Today is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and in Suffolk the day marks the start of activities to highlight the White Ribbon campaign to tackle domestic abuse.
The White Ribbon campaign runs from November 25 to 10 December and invites everyone to wear a white ribbon to their show support for this international effort to tackle abuse.
It is thought 35 per cent of women and girls globally experience some form of physical or sexual violence in their lifetime with up to seven in 10 women facing this abuse in some countries.
Here in Suffolk some women face the threat of daily violence from their partner – and men are victims too.
Between April 1, 2015, and March 31, 2016, there were almost 9,000 incidents of domestic abuse reported to police in Suffolk.
Anyone can suffer from domestic abuse or sexual violence – age, gender, social status, race or religion are no barrier.
Despite thousands of incidents each year being recorded by police it is still thought domestic abuse is vastly under-reported as it occurs behind closed doors and is often hidden from anyone but the victim and perpetrator.
It takes courage for victims to come forward as it can mean a dramatic change and emotional, legal and practical complications; however no-one should have to live in fear of violence or abuse.
In a bid to raise awareness of the issues, and the support, advice and help available, police and partner agencies will be carrying out a number of events and activities over the next few weeks.
Lighthouse Women’s Aid, a charitable organisation based in Suffolk, which provides emotional support to women and their children experiencing domestic abuse, is celebrating its 40th anniversary and is holding an event for professionals and other partners to further raise awareness about the issues involved.
Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Kearton and Police Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore will be in attendance.
Domestic abuse team manager, Detective Inspector Jim Gooding, said: “We know that dealing effectively with domestic abuse requires concerted multi-agency working. I am proud to say that lots of excellent work is already being done in this area and our joined up partner approach is making a difference to help keep victims and their families safer.
“Significantly, this year over 800 of our frontline staff underwent Domestic Abuse Matters training with SafeLives. This skills and knowledge upgrade focused on giving officers a deeper understanding of the behaviours involved in domestic abuse, especially in the area of coercive control which often isn’t immediately obvious. Having more specialist trained officers leads to better supported victims and outcomes and can even lead to lives being saved.
“Within the force we have also developed a ‘champions’ role with a number of officers given further specialist training who are then able to provide guidance and advice to colleagues.
“Anybody can be affected by domestic abuse and as a constabulary we actively support police officers and staff who may need help. We do not underestimate how difficult it can be for people to speak out about being a victim. You are not alone – help is a phone call away.”
Mr Passmore said: “It is a sad reflection on our society that domestic abuse and domestic violence is so prevalent. It is an appalling crime; it ruins the lives of victims and has a devastating impact on their families, particularly as children suffer the consequences as well.
“To date I have commissioned over £1.7 million of services to support victims of domestic abuse which includes providing independent domestic violence advisors and counselling, this is a key priority for me as police and crime commissioner.
“It is crucially important that victims have the confidence and support they need to report domestic violence and I hope the focus of the White Ribbon campaign will give those suffering abuse the confidence to speak out.”
For help and advice you can contact police by dialling 101, or the national domestic violence helpline on 0808 2000 247.
Alternatively, visit www.nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk or www.suffolk.police.uk/advice/assault-abuse-threats/domestic-abuse.