A chance reading of a re-tweet by one of my followers on Twitter led me to a website set up by Sam Billingham from the Dudley area in the West Midlands. A quick read of her story convinced me that this was a person who deserved all the help she can get in supporting and assisting victims of domestic abuse – victims like herself; a survivor of years of violence at the hands of a drunken, violent partner and father to her child – a man who was supposed to care for, cherish and protect the two most important people in his life. You can read more of Sam’s far too common story on her website www.survivorsofdomesticabuse.co.uk
Sam and her website offers online (through Facebook and Twitter), in-person; group and one-to-one support for victims of Domestic Violence, and if you don’t live locally to their base area, there are a number of other telephone helpline numbers listed for people to make contact with someone who can help, or just someone that will listen.
Sadly, like virtually every other police officer throughout the UK, domestic abuse is something we have to deal with every day. In fact, I can’t remember a shift in recent times when I didn’t attend at least one ‘domestic incident’. Whatever the reasons given for these ‘incidents’ occurring; poverty, deprivation, jealousy, alcohol (the biggy) or whatever it may be, the simple fact is it shouldn’t. And in fact while we’re at this point, I’ve attended domestics in squalid council flats, but then I’ve also attended them in million pound plus houses, so clearly domestic violence knows no limits.
Far too often, police officers hear the same excuses from the victim; “It’s all my fault really”, “I made him/her do it”, “He/She’s not normally like this” .. trying to make excuses for the actions of another person. Is it fear, denial, or an inability to understand what is actually going on ? Maybe it’s a mix of all three, but it is imperative that as police officers we step in between and do our utmost to break the cycle of violence and abuse.
More than once, I’ve been to an incident where one party or the other is carried out on a stretcher still begging with us officers present ‘not to arrest him/her, it was an accident, it’ll never happen again’. And more than once police officers have let themselves down by making the assumption before they even get to the job that ‘ohh it’s only them again’. Unfortunately, the risk is that that sort of apathy will eventually lead to someone being killed – but I can guarantee it won’t happen on my watch !!!
And people do get killed as a result of domestic violence – figures show more than 9 out of every 10 women murdered die at the hands of a current or ex partner. If that’s not enough to treat every call to a drunken falling out as serious as the next, I don’t know what is. In fact this is a statistic I regularly point out to many of our regular victims who refuse to co-operate with police in the vague hope that at some point it might strike home.
We do, at Bigtown police station, have Domestic Abuse Officers. They work in the Domestic Abuse Unit. All two of them. In a town of approximately 145,000 people. You don’t have to have an A Level in Mathematics to work out that even if it were only a tiny, tiddly fraction of Bigtown’s population that were perpetrators of Domestic Violence (and sadly it’s not), then having only two people two monitor, asses and control all intervention matters is not enough. By a long shot. These two, fine, hard working officers have to risk assess every job the response teams attend, based solely on the ‘Domestic Incident’ reports we file; they have to liaise with doctors, health workers, social workers, schools and all the other agencies involved in Social Care of the masses.
They also have to bear in mind that if and when things do go wrong, it will be all our fault. When a significant risk has been identified to an individual, one of the two officers on the unit will try their utmost to maintain a personal relationship with that victim, regularly meeting up to debrief and try and ensure their ongoing safety – not bad going when you consider most of the people they are trying to help still haven’t come to terms with being a victim yet …. ohh yes, and the fact that each of the DA Officers has upward of 100 ‘serious risk’ cases on the go at any time.
Compare that to the fact we have a team of EIGHT, yes EIGHT officers, supported by even higher numbers of CSO’s at Bigtown Police Station, who’s role it is to find activities and adventures to keep naughty kids from spraying graffiti on the school wall and kicking footballs against Granny Smith’s bungalow – I’m not saying that’s not important but it’s a parenting issue, a Youth Service issue, and this is a matter of priorities – in my book, stopping one person from dying at the hands of their supposed ‘loved one’ is a lot further up my scale of things to do.
So please, consider this, if you’re still reading this page:
If you’re a police officer; treat every Domestic Violence issue as if someone’s life depends on it – that very well may be the case !
If you’re a victim; you’re not alone despite what you may think – talk to your local police, or visit the SODA website or one similar, get the help you deserve
If you’re a survivor; and have come out the other side, consider helping those still stuck in the cycle of abuse. Help them realise there is light at the end of the tunnel.
If you’re an abuser; seek help – it is out there, and it may support you in getting your relationship back on track. Or at the very least, save yours, or someone else’s life !
Either way, if we all work together, we can aim towards the time when Domestic Violence has had its day !!!