stamp Out Spiking, a not-for-profit charity which raises awareness and educates on drink spiking; Rebecca Smith, a Plymouth councillor who chaired the Plymouth Violence against Women and Girls Commission; and finally Laura Fraser-Crewes, formerly also of Trevi who now works for Lifeworks Charity Ltd.
If you have been a victim of domestic abuse, in an emergency call 999, in a non-emergency call 101, webchat or fill out the crime reporting form at devon-cornwall.police.uk.
If you would like information about help and support for victims, 24 hours a day, every day of the year, call Victim Support on 08081689111, or live chat at victimsupport.org.