Police campaign highlights domestic abuse services for victims and perpetrators
Victims and perpetrators of domestic abuse are being encouraged to seek help after the extension of lockdown restrictions raises concerns about those suffering at home.
Staffordshire Police, supported by the Staffordshire Commissioner and victims’ services, have launched a multi-channel marketing campaign to enhance visibility of the services available and to give reassurance that they are still responding to those in need despite the Coronavirus pandemic.
The #YouAreNotAlone campaign, which reflects the government’s recently launched initiative, depicts the signs of abuse and signposts local services.
Digital screens outside supermarkets, radio and in-app adverts, as well as posters and leaflets within pharmacies, businesses and other community locations will target those who may not be able to actively search for help at home, and equally those who might only be recognising abusive behaviour for the first time.
Head of safeguarding for the force, Paul Cooke, said: “Domestic abuse has long been recognised as a ‘hidden harm’ but it is especially true right now – with people spending more time at home – that victims are suffering in silence.
“At home shouldn’t mean at risk and I want to reassure anyone who may fear reaching out for help during this time, that normal process still applies. This includes securing Domestic Violence Protection Orders through the courts which, if granted, can have a number of provisions including preventing the abuser from coming back to the property for 28 days.”
The force is currently recording fewer domestic incidents suggesting that victims are finding it increasingly difficult to speak out.
Staffordshire Commissioner, Matthew Ellis, said: “These are very challenging times, and the current restrictions may have increased people’s fear that there is nowhere to turn for help if they are trapped in an abusive situation at home.
“I know it can often be difficult for victims to come forward, so I’d like to reassure our communities that help and advice are still available, with local and national organisations offering alternative ways to find support.”
Support for victims can range from counselling to emergency accommodation as well as legal help and wraparound help for families.
New Era is the holistic domestic abuse service operating across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent for victims, perpetrators and their families.
Acting head of service, Mickey Hemmings, said: “Our specialist teams are working hard to provide emotional support and practical help to anyone in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent affected by domestic abuse – victims and perpetrators.
“Since the ‘stay at home’ regulations came into force, the number of enquiries into our service has remained steady, however, we’ve noticed more victims than usual choosing to contact us via our 24-hour live webchat facility, as this can be a safer and easier option for them, especially if they’re living with their abuser.
“We’ve adjusted our way of working in line with the current restrictions to ensure everyone who contacts us is still able to receive the support and protection they need during these testing times.
“In particular, we want victims to know we’re here for them, day or night, and we’d urge them to get in touch before their situation escalates because there are lots of ways we can help them, even during this lockdown period.”
Local refuge providers said: “It’s incredibly important that if someone gets the chance to escape an abusive situation at home, there is a safe place for them to turn. Glow, Pathway and Staffordshire Women’s Aid are continuing to provide safe accommodation and specialist support to victims and their families. All referrals will be considered and if we don’t have a bed space, we can help find somewhere that does.
“It’s essential that victims aren’t left believing that ‘lockdown’ means they are trapped. Police will not consider a person escaping abuse at home as a breach of social distancing regulations and there is still a wealth of expert support out there. This message couldn’t be more important.
“Anybody fleeing violence or abuse can present to their Local Authority for assistance, 24/7, or contact refuge providers directly for help.”