DORSET Police is launching a campaign to raise awareness around domestic abuse and the emotional and psychological impact of controlling and coercive behaviour.
The campaign also aims to reassure people that they will still have access to vital police and support services despite restrictions related to COVID-19.
Victims can also often see an increase in domestic abuse over Christmas and New Year.
The campaign will use a poem, released verse by verse at regular intervals throughout the campaign, to illustrate the story arc of an abusive relationship. These relationships often have a very positive and exciting beginning, but sadly descend into abuse.
The poem will use contributions from survivors of domestic abuse, which will be invited via social media. People will be able to watch the poem develop and see the completed poem at the end of the campaign via social media and the force website.
Once completed, the poem will be turned into a video featuring survivors of abuse. The video will then be used to help further raise awareness around abusive relationships and encourage those suffering abuse to report to police and to seek help.
Domestic abuse is about control; bullying and manipulation are used to control and coerce a victim into submission.
Sergeant Alan Marks, of Dorset Police, said: “It’s been a tough year for all of us dealing with COVID-19 virus. Sadly, things may have become worse for those suffering abuse, especially having to live through periods of lockdown.
“This lack of contact with the outside world, as well as being confined with their abuser may well have made things even worse for those in abusive relationships. The cycle of violence may also intensify with people having to isolate themselves and being unable to socialise in the normal ways.
“We hope this campaign will encourage those suffering abuse to seek help from both police and partner agencies. It is important that victims know how and where to get advice and support. We encourage people to report any incidents by phone or online via the force website.”
Domestic abuse survivor, Becky (not her real name) said: ‘‘As a survivor of abuse with a young child, I have experienced the type of cruelty and manipulation an abuser uses to control a victim.
“At first my ex was a real gentleman and a good listener. The abuse started with him criticising me for spending money on my nails, then we started arguing and the name calling began.
“Then it got more physical and he made threats to hurt me more. The abuse was a combination of physical, emotional and psychological abuse. I felt as if I could do nothing right.
“He moved us away from friends and family. I didn’t drive at the time either so felt really isolated. It all ended very violently and I was lucky to escape with my life.
“I know that other people experience similar things in an abusive relationship, and I’m keen that others don’t suffer what I did, which is why I am supporting this campaign.
“I hope that by creating this poem, people will understand how abuse happens and get help if they are in an abusive relationship.”
The Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset, Martyn Underhill, said: “The pandemic has had a particularly corrosive impact on victims of domestic abuse, leaving them much more isolated and forcing them to stay at home with their abusers.
“As we get used to the harsh realities of the third lockdown, it’s vital victims realise help is out there for them and they don’t have to put up with abuse of any kind. In announcing the new restrictions, the Prime Minister even listed escaping domestic abuse as one of the legal reasons for leaving your home during the lockdown – highlighting just how serious this issue is.
“I ask anyone who is suffering – listen to the message of this campaign, report any incidents and please realise you do not have to suffer.”
Katie Bielec, manager The You First Trust, added: “You First have continued to support those in Dorset who have experienced domestic abuse throughout the pandemic.
“Domestic abuse is about power and control over another and the lockdown provided an environment where victims became prisoners within their own homes.
“This campaign will provide important information for those experiencing abuse, as well as signposting to help.
“We saw an increase of enquiries to our service from family and friends who were concerned for loved ones. We adapted to become more easily accessible for those who may not have had the ability to see others or make a call.
“Our support has changed to fit these difficult times to ensure those within our communities have someone to speak to and seek support.”
The campaign will be rolled out via digital channels and will include mobile phone banner messaging. Signposting to help will also be provided to the Dorset Police website at www.dorset.police.uk/da, which lists the agencies that can provide help and support.
The campaign aims both to raise awareness that domestic abuse may increase with people self isolating, and to reassure people that help is available during these unprecedented times.
Crime can also be reported anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or via its website – www.crimestoppers-uk.org
Help and advice around domestic abuse, together with a list of agencies who can help can found at: www.dorset.police.uk/da. You can also call the You First Trust 24 hour freephone number on 0800 032 5204.
In an emergency, always dial 999.