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Services and survivors work together at conference to tackle domestic abuse

Posted 5th December 2023

As cases of domestic abuse reported to the police drop across Essex, victim-survivors and support services came together to continue their work to tackle the crime in all its forms and to create a safer and more supportive environment for all.

The Southend, Essex & Thurrock Domestic Abuse Board (SETDAB) provides advice and information on services for those affected by domestic abuse.

The SETDAB Diverse Experiences of Domestic Abuse conference was held at Chelmsford City Racecourse and brought together victim-survivors and the many support services available.

The conference is held each year to lead into the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

It is an opportunity to bring people together to build connections and strengthen partnership working, as well as showcasing the work happening across the county in tackling domestic abuse in all its forms. Delegates were able to browse stalls from partners and services in a marketplace style setting.

Among those sharing their harrowing lived experiences was Ruth Tansey who escaped a life of addiction and domestic abuse when she arrived in Essex and met with Next Chapter – saying “I can honestly say, coming to Essex has been a life-changer”.

Carole Gould told how her 17-year-old daughter Ellie was killed after ending a relationship with a fellow sixth-former – a boy who had shown signs of coercive control throughout his life, but had been overlooked as a threat. The grieving mother is now part of the Killed Women organisation campaigning on behalf of bereaved families of women killed by men.

Lee Marks, author of Break the Silence – A Support Guide for Male Victims of Domestic Abuse, gave a perspective from a male victim-survivor, having experienced domestic abuse in a previous relationship. It was not until later that he recognised what he had experienced was domestic abuse and set about raising awareness and supporting other men.

Research from and views of those experiencing domestic abuse in later life, as well as the views of young people, were shared at the conference by Rebecca Zerk and Prof Sarah Wydall from The Centre for Age, Gender and Social Justice at Aberystwyth University and Jo Cuming, Tony Brennan and Bryony Nancollas from Essex Youth Service projects Goodman and Sisters in Strength.

Essex, Thurrock and Southend Adult Safeguarding Boards, Compass and SETDAB have worked in partnership with Dewis Choice to produce the animation Hidden Harms which can help older people to identify abusive and harmful behaviours from family members and / or intimate partners. The animation was shown at the conference.

The conference marked the start of the UN Women 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, a global movement to end violence against women. Support was also shown for White Ribbon Day, a global movement of men and boys working to end male violence against women and girls.

ACC Andy Mariner is responsible for Essex Police’s response to domestic abuse in the county and is vice chair of SETDAB.

He compered the event and said: “We are in a unique position in Essex in 2023 where we are seeing a reduction in domestic abuse cases reported to the police.

“I am convinced that this reduction is down to the commitment and work of everybody in this room. The people who can stop these things from happening to other people or can influence others to make this change are in this room.

“Today is about working together to widen our knowledge and understanding. Opportunities to get together as a group to talk and hear from those with lived experiences and practitioners are so valuable.

“Domestic abuse is about everybody. We need to continue listening to victim-survivors and working together to get stronger together.”

Domestic abuse cases reported to the police are down 17 per cent in Essex in the last 12 months, but there is an increase in people seeking support for the first time and a belief there is an under-reporting of incidents.

Roger Hirst, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex, said: “Our efforts are driven by concern for the victims of domestic abuse, we want to make Essex a safe and secure county for everyone. The SETDAB approach is a leading innovation in the UK, working with all our valued partners to drive down domestic abuse cases and reduce harm. This approach is working, the very latest figures show domestic abuse has dropped by 17.2 per cent year-on-year across Essex.

“Together with our excellent volunteer partners we will ensure Essex people know where to turn to for advice and support if they find themselves being subjected to abuse, but also work with perpetrators to help them recognise actions early and access services to find a better path.”

What the delegates said:

“I came along today to expand my knowledge to enable me to give better training to our officers. It has been eye opening to hear the lived experiences. I have taken far more away with me from today than I would have if I had not heard those people speak. It has given me skills and tools to deliver to my team. I will pass on these lived experiences to give our officers the tools to be able to have conversations with both perpetrators and victims. It has been a massively worthwhile event.”

Chris Gliddon, Specials training and development supervisor for Essex Police

“I did not know what to expect from today. I can identify with Lee. Women are more open with their emotions. It’s that stuff we bottle up, as men; that pressure to ‘be the man’. Boys just do not open up. I think there is stuff there beneath the surface, but it is part of our culture, and has been for years, not to speak about feelings. But, that works against you.”

Luke Johnson, youth support worker for Bar N Bus

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