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Monday, April 22, 2024

Behind the statistics: Eva Women’s Aid reveals challenges faced by domestic abuse survivors in seeking justice.

Cleveland Police deals with an average of 48 domestic violence incidents a day and crimes are increasing

Domestic abuse crimes are continuing to rise in the Cleveland Police force area while there has been an increasing trend for more victims to withdraw from police investigations.

It already has the highest recorded crime rate in the country when it comes to violence against women and girls.

Typically Cleveland Police deal with an average of 48 domestic violence incidents a day, two of which are classified as high risk in terms of the threat to safety.

The force said increasing reports of domestic abuse were a sign that “people feel increasingly confident in coming forward to police”, while the reasons for declining support for an investigation were “many and complex”.

In the 12 months to September last year there were 14,323 domestic abuse crimes, up 9.1% on the previous year.

Meanwhile there were 9,387 occasions when a suspect had been identified that a victim either withdrew from a police investigation or declined an offer of support, an 8.6% year-on-year increase.

Both categories have shown a continued rising trend over the past three years dating back to October 2020, although the numbers withdrawing or declining support fell slightly when taking into account the added three months up to December last year.

Steve Turner, Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Cleveland. Image: Cleveland Police

Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner Steve Turner said: “Sadly, victim withdrawal is too high across all crime types, but in domestic abuse cases there are additional, complex reasons why a victim may not support prosecution.

“As chair of Cleveland’s Local Criminal Justice Partnership, I know discussions are taking place between agencies about how we can work together to support victims to confidently report crimes and then remain engaged in the criminal justice system.

“However, when it comes to domestic abuse this is often easier said than done.

“Fear, dependence and intimate relationships are all factors that make the prospect of reporting and supporting prosecution incredibly difficult for victims.

“That’s why I’ve made increased investment in the provision of independent domestic abuse advisors, including the introduction of a specific worker located in Cleveland Police’s control room.

“That means a victim gets practical and emotional support from the moment they make a call to police and right through their criminal justice journey.”

‘Tip of the iceberg’

Richinda Taylor, the chief executive of Redcar-based EVA Women’s Aid. Image: Richinda Taylor

Richinda Taylor, chief executive of the Redcar-based Eva Women’s Aid charity, which supports survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence, said it worked with about 1,300 women a year and more than half were choosing not to report their experiences to police.

She said official statistics on domestic abuse were the “tip of the iceberg”.

Ms Taylor said: “We are as keen as the police to prosecute perpetrators when they are guilty, but we have a better understanding of the victim’s angle than the police have.

“Quite often a prosecution takes a long time to get to court, women tell us they never speak to the same officer and are having to repeat themselves all the time.

“If it’s been months they don’t want to be re-victimised, they can lose heart with the system and just want to put the whole thing behind them and move on with their lives.”

Ms Taylor said there was also an element of “not wanting to criminalise the father of their kids or the man they once loved”.

She also said victims were more likely to continue as a witness if they were receiving specialist support from charities like hers, which was why funding for such organisations was crucial.

Chief Constable Mark Webster. Image: Cleveland Police

Cleveland Police Chief Constable Mark Webster has spoken of a cultural change within the force and overcoming “legacy” issues.

Asked if this had filtered through in an improved approach to dealing with victims of domestic violence, Ms Taylor, who is vice-chair of the Cleveland Women’s Network, a partnership attempting to address inequalities and violence against women, described recent work that had been undertaken to hear women’s voices and the same things were being said about the police as in a similar exercise four or five years ago.

She said: “I can’t say we have noticed any real change, but it takes time to filter down.

“Some officers are great and they really understand the women we work with and they are keen to help with the process, others can’t be bothered and have made their minds up before they get [to an incident] that it’s just a domestic.

“We still hear accounts of appalling language and things that are said that are misogynistic.”

A Cleveland Police spokeswoman said: “Tackling violence against women and girls is a priority for Cleveland Police and, assisted by our specialist local partner agencies, we work tirelessly to support victims whilst doing all we can to bring perpetrators to justice.

“The force has specially trained domestic abuse intervention officers who contact victims and offer to signpost them to non-police support agencies.

“An increase in reports of domestic abuse suggests our message to victims that we are here for them and will support them throughout an investigation and any subsequent court process is being received and that people feel increasingly confident in coming forward to police.”

She added: “While reasons for declining support for an investigation are many and complex, data reveals that in over 50% of cases where the victim withdraws from a police investigation either the victim never intended to report the crime (ie it was reported by a third party and not the victim themself), or they wished to forget the incident and move on, and others replied that they didn’t want to negatively affect the perpetrator’s life.

“We would urge anyone affected by domestic abuse to contact Cleveland Police at any time, either online via the website or by phoning 101.”

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