Help and support available for domestic abuse victims in Dorset

WITH the continued pressures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Dorset residents experiencing domestic abuse are reminded they can get confidential advice and support.

For some people, home is not a safe place right now; lockdown measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have left them feeling trapped and at greater risk of harm.

Further cases of domestic violence and other problems in the home are now expected to be revealed as some lockdown measures are eased, such as children returning to school.

Dorset social services say the last time children went back to school after lockdown its staff witnessed an increase in allegations of abuse and domestic violence.

The concerns come after a reported national increase of more than 20 per cent in incidents of domestic violence – which experts believe are likely to be a lot higher because many fear making a report.

Cllr Graham Carr-Jones, Dorset Council portfolio holder for Housing and Community Safety said: “If you are experiencing domestic abuse, please reach out. Specialist advisers have been available throughout lockdown, and continue to be there.

“They will listen to you, and together you can talk about different options and work out what is right for you.

“Whether it’s talking through worries or making a safety plan, these support services can be contacted 24 hours a day to help you.”

Where to get support

  • In an emergency, always dial 999
  • Speak to You First advisers anytime day or night on 0800 032 5204. Alternatively, you can see a range of other support options at www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/dvahelp
  • Or call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline for free and confidential advice, 24 hours a day on 0808 2000 247.

Ask for Ani

Dorset Council is also supporting the national AskforANI campaign which enables victims of domestic abuse to get support at their local pharmacy.

Cllr Molly Rennie, who leads on domestic abuse work, said: “The situation around the pandemic makes it more difficult for people to seek discreet help. By asking for Ani at their local pharmacy, they can get confidential support in a safe place.

“Look out for a poster in the window of your local pharmacy and ask for Ani (pronounced Annie).

“You’ll be taken by a staff member to a private room where you will be put in touch with support services which can help you. Please reach out, you are not alone.”

 More funding for support

Dorset Council is also set to receive an additional £650,000 from the government to fund a new duty providing support for victims and their children, including safe accommodation. This is part of the government’s forthcoming Domestic Abuse Bill.

Welcoming the news, Cllr Andrew Kerby, chairman of the council’s People and Health Overview Committee, said: “Domestic abuse is unacceptable, and we are committed to preventing it, supporting victims and prosecuting offenders.

“This money, and the Domestic Abuse Bill, will strengthen our response, providing adults and children with the right support.”

Police helping to protect domestic abuse victims

Dorset Police has also launched a new programme to protect victims of domestic abuse by disrupting, challenging and changing the behaviours of serial offenders and those deemed to be the most high-risk

The DRIVE programme, which is delivered by Hampton Trust, is a partnership initiative between Dorset Police, Office of the Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, BCP Council and Dorset Council. The first six months of the programme is funded by the Home Office.

While many services rightly focus on support for victims, far less put an emphasis on rehabilitation of offenders. DRIVE works directly with perpetrators to challenge and support changes in attitudes, beliefs and behaviour.

With one in ten offenders still living with the victim this can help to reduce harm to partners and children and stop cycles of abuse.

Dorset Police is only the second force in the South West to deliver this programme.

The first multi-agency tasking and co-ordination panel, which makes decisions on referrals to the DRIVE programme, took place on Wednesday 24 March. It brought together representatives from policing, adult and child social services, housing, drug and alcohol services, probation and health to provide a rounded view of each case discussed.

Dorset Police’s Assistant Chief Constable Sam de Reya said: “We need to change the narrative around domestic abuse and stop asking victims why they didn’t leave and start asking perpetrators why they didn’t stop. That’s exactly what the DRIVE programme does.

“Dorset Police is committed to delivering an outstanding service to the people of Dorset, particularly to those who are most vulnerable. This programme will not only deliver rehabilitation and real behavioural change for domestic abuse offenders, but also the justice that victims so rightly deserve.

“Hampton Trust has done a great job as our delivery partner for the Cautions and Relationship Abuse (CARA) project, and I’m really glad we could continue that relationship through the DRIVE programme.”

Inspector Alyssa Forrest from Dorset Police said: “I was proud to chair the inaugural panel and feel that this multi-agency approach really allowed us to get a 360-degree view of each case we worked through.

“We need to do all we can to protect victims of domestic abuse and, in many cases, this includes providing support to challenge the behaviour of offenders.

“This work is vital in stopping further harm and, in my view, murder prevention.”

Martyn Underhill, Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “Domestic abuse is physically and mentally toxic, and the DRIVE Programme is an innovative scheme which will help stop perpetrators continue their abuse.

“It has had some huge successes in other parts of the UK and I’m confident it will now make victims safer and reduce reoffending rates here in Dorset.

“I’m proud my office has enabled this scheme to come to Dorset by successfully bidding for Home Office funding.”

Woodmead Halls

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