Prevention is the theme of this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women today, November 25, a subject which is also a priority for Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Sue Mountstevens.
According to the United Nations one in three women has experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime and once again people from across the world are joining together, calling for action in putting a stop to this terrible crime.
Locally, much work is being done to tackle gender-based offences and throughout the past year the PCC has supported numerous support groups and commissioned a variety of victim services to help victims of domestic and sexual abuse.
PCC Sue Mountstevens said: “Tackling domestic and sexual abuse is one of my priorities and it is taken very seriously across Avon and Somerset. No one has the right to abuse another person either physically or mentally. I am committed to tackling violence against men, women and children ensuring that all victims have access to the right support when and where they need it.
“The ‘This is not an excuse’ campaign has been powerful in encouraging victims not to suffer in silence and come forward and report. I’ve also hosted a Domestic Abuse Scrutiny Panel, alongside a group of professionals, to scrutinise the police response to domestic abuse. More recently, I once again committed to ensuring a city free from violence by signing the Bristol Zero-Tolerance Pledge”.
Back in October 2014, the PCC commissioned Lighthouse Integrated Victim and Witness Care who provide enhanced support for vulnerable, persistently targeted and intimidated victims of crime and anti-social behaviour. Under the Victims Code of Practice, victims of the most serious crimes, including domestic and sexual abuse are automatically entitled to this enhanced support.
In addition, an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) service and The Bridge, Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) have also been supported by the PCC to give victims the help they need and put them back in control.
Sue continued: “For me, a crucial step in tackling these crimes is to give confidence to victims to come forward and seek support. When I meet survivors I hear of their struggle to report these crimes and seek help as they feel trapped or to blame. I am very clear that there is no one to blame but the offender and that there are people who can help. By offering the right support we can hopefully help survivors to cope and recover from what has happened.”
Over the past three years financial help has also been provided to various initiatives to support victims of these crimes via both the Community Safety Grant and the Commissioner’s Community Action Fund, projects include:
- Southside Family Project across Bath and North East Somerset who are supporting victims of domestic violence and abuse.
- Kinergy who provide counselling services across Avon and Somerset for men and women who have been sexually abused or raped.
- SARSAS who offer a specialist helpline and one-to-one emotional support work as well as a fortnightly groups for survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
- A partnership project between Beloved, One25, Spring of Hope and Unseen aiming to engage with faith groups to raise awareness and give advice on supporting vulnerable women.
- Circles South West who support the volunteer-led work of those monitoring sex offenders in the community.
To find out more about all of the projects supported by the Community Safety Grant and the Commissioner’s Community Action Fund click here.
If you are a victim of domestic or sexual abuse, or know someone who is, you can call Avon and Somerset Police via the 101 number or online. If someone you know is in immediate danger, always call 999. To find out about local help and services available visit www.thisisnotanexcuse.org.
Posted on Wednesday 25th November 2015