Don’t suffer domestic abuse in silence says leading detective

DS Sally Fletcher, at West Yorkshire Police Awards Night, Shay Stadium, Halifax
DS Sally Fletcher, at West Yorkshire Police Awards Night, Shay Stadium, Halifax

Fewer Calderdale women are being repeatedly abused by their spouse, figures have shown.

The reduction in repeat abuse - down 9.3 percent - has been credited to the introduction of a new specialist domestic violence team working out of Halifax Police Station.

MODEL  RELEASED.    Domestic violence.  Silhouette of a woman protecting herself from a blow from her partner by holding her arms in front of her face.

MODEL RELEASED. Domestic violence. Silhouette of a woman protecting herself from a blow from her partner by holding her arms in front of her face.

Last April an extra six specialist investigators were recruited to oversee domestic violence cases - taking the total number to nine.

And Detective Sergeant Sally Fletcher, who leads the domestic violence unit, said if victims feel confident in the service police offer they are more likely to report abuse.

“The real drive was to try and make sure that domestic crime was being investigated, as well as the victim being supported by someone who specialises in the complexities of domestic abuse,” she said.

“That has led to a drop of 9.3 per cent in repeat victims since the team was set up, which is something that we strived for for quite a long time.

Home violence.

Home violence.

“We have specialists investigating from day one. They take up the case and the victim’s care right from when the case is reported. Being able to deliver specialist support to the victim at the same time as investigating the report is crucial. It makes people feel a bit more confident that the person they’re speaking to knows what they’re doing.

“To combine the safeguarding work with the investigating has been a significant change for Calderdale. I think the figures we’re looking at show that it’s been a good change.”

The district also saw a 10.9 per cent drop in total domestic violence incidents - from November 2013 to November 2014 - figures released by West Yorkshire Police have shown.

As well as crediting the work of the unit, Det Sgt Fletcher cited the multi-agency approach used to tackle abuse in Calderdale as a reason for reduction.

Once a month, a multi-agency risk assessment conference (MARAC) is held in Halifax where partners, including police, Pennine Housing, the Halifax Women’s Centre, mental health workers, school leaders, adult social care, the probation service, victim support, the Youth Offending Team and others, meet to discuss high-risk cases.

During the meetings, a plan of action is formulated for each individual case and partners discuss what’s already being done to help the victim and agree what other action needs to be taken.

Det Sgt Fletcher said: “Every case is so different that we have to look at them individually and see what we can do for the case.

“I have got a lot of confidence in what can be done and I know there’s a lot of support out there. I’m sure there are people out there trying to deal with domestic violence on their own. I genuinely believe the services are there for them.”

The latest figures obtained by the Halifax Courier via a Freedom of Information request also show that more men are falling victim to domestic abuse.

In 2012, 107 men in Calderdale reported that they had been the victim of domestic abuse, while that figure had risen to 140 in 2013.

And Det Sgt Fletcher, who has led the domestic violence unit for ten years, fears those figures could be higher as there is still a stigma attached to men reporting domestic abuse.

“It’s a slow trend. There are a lot of men coping with violence who don’t come forward,” she said.

“I still think there’s an issue with under-reporting. I think there’s a trend around same sex relationships - although that seems to be moving in the right direction.

“There’s still stigma about domestic violence across the board. I think it’s more difficult for men and I think a lot of that is just the difference between men and women. Women do reach out to friends for support, but men are more likely to deal with it on their own.

“No matter what type of abuse people are facing I think they’re all dealing with the feeling of isolation and the feeling that there’s no one to turn to. I want people to know there’s lots of help and you can take as much or as little of that help as you like. But you’ll only know if you reach out for it.”

Det Sgt Fletcher said the force has bilingual officers and interpreters so victims do not have to overcome a language barrier when reporting abuse. She also said victims who do not feel ready to report domestic violence to the police can be referred to organisations which offer independent advice.

“In terms of perpetrators of domestic abuse, I think it’s understanding the way that they behave and why they behave that way,” she said. “There is help for them. Everybody can change, they have just got to want to.”

To report an incident of domestic violence, call Calderdale Police’s specialist domestic violence unit on 01422 337041 or via 101. In an emergency always ring 999.

Alternatively, call the 24-hour National Domestic Violence freephone helpline 0808 2000247.

For help and advice, contact the Halifax Women’s Centre on 01422 386500.