Working together to tackle violence against women and girls
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At the beginning of March this year, following the tragic death of Sarah Everard in London, the issue of violence against women and girls was much debated across the country and was brought to the fore again following the murder of PCSO Julia James in Kent. In Merseyside three women were tragically murdered from domestic violence in one week at the beginning of the year.
At Merseyside Police we are committed to protecting vulnerable people particularly women and girls who are faced with violence and sexual abuse. Throughout the pandemic and subsequent lockdown period we have worked hard to protect survivors of domestic abuse who may have been more vulnerable because of the restrictions they were placed under. Our work in this area has been enhanced, we have moved more officers into specialist domestic abuse teams to investigate crimes and support survivors. We work closely with local domestic support organisations, local authorities, safeguarding teams and charities to ensure that services and ongoing support are available, including access to refuges.
We have a number of specialist departments within the police to investigate these crimes but it’s important that we all work together to provide that wrap around support to survivors and to collectively work to prevent these crimes occurring in the first place by raising awareness.
In the last week the cross-party amended Domestic Abuse Bill became law. The revised bill will provide further protections to the millions of people who experience domestic abuse and strengthens measures to tackle perpetrators. It means that the legal definition of domestic abuse will now include a range of abuses beyond physical violence, including emotional, coercive or controlling behaviour and economic abuse. There are also new tools for the police to prevent abuse, and for local authorities to support survivors in refuges or other safe accommodation. In addition to this abusers will no longer be able to cross examine victims in court.
Temporary Deputy Chief Constable Ian Critchley said: “As restrictions are being lifted we and our partners are continuing to come together to ensure we can provide support for those who are impacted but more importantly try to prevent incidents from happening.
“As the night time economy in the city centre and across Merseyside reopens we want to ensure women can enjoy a night out safely and without fear.
“We have recently set up a new proactive policing response, Operation Empower, which is aimed at preventing sexual violence within the city centre and town centres across Merseyside who have a night time economy. Officers are tasked with identifying potential perpetrators who are displaying signs of predatory behaviour and to disrupt those who present a potential risk. Officers are also asked to be aware of anyone who may be vulnerable to ensure any immediate safeguarding concerns are met.
“This initiative will support the preventative work already being carried out by the night time economy working group, which includes ‘bystander’ training which was given to bars across the city centre. We also want the publics continued help and support in highlighting unacceptable behaviour towards women.
“In the coming weeks visitors to Liverpool city centre will also see the launch of a new campaign on digital media boards and within bars and clubs across Liverpool. The campaign is a collective effort involving partners from Liverpool City Council, LJMU, Liverpool University and support agencies, including third sector, and is designed to get across the message that women have rights and should not be forced, or coerced into sexual activity, and that no person has the right to do this to them.
“If a woman does fall victim to sexual violence we and our partners will investigate and treat those who have been preyed upon with dignity and respect.”
He added: “We and our partners completely understand that recent events have brought the issue of serious violence against women and girls to the fore and we want to ensure women feel safe. We have a number of meetings throughout the year which look at the different aspects of violence against women and girls and this last week we brought those meetings together across one day to bring a real focus to the work we are doing; to examine the impact the ongoing work is having; and to identify where there is room for improvement and learning so together we can ensure wegive confidence to the public and deliver an effective service for women, girls and men who are survivors of serious or sexual violence.”