The Valentine’s Day weekend wasn’t all about red roses and chocolates for some – that’s the message coming from Herts Police who used the love-themed day to launch a new help service to support victims of domestic abuse.
The force helped launch a new website on Saturday, February 14, designed to provide help and advice for domestic abuse victims, especially those who may not have English as their first language.
The site – www.hertssunflower.org – can also be accessed via the Herts Police web page and will contain options for translations for those who speak different languages.
Sarah Taylor, programme manager for domestic abuse in the multi-agency County Community Safety Unit, said: “The new website will hopefully encourage even more people to come forward, who because of a language barrier may not have felt able to come forward and report what is happening to them.
“Every day many people across the county and nationally are suffering. Some victims may not even realise they are being subjected to abuse – but they feel confused and depressed and know something is not quite right - we want to let them know that support is available via the helpline on 08 088 088 088 and the new website www.hertssunflower.org
“We also used Valentine’s Day to raise awareness as tale signs of an abusive relationship can also start to emerge early on – and the victim may also mistake it for flattery within the early stages of a relationship. They may also be excusing things like controlling behaviour as normal and be flattered.”
Herts Police has seen a 40% increase in the number of reported domestic abuse incidents as a result of media coverage and campaigns over the last year.
Det Chief Insp Clare Smith from the Harm Reduction Unit which investigates cases of domestic abuse, harassment and stalking across the county said: “We welcome this increase in reporting figures as it indicates that more people are becoming aware of abuse in relationships and have the confidence to report it.
“Domestic abuse rarely involves a ‘one‐off” incident. It is more usually a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour by one person (or group) over another. Domestic abuse will often escalate from something seemingly small such as name calling or threats, to incidents of physical or sexual abuse, and can begin at any stage of a relationship, sometimes continuing after a relationship has ended.
“For a victim to realise they are in an abusive relationship can often be confusing and as the perpetrator will use coercive and controlling behaviour over a period of time to chip away at the victim’s confidence.
“It may take a victim a very long time to realise that they are in an abusive relationship because of the confused signals.
“Domestic abuse affects every corner of society regardless of gender, class, age, race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or lifestyle.”
Herts police and crime commissioner David Lloyd he too welcomes the continued increase in reporting of domestic abuse, and has pledged to help strengthen the work of the police and partner agencies to detect the crime and support victims.
He said: “Abuse and violence within the home or within relationships is not acceptable and it is heartening to see the progress that the Force and its partners are making in this area. This new website will offer another service to victims of domestic abuse, including those who may not feel they could come forward because of a language barrier.”