Late last month the HMIC released a report surrounding the issue of domestic violence and the ways in which police forces within the UK deal with such abuse cases. The results of the report were shocking, revealing that ‘35 of 43 forces in England and Wales were providing a substandard service’ to women who dial 999 after suffering abuse and violence at home. The report also found that officers would often omit photographs of a victim’s injuries and police statements missed vital pieces of information, both of which are important pieces of evidence should the trial go to court. Victims of domestic abuse throughout the UK are being failed by the very institute that has been set up to protect and serve them and it is unacceptable.
Statistics show that domestic violence and abuse has consistently accounted for 16-25% of recorded violent crime. Furthermore, on average, 2 women a week are killed by a current or former partner which constitutes around a third of all female homicide victims. With numbers such as these it is extremely frustrating that the majority of police forces in England and Wales are not equipped to handle domestic abuse cases. We are talking about thousands of people at risk of murder being judged and mistreated once they take the brave step to reach out and ask for help. Domestic abuse has been a serious issue for a number of years so the report begs the question: WHY do we continue to fail these victims?
The results of the HMIC reveal that law enforcement agencies require further training in the best way to respond to domestic abuse cases. In our work with victims of domestic abuse we have found that police response is very dependent on the front line officer that takes the case. Some police officers are completely capable of handling a domestic abuse case with the right levels of sensitivity and understanding while the response of others is at best unsatisfactory and at worst dangerously inadequate. Victims often feel judged and blamed for their current circumstances and this feeling can be even more severe for women from BME and other marginalized communities. There HAS to be a way to ensure that ALL police officers are trained to the same exceptional level. Furthermore, a multi-agency response must also be encouraged when handling sensitive cases such as domestic abuse. An integrated support network would be most beneficial for victims of domestic abuse because if they do need additional support the RIGHT professionals are on hand to offer just that. More so, the support received will be tailored to each victim, which improves the quality of support – it is necessary to note here that not all domestic abuse situations are the same. Not all victims respond in the same ways nor do all victims want the same things so it is important that they are treated as individuals and given back the control they have had taken from them throughout their abusive relationships.
Here at the JAN Trust we offer a safe haven for women within the community to come in and seek sensitive advice and guidance on any issues that maybe affecting them including domestic violence and abuse. We aim to empower women by giving them the chance to overcome the barriers they are facing and work with other organisations to ensure that our service users are receiving the best possible support and care. If you are struggling with domestic violence and abuse we encourage you to approach the JAN Trust for help. We are able to carry out needs and risks assessments and then refer victims on to organisations that will provide them with support best suited to their situation.