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Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Lorne Green, has given the opening address at the National Domestic Abuse Conference 2018 organised by Leeway.
Addressing attendees at the conference in Norwich today, the PCC called for ‘a concerted and sustained strategy’ to tackle domestic abuse.
“Ladies and gentleman, domestic abuse is sometimes called a ‘hidden crime’.
“Physical assault is just one manifestation of domestic violence. Many victims have never been beaten, but live with repeated verbal assaults, humiliation, sexual coercion and other forms of psychological abuse, often accompanied by economic exploitation.
“The scars from mental cruelty can be as deep and long-lasting as wounds from punches or slaps, but often are less obvious and are hidden from view.
“It is agonisingly difficult for a victim to consider involving the police or courts in their relationship. This quite possibly is a partner who currently is or once was loved. Someone with a shared history and perhaps with children may think if I get the police or courts involved, I could be the cause of this person having a criminal record and/or going to jail. I could be breaking up the family and undermining our financial or social standing.
“I understand the enormity and complexity of leaving an abusive relationship, particularly when children are involved. In these difficult circumstances, the greatest risk of all is to do nothing.
“I believe the best way to tackle this enormous and complex problem is a concerted and sustained strategy to tackle three strands of domestic abuse at the same time, pursued in partnership.
“First are the victims – We owe it to them to do all that is possible to help them rediscover their voice, dignity and confidence, and support them to rebuild the lives that others have sought to rob from them.
“My office provides major practical support to some wonderful organisations in this field. The commissioning of the Leeway Independent Domestic Violence Advocates (IDVA) services is absolutely central to the system of response to domestic abuse in our county, ensuring that those high risk victims are supported to live free from abuse and the risk of serious harm.
“To assist those who may not choose to involve the police in the abuse they are suffering, the Norfolk and Suffolk Victim Care service allows victims and witnesses to get the emotional and practical support they need.
“It is important to hear the voice of survivors through our service providers and that’s why my office facilitates the Domestic Abuse Partnership Forum. Through this forum, we encourage service providers to work together meeting the needs of those who are vulnerable in a period where there is a lack of resource.
“Second, we must do what we can to help perpetrators acknowledge their abusive behaviours and attitudes, and undertake to address them.
“One of the obstacles to recognising abuse is that many abusers simply don’t look like abusers. They may demonstrate many good qualities, including times of kindness, warmth and humour. An abuser’s friends may think the world of him or her. The abuser may have a successful work-life and have no problems with drugs or alcohol.
“It is the victim who usually sees the signs of abuse – the escalating frequency of put-downs, verbal explosions, the victim’s grievances turned around so that everything is his or her fault. The victim tends to pour their energy into managing the abusing partner, hoping that the next explosion can be averted.
“My office, together with partner agencies, is pursuing possibilities of early perpetrator intervention helping recognise the signs of abuse before it escalates.
“Thirdly, we must do all possible to inculcate a greater sense of respect in our wider community – respect for oneself and for others. This has to begin at early childhood and be sustained through the years of development. It is owing to young people that they are able to recognise controlling, coercive behaviour and other signs of abuse.
“It is heart-breaking to know studies indicate that one in five children live with domestic abuse and that children exposed to parental violence are almost three times more likely to experience violence in their own adult relationships
“I want a Norfolk where young people, including my own grandchildren, can grow up and have respectful relationships and value each other.
“That is why my office welcomes the Department for Education’s Relationship and Sex Education changes and, together with county partners, we have applied to the Children and Young People Affected by Domestic Abuse Home Office fund to innovate and support those being exposed to domestic abuse in the family home, experiencing domestic abuse in their own intimate partner relationships or demonstrating harmful behaviours to those closest to them.
“No one agency can do this alone and I recognise the pressure that is placed on the police and support services like Leeway.
“We must continue to have strong partnerships in this county tackling domestic abuse and work hard to prevent abuse, ensuring those who are victims get the best possible support.”