In an interview last week, retired Chief Superintendent John Sutherland said that domestic abuse is the “single greatest harm in society”. He added, it’s a “disease of pandemic proportions”. These hard-hitting words are borne out of many years’ exposure to tragic cases on the frontline.
We should all listen because the silence resulting from intimidation, fear and control often prevents victims from speaking out. And there are many victims. Last week, the ONS published a report – that passed by largely unnoticed - on domestic abuse prevalence. It shows an estimated 2 millionadults suffer from domestic abuse every year. Over a third of victims are male, though this is sometimes overlooked.
New analysis of the data, published today, reveals that Oxfordshire, which is part of the Thames Valley police area, saw a 38% increase in the number of people coming forward to report domestic abuse compared to last year, giving us the third highest rate of increase across England and Wales.
In part, the sharp increase is because more crimes are reported. Thames Valley Police has worked hard to buildconfidence in the system. Victims know that they will be taken seriously and police officers have received training to spot coercive control and other forms of domestic abuse.
The Police & Crime Commissioner has set up a new service for victims of crime, called “Victims First”. Much of their work is centred on supporting survivors of domestic abuse and violence, and a campaign was launched just last month to highlight the signs of abusive relationships.
One of the biggest challenges remains the criminal justice system. That’s why Thames Valley piloted a fast track approach to domestic abuse. With the support of the judiciary,cases are moved through the system swiftly. This is important because one of the major reasons for cases collapsing is that victims often disengage as time drags on. The pilot washeralded a great success but it’s still waiting for the backing of the Crown Prosecution Service before the trial can be expanded.
Domestic abuse cuts across gender, background and education. Whoever forms the next Government should adopt a holistic approach to address it, from early support and identification to timely court cases. Only then, will we start to see a reduction in case numbers in Oxfordshire and beyond.