By Avon and Somerset Police
Avon and Somerset Police and Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Sue Mountstevens are marking International Day for the Elimination Against Women with the launch of a campaign to shine a light on domestic abuse.
The campaign will encourage victims to seek help, and offer advice to those who may be concerned about a friend or family member, as well as highlighting the impact of emotional and psychological abuse of a partner.
Legislation making coercive and controlling behaviour a crime was introduced in December 2015 and the force has seen the number of occurrences reported double in the last 12 months.
Controlling what their partner wears, sees, eats or spends are all behaviours that can form part of a pattern that builds up to coercive control and strips away victims’ self-confidence.
As well as encouraging victims of all forms of domestic abuse to seek help the campaign will also encourage friends and family to ‘look, listen, ask, ask again’ if they have concerns about someone they know.
Whilst educating the public on how to spot the signs of domestic abuse the campaign is also helping people to start difficult conversations and give guidance on how best to help people.
Detective Supt. Marie Wright said:
“Domestic abuse can be insidious and hidden, and not all domestic abuse leaves bruises. Our officers are encouraged to trust their instincts and to ‘look, listen, ask, ask again’ if a situation doesn’t seem quite right and we’d like to encourage everyone to do the same.
“Domestic abuse is not a private matter, it’s a serious crime and we all need to play a part in helping to end it. The more conversations we can have about the issue the easier it will be for people to come forward and ask for help.”
To mark the day PCC Sue Mountstevens, will be joining representatives from Soroptomists, the global women’s organisation dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls, on their ‘Railing against Abuse’ March from Bristol Temple Meads to College Green. The March comes days after the PCC joined Next Link for their annual vigil to highlight the number of women and children affected by domestic abuse.
PCC Sue Mountstevens said:
“Abuse, in whatever form it takes shape, thrives in silence and that is why we all need to do more to be part of the conversation about coercive control, domestic and sexual abuse and harassment. We all have a duty to protect those around us and together we need to make our message clear, that this inexcusable crime will not be tolerated in Avon and Somerset.
“I have made protecting the most vulnerable from harm the number one priority for the police in my Police and Crime Plan. It is vital that when victims and survivors seek help from the police they are listened to and taken seriously. Together, with the police and partners, we are working hard to break the silence on domestic abuse encouraging victims to have the confidence to come forward and report and bringing offender to justice.”
A number of domestic abuse survivors will be sharing their stories during the campaign. Chlo, was a victim of coercive control. She said:
“When we met face to face he’d be really lovely. He would take me out on dates, buy me presents and be really nice. But in between he started getting more and more controlling, manipulative and abusive towards me online and on the phone. He would lose his temper over really tiny things. I wouldn’t even know what I’d done. He’d be shouting, screaming and swearing at me, saying that he didn’t want to talk to me anymore. He’d just flip backwards and forwards
It got worse and worse over time but in between he went back to being really lovely – and he kind of made me feel like I was responsible. So I kept thinking that if I could keep behaving in the right way I could stop him losing his temper again. But it never worked.”
“We understand that it can be difficult to know how to broach the subject so we are providing some simple ideas for starting conversations, and advice on how best to support someone who is in an abusive relationship. We know that high risk victims live with domestic abuse for more than two and half years before seeking help, so the most important message we are trying to get across is that there is no ‘quick fix’ to helping victims. Everything has to be done at their pace but having someone to talk to, and to support them can make all the difference in helping victims to break away from their abuser.”
Following an initial focus on coercive control, the campaign will also look at stalking and harassment and sexual abuse within a relationship.
A webchat will be held on Tuesday 28 November from 5pm-6pm for anybody with a question about domestic abuse. Victims might be seeking advice or concerned friends and family might want to understand more about what coercive control is. It is completely anonymous.
For more information and who to contact for support, visit www.thisisnotanexcuse.org
Follow the conversation on Facebook and Twitter using the hasthtag #noexcuse
1) Coercive Control: There have been 298 cases in the past 12 months (30/10/16 – 30/10/17) compared to 142 in the previous 12 month period.
2) Watch Chlo’s story in full here
3) To take part in the webchat via your phone or tablet you will need to add the Adobe Connect App