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Vital work to change attitudes about violence against women and girls continues

Students across Norfolk have been learning how best to tackle attitudes, behaviours, and misconceptions around misogyny and sexual violence thanks to funding by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk (OPCCN).  

A dedicated Bystander Programme Co-ordinator has been training primary and secondary schools since September 2022 to provide a special programme to give young people the tools to question and call-out when they see unacceptable behaviour.  

The work has been funded by the OPCCN, continuing its successful bid to the Home Office's Safer Streets Fund - made available specifically for projects to tackle Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) and is being delivered in partnership with Norfolk County Council.  

Norfolk County Council were funded to develop the Bystander Intervention Programme covering violence against women and girls, suitable for primary, secondary and college age students.  

Bystander programmes focus on giving people the skills to recognise and safely respond to problematic attitudes and behaviours that contribute to a culture where violence occurs. 

So far 87 schools and colleges have received the specialist training which has led to nearly 6,000 pupils receiving lessons. 

Feedback from one teacher included that the lessons had “been some of the most impactful and engaging lessons I've taught in a long time. I feel really inspired and motivated by how well our children have taken to them and how much they want to make a difference”. 

Early evaluation findings also suggest pupils had a greater understanding of and feel more confident to intervene safely in sexual harassment incidents. 

Cllr Penny Carpenter Norfolk County Council Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said: “Working in partnership to help young people understand the impact of violence against women and girls is a powerful tool in helping to change attitudes and behaviours for a long time to come. This is an issue which we must continue to prioritise so that we can bring the change that’s needed.

"We’ve worked closely with schools to develop a model that is deliverable and impactful, and after receiving excellent feedback from schools and young people we’re committed to continue delivering this project with the support of the OPCCN."

Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Giles Orpen-Smellie, who has made VAWG one of his priorities in his Police, Crime and Community Safety Plan, said: “This is one of a number of projects and initiatives my office is involved in to tackle violence against women and girls in Norfolk.  

“Evidence has shown that Bystander programmes are an effective intervention, which can lead to changes of attitudes and encourage interventions in situations associated with VAWG. 

“It is about societal change, and as such Bystander programmes are key to introducing that change at an early age and so help to prevent VAWG.” 

The bystander model addresses sexual harassment and abuse and uses a 'bystander' approach where individuals are not looked on as potential victims or perpetrators but as empowered and active bystanders with the ability to support and challenge their peers in a safe way.  

The strength of project model lies in its emphasis on the role of peers in the prevention of violence. It builds on the 5Ds of bystander intervention: 

  • Distraction - Interrupt the behaviour of the harasser 
  • Direct Action - Name what is happening and condemn the harasser’s actions 
  • Delegation - Get assistance to intervene 
  • Delayed - Follow up and support the person being targeted after the incident 
  • Document - Record the incident and give it to the person being harassed 

The programme has been developed with sustainability in mind to create lasting change. Norfolk County Council have therefore, been essential partners in the project, ensuring the intervention compliments Relationship, Sex and Health Education locally. The co-ordinator has also been effective in affecting school policy to improve incident recording and imbedding the programme within plans for years to come. 

The introduction of the bystander role leads on from the 'Step In, Speak Up' sessions reaching more than 8,000 pupils in schools and ‘Call It Out! Be an Active Bystander’ campaign at the UEA, funded by the OPCCN last year under the Safer Streets Fund to educate young people about VAWG.  

Norfolk County Council was originally granted £75,000 in February 2022 and just has been awarded a further £60,000 from the OPCCN to expand and evaluate the Bystander Intervention Programme to the end of the 2023/24 academic year.  

As well as the Bystander, the UEA campaign and 'Step In, Speak Up' projects, the OPCCN has funded a number of other initiatives through the Safer Streets Fund, including an expansion of the CCTV network in King’s Lynn and improved street lighting in Great Yarmouth.  

The OPCCN has also worked with partners across the county including Norfolk Police, to roll-out the Government’s Enough campaign locally to stop violence against women and girls.