Education is crucial to helping young people and those most vulnerable of becoming either victims or offenders break the cycle of destruction and take a different life path, Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Olly Martins, said today.
He was speaking in support of National Domestic and Sexual Abuse Awareness Week, which runs until Friday (November 29) and includes 16 Days of Action in Luton and Bedfordshire to highlight the issue and urge residents to stand together to fight domestic violence.
He and the Deputy Commissioner Tafheen Sharif are supporting the initiative and will be in attendance at many of the events planned.
Commissioner Martins said: “Domestic violence is a serious issue and represents one of the biggest risks to society – particularly among young people – yet because it takes place behind closed doors and the offender and victim are known to one another, it’s often not given the gravity it deserves.
“The reality is one in four women and one in six men have experienced domestic abuse at some point in their lives. It occurs in all relationship settings including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and across all social classes.
“Our responsibility is to protect those currently suffering harm but also to safeguard the victims of the future, which could be us, a friend, a relative or our children. This, in my view, has to begin with education and the promotion of healthy relationship behaviour before negative patterns begin to emerge.
“Growing up in an environment of abuse has a profound impact on young children. We need to provide those people with positive role models and a healthy reference point for future relationships so that we can start to undo some of the psychological damage. Such prevention schemes are unfortunately bearing the brunt of the current economic pressures nationally yet they are vital to a long-term solution.”
The Government has introduced a raft of new measures to enable police to pursue behaviour which causes fear of violence as well as an actual attack including the new stalking law, introduced a year ago and carrying a six-year prison sentence.
It has announced the extension of Clare’s Law – a scheme allowing police to disclose to individuals details of their partners’ abuse pasts – across all forces in England and Wales from March 2014.
However, the Commissioner said more work was needed to train criminal justice professionals on how to utilise the new powers so that more cases could be brought before the courts and a higher number of women, men and children are protected.
He added: “Domestic violence is embedded in culture and there needs to be more work carried out to understand the psychology behind offending so we can deliver more effective prevention policies. Preventing abuse means being clear that ‘consent’ is never optional, and violence is never acceptable.”
Central Bedfordshire and Bedford Borough Council have organised 16 Days of Action to promote National Domestic and Sexual Abuse Awareness Week. Events include quiz nights, workshops, information sessions and exhibitions.
The initiative follows White Ribbon Day – an event organised by the White Ribbon Campaign encouraging men to take more responsibility for reducing the level of violence against women.
For more information on the 16 Days of Action in the county visit www.bedsdv.org.uk and http://www.luton.gov.uk/Community_and_living/crime-and-community-safety/.
Members of the public are urged that if they are, or know someone who is, living with the effects of domestic abuse, please speak out and seek support. Call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247 (freephone in partnership with Women’s Aid and Refuge) or visit the Bedfordshire Domestic Violence website - http://bedsdv.org.uk/
National Rape Crisis is also available on 0808 802 9999 open 12 - 2.30pm & 7pm - 9.30pm every day of the year.
You can also report Domestic Violence to Bedfordshire Police, in confidence, by calling the non-emergency 101 number, or text information to 07786 200011.
Alternatively contact independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111, or online at crimestoppers-uk.org.
In an emergency call 999