My commitment to the fight against domestic and sexual violence
Tuesday 25 November marks International White Ribbon Day, which focuses on the obligation for men to speak out against domestic abuse and violence to women. It is also the start of Sussex Police’s 2014/15 domestic abuse campaign, ‘Talk to us, we can help.’
Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner, Katy Bourne, explains that although Sussex Police was the first police force in England and Wales to gain White Ribbon status, the fight to make domestic abuse a socially unacceptable crime and encourage more victims to come forward continues:
“Domestic abuse is a serious issue, with one in four women experiencing it in their lifetime and, on average, two women a week killed by a former or current male partner.
“It often happens mostly behind closed doors, where coercive and controlling behaviour is harder to recognise but can have an equally devastating impact on its victims.
“As PCC I am in a unique position and able to allocate funding to services that support victims and survivors of domestic abuse.
“In the last year I have provided £250,000 to East Sussex County Council, West Sussex County Council and Brighton & Hove City Council to enhance domestic and sexual violence services across the county.
“Part of this funding will support the creation of a Specialist Domestic Abuse Support Coordinator to work in the South East Coast Ambulance Service. This innovative post holder will work directly with paramedics in the early identification of domestic abuse victims and help them to access support services. They will also work across the emergency services to ensure information is shared more quickly, helping to increase prosecutions against domestic abuse offenders.
“As well as this, I successfully secured £95,000 of additional Ministry of Justice funding for several specialist posts across Sussex to support children and young people who have experienced domestic and sexual violence. An evaluation of the current service provision identified the need for domestic and sexual abuse services for children. The extra funding will build upon existing partnership working to ensure that children and young people, who have experienced sexual abuse and assault, receive the information, advice, support and access to the right follow-up services.
“Investing in the right technology to support victims of domestic abuse is crucial and that is why in 2015 I will be funding domestic abuse phones. These phones will provide an extra layer of reassurance to victims of domestic abuse as they will allow them to have a direct 24-hour line to the police both inside and outside of their home with a GPS tracker inside the devices. Victims will be able to activate the phone whenever they feel threatened, intimidated or at risk.
“Encouraging people to report domestic abuse to the police can be even harder within some ethnic minority communities. To help bridge the relationship between police officers and ethnic communities in Sussex I will be providing funding for 16 police officers to be trained as specialist Harmful Traditional Practices investigators. The training will be provided by the Karma Nirvana charity who have developed a specific three-day training programme for police officers in partnership with the Crown Prosecution Service.
“To continue supporting victims from ethnic minority communities, I have also allocated funding towards a Domestic Abuse Peer Educator programme within the BME (Black & Minority Ethnic) communities. The programme has resulted in ten domestic abuse disclosures within the BME communities in Brighton and Hove. Building on this success my office is working with local authorities to see how this programme can be extended to provide support to women and girls experiencing violence in the context of harmful traditional practices such as Female Genital Mutilation and Honour Based Violence.”
Commenting on the funding to enhance Independent Domestic Violence Advisors, RISE Chief Executive, Gail Gray said: “RISE is very pleased to be receiving additional funds from the Police and Crime Commissioner. These monies will provide RISE with additional capacity to meet increased demand for our services. RISE has experienced a 21% increase in clients using RISE services from April 2014 – September 2014.”
Fabia Bates, Director of Survivors Network, said: “For a child or young person who has experienced sexual violence trying to understand a police investigation or Crown Prosecution process can be extremely confusing and distressing. The importance of a child-centred approach that prepares and guides children, young people and their loved ones through the criminal justice process and witness testimony and on to healing cannot be overestimated. The funding secured by the PCC will help us create posts that provide appropriate support at an early stage and have a significant positive impact on a young person’s likelihood of escaping re-victimisation in later life.”
Commenting on the Domestic Abuse Support Coordinator for SECAMB, James Rowlands, Brighton & Hove and East Sussex Joint VAWG Commissioner, said: “Violence against women and girls concerns us all, with a huge cost to individuals, families and our communities. It’s vital we get it right, so that people understand that violence and abuse is never acceptable and victims know that help and support are available and that they are not on their own.
“Working in partnership across Sussex, with the support of the Police & Crime Commissioner, is a key part of the solution. As a result, Brighton & Hove City Council and East Sussex County Council have now been able to develop improved support for children and young people who have experienced domestic and sexual violence. We have also been able to develop a pilot project with South East Coast Ambulance Service to offer support to victims of domestic abuse after an incident, making sure they are able to access help and support as soon as possible.”