Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Coordinator Ian Sturgess was appointed by the PCC to steer how we, as a county, tackle domestic abuse and sexual violence. Working with partners, his focus includes ensuring victims have access to the right support and identifying effective interventions for perpetrators.
Now, thanks to partnership commitment and joint funding, Ian has been joined in the fight against abuse by three locality coordinators and a developing army of workplace champions.
Ian talks about early intervention, supporting victims and quashing the view it’s not an issue for us here in Norfolk.
“Domestic abuse and sexual violence can’t be tackled by any one organisation alone. It’s not a matter for just police, or just councils or health. It cuts across the work of all our statutory agencies, as well as many of our community and voluntary organisations.
I’d even go further than that and say it’s the responsibility of us all – from the PCC monitoring the police stats (that only ever show the partial picture as many victims will never speak to anyone about what they’re experiencing let alone report it), to the work colleagues or neighbours who hear or see things which make them uneasy.
Early intervention and prevention are key to tackling domestic abuse and sexual violence and reducing the harm experienced by victims and their families. Ultimately, that early action could save lives.
Based on that philosophy, Early Help Hubs are developing in the county – not just to focus on domestic abuse but to bring agencies together to respond to issues which risk the safety of children and their families.
Playing a key role in those district hubs, offering domestic abuse expertise and links into the wider community, we now have three Domestic Abuse Coordinators. Taking up their posts in June, and jointly funded by Children’s Services and the PCC, one of the first jobs for the coordinators is to recruit a workplace army.
This is a new initiative for Norfolk and is recognition of the need to engage more of the community in identifying and responding to domestic abuse. The coordinators will recruit 150 workplace Domestic Abuse Champions across the public sector and within some key voluntary sector support agencies over the course of this year. The first tranche have already been trained, gaining the basic knowledge and skill that will enable them to provide early support in the workplace for someone experiencing or aware of domestic abuse being perpetrated. Their role will be to listen and provide advice and guidance on the next steps, always with the safety of the person involved in mind.
As a county, we need to have a higher level of domestic abuse awareness, and the workplace champions are one way we’re working to achieve this. It’s important that we accept that domestic abuse IS an issue in Norfolk (regardless of what we’d prefer to believe) and that we have to share knowledge and information so we get that first intervention or response to a disclosure of abuse right. We may only get that one chance and, as I’ve already said, our actions could save lives.
Two reviews into deaths linked to domestic abuse in our county identified that early intervention and prevention could be improved through GPs and their staff being more aware of the signs and symptoms of abuse. We’re working to raise that awareness through a partnership with local charity Leeway. Funded by the PCC, Leeway has now delivered training to more than 1,200 people working in our medical surgeries, ensuring they are not only better equipped to identify victims of abuse but also understand how to help their patients access specialist support.
One example of that specialist support is another service provided by Leeway on behalf of the PCC – Norfolk’s Independent Domestic Violence Advocates (IDVAs). Stephen has secured the services of Leeway for a minimum of three years to ensure comprehensive advocacy support is available for those victims and their families identified as being at greatest risk of significant harm. The team of ten IDVAs provides a countywide service seven days a week, including support for victims going to court, and they will deal with more than 1,100 cases each year.
Another issue we might prefer to believe doesn’t affect us here in Norfolk is sexual abuse. Would it shock you to know that one of the biggest demands on policing in our county currently is investigation of sexual abuse reports, both recent and historic? Police resources are being shifted to ensure there’s capacity to thoroughly investigate reports and properly support victims. Aside from trying to mitigate impacts of Government funding cuts, this is also the reason your PCC has increased the police element of the Council Tax for two years running. The convictions just last month of four people for child sex abuse are evidence that it is indeed a big concern here in Norfolk.
Looking beyond the police investigations and court proceedings, there are victims who will have to live with what they have experienced for the rest of their lives. The support they receive will play a huge part in how they cope and recover, and one local agency working with sex abuse survivors has seen demand on its services more than double over the last three years. We are working with the Sue Lambert Trust to enable them to improve their premises, and expand their capacity for victim counselling and support services to help them respond to that growing demand.
We are also very aware that children in care or those who run away from home are at increased risk of child sexual exploitation and, with this in mind, we’ve funded a project worker from the Magdalene Project to link with those children who may become vulnerable to abuse.
I hope this information has given you an idea of some of the things we are doing to tackle domestic abuse and sexual violence and support victims here in Norfolk. If you’ve got any questions, there’s more on the work of your PCC on our website – www.norfolk-pcc.gov.uk – as well as details of how victims of crime can access help and support.”
23-27 November – Norfolk Says No to Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence