A Safe Space for victims in Sussex

In 2016 I launched ‘Safe Space Sussex’, the first online directory of local victim services, so that people could easily reach out for support.

By Katy Bourne
Friday, 15th May 2020, 8:32 am
Katy Elizabeth Bourne OBE is Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner
Katy Elizabeth Bourne OBE is Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner

During ‘lockdown’ many support services have reached out to me and expressed their concerns about victims of crime not feeling able to safely reach out for help. Some have even seen a decrease in engagement from victims with reports of crimes (like domestic abuse) made to Sussex Police, reducing by around 4%.

In response to these concerns I have upgraded Safe Space and started a campaign on social media to help victims covertly reach out for help whilst stuck in isolation – search #SafeSpaceSussex.

The website has been equipped with a new search tool so that within seconds, victims of any crime can find the service they need. It also has a ‘leave site now’ button that users can press to quickly exit the site.

As part of the relaunch campaign, guidance will also be shared across social media on how victims can access the new website covertly, using incognito tabs, as they may be living with their perpetrators.

While we are all deeply affected by this ongoing pandemic, those who have, or are still experiencing crime may well be in a heightened state of anxiety and distress.

Following extra investment made to Sussex Police this year, they have introduced new ways that victims can reach out to them covertly. A new specialist unit will now be able to deal, by appointment, with medium-risk domestic abuse cases through new video conferencing technology.

Officers obtain a safe contact number and send a onetime text message to the caller's smartphone. Activating this link puts the caller into a virtual waiting room where an officer will be able to see and talk to them so that an investigation can take place.

The caller is then told to delete the text, which is disguised in the first place, thus rendering it untraceable.

As part of this interaction they will also be putting victims in touch with local support services like RISE to increase referrals and ensure people get the support they need.

A domestic abuse awareness campaign in local supermarkets has also already begun, signposting to Safe Space Sussex, and local councils have recently invested money from their Covid19 budgets to begin branding pharmacy bags across the county.

I’m proud of how Sussex Police and partners are going the extra mile so that nobody feels they have to suffer in silence during this crisis.

We may be in lockdown, but they must not feel locked out.

If you find yourself in an emergency where you think you or others may be in immediate danger dial 999. Sussex Police are always there for you when you need them.

If you are too afraid to talk dial 55 on your mobile phone to alert the call handler that you need help.

Remember, www.safespacesussex.org.uk now has all the information on support services that can help any victim of crime across Sussex.

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