A month-long domestic abuse awareness campaign launches today (25/11), on the International Day of the Elimination of Violence against Women, and in the lead up to the first anniversary of the new crime of controlling or coercive behaviour.
The ‘Precious Moments’ campaign will challenge the perception of a ‘typical’ domestic violence victim by telling the stories of abuse against women but also towards men, the LGBT+ community and the elderly, who all remain underrepresented in the reporting of abuse. It will also challenge understanding about what domestic abuse is.
To launch the campaign, one of our own police officers has bravely spoken out about her experience as a victim of domestic abuse.
She said: “I was a copper, a strong person, used to helping others – how on earth could I be a victim of abuse?
“I am sure many of you are thinking 'why didn't you just leave him'? But abuse is paralysing, it sneaks up on you over years, until one day it dawns on you and you barely recognise the person staring back at you in the mirror.
“The bruises are real, you just can't see them.”
Over the four weeks, we will share the stories of different victims who will talk about their experiences and how they found the strength to go from victims to survivors.
We are asking family members and friends who are concerned about someone in their life to look, listen, ask and ask again.
Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said: “Protecting the most vulnerable from harm is one of the priorities highlighted in my Police and Crime Plan. Domestic abuse is never the victims fault and I want victims to know that if they come forward and report to the Police they will be believed and taken seriously.
“In the UK the term domestic abuse includes lots of different types of abuse; psychological and emotional, physical, sexual, harassment and control and coercion. There are no excuses for domestic abuse and no one has the right to control or abuse another person either physically or mentally.
“We have some fantastic support services in Avon and Somerset. However we can all do more to ensure victims are able to seek support, to prevent offenders, to raise awareness amongst friends and families who continue to see abuse as a private matter and to stop society and professionals from victim-blaming.
“Domestic abuse can happen to anyone and I hope this multi-agency campaign makes the Police, our partners and our local communities' look, listen, ask and ask again to take us one step further in our battle against domestic abuse.”
Force-lead for Domestic Abuse Chief Inspector Andy Bennett said: “As a society, we need to shift away from the misperception that domestic abuse only happens to women in unhappy marriages. Domestic abuse is happening to people from all walks of life.
We also need to acknowledge that abuse isn’t just physical – it can be financial control, emotional and mental abuse, sexual violence and intimidation.
“We know that anecdotally some people are not as confident in reporting abuse, but we don’t see gender, ethnicity, sexuality or age, we see a person who needs our help. We are not here to judge or criticise, we are here to protect those who need it. The message from us is simple – we will believe you.
“We are also using this campaign as an opportunity to speak directly to friends or family members who have concerns that someone close to them is suffering. To you, we say – look, listen, ask, ask again…”
The advertising campaign that launches today is themed around ‘precious moments’ and uses a celebratory graphic style which is in direct contrast to menacing words about abuse.
The campaign runs until December 29, the first anniversary of the new offence of controlling or coercive behaviour in intimate or familial relationships. Since the law was introduced, we’ve arrested 59 people for this new offence.
This campaign is being supported by all local authorities in our region and we are also working with a number of charities and support organisations.
Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees said: “Domestic abuse affects 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men in their lifetime. Domestic abuse leads to, on average, two women being murdered in the UK each week and 30 men per year. It accounts for 16% of all violent crime reported.
“We need to move away from the misconception that domestic abuse is somebody else’s problem or that it only happens to somebody else – we can all be touched by it.
“It is important that people know they can access the support available to them.
“We need to work together to support victims and give them the skills and opportunities to rebuild their lives. Ultimately we must aim to eliminate this kind of abuse from our homes and communities
“This campaign is an opportunity to speak directly to friends or family members who have concerns that someone close to them is suffering. To you, we say – look, listen, ask, ask again...”
Councillor Martin Veal (Conservative, Bathavon North), Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Services, said “Domestic violence and abuse must not be tolerated under any circumstances. Women are humiliated, repressed and disproportionately affected by it. Unbelievably one in four women in the UK will experience domestic abuse at some time in their life. It could be both physical and psychological and starts with bullying.
“Worst of all, many women suffer in silence and in fear, hiding in the shadows, unable or afraid to speak out. No-one should suffer an existence like this. I wholeheartedly and unreservedly support this campaign.”
Councillor Anna Groskop, Cabinet Member for health and wellbeing, Somerset County Council said: “We are very pleased to be supporting this campaign. Domestic abuse is everyone’s business and helping to keep people safe is a priority for Somerset County Council and our community safety partners.
“Anyone living in Somerset who needs help or information for themselves or a friend or family member can contact our main specialist service, Somerset Integrated Domestic Abuse Service (SIDAS), which provides support to men, women and children who are affected by domestic abuse in confidence.”
Louise Branch, Domestic Abuse Co-ordinator at North Somerset Council, said: “It’s important that anyone who is living with controlling behaviour knows they are not alone and that they can get help and support wherever they live.”
Throughout the campaign, we will be using #NoExcuse on all our social media channels as well as publishing video interviews and testimonies from domestic abuse survivors.
For further information and support, please log onto www.thisisnotanexcuse.org.uk
Anyone wishing to report abuse can contact us on 999, 101 or on our website here.
Posted on Friday 25th November 2016