Fifty incidents, over two to three years…that’s how many separate attacks the ‘average’ victim of domestic abuse in Wyre Forest will suffer and endure before they flee.
That it typically takes so many incidents of abuse to trigger escape illustrates the controlling nature of the perpetrators, and the diminished self esteem and confidence of the victims.
A new report out this week has outlined the shocking number of incidents of domestic abuse in the district, despite campaigns to support victims and identify and prosecute their abusers.
More than 2,200 incidents were reported to police last year in the district (April 2016-April 2017). That’s up from around 1,800 incidents in 2012. It is thought this is the tip of an iceberg, with many more incidents unreported.
The data is included in a summary report from the district’s Connecting Families taskforce, which is due to be shared with Wyre Forest District Council’s overview and scrutiny committee tomorrow night (THURSDAY).
The report includes a detailed analysis of domestic abuse incidents and outlines the work under way to reach victims and bring perpetrators to justice.
Wyre Forest District Council is now being urged to formally sign up to a national pledge by the Chartered Institute of Housing, the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance and Women’s Aid to “Make a Stand” against domestic abuse.
By signing the pledge the council will promise to fulfil four key commitments to support residents experiencing abuse, promote support services, support staff and appoint a domestic violence champion.
The council’s Cabinet Member for Housing, Health and Well-being, Chris Rogers, said: “Domestic abuse is a significant issue in Wyre Forest, not only causing harm to victims and their families but also creating challenges for public housing and health services and the criminal justice sector.
“In Wyre Forest it is the second most likely reason given for homelessness, causing damage to children’s development and having a long term affect on people’s health and wellbeing.
“Domestic abuse is currently being examined by the Connecting Families project in Wyre Forest and a strategic group, led by the Chief Executive, has been established.
“Signing up to the pledge will…provide a firm foundation to continue to tackle domestic abuse in Wyre Forest.”
A breakdown of reported incidents show there is a clear link between the rate of domestic abuse and deprivation – the areas with the highest rate of incidents in Kidderminster include Horsefair and other parts of Broadwaters ward; parts of Rifle Range; Comberton Hill and Aggborough; and Sladen, along with The Walshes in Stourport.
It also shows that as many as one in four victims is male (24%) while the majority (76%) are women, mostly aged 25-44. By contrast, the vast majority of offenders – 91% – are male, with the majority of those aged 25-34. Nearly a third of abusers were repeat offenders.
Those living in postcode areas beginning DY10 made the most calls last year to domestic abuse helplines (833) compared to DY11 postcodes (238). This mirrors longer term trends, with victims in DY10 households contacting national helplines on more occasions than those living in any other postcode in Worcestershire. It is thought this might be in part due to greater awareness in some parts of the district about the help available.
The report also addresses the knock-on effect of abuse, with violent breakdown of a relationship the second biggest cause of homelessness in Wyre Forest.
Children are also at the sharp end of domestic abuse, often witnessing violence and threats first hand. In 2017 alone some 237 Wyre Forest children were part of the 143 households where domestic abuse incidents were deemed serious enough to warrant multi-agency involvement.
A total of 87 victims were supported by new Independent Domestic Violence Advisors, who help with a range of practical, financial and emotional issues connected to abuse.
Domestic Abuse Advice & Support Services in Wyre Forest are provided by West Mercia Women’s Aid & Rooftop Housing. They provide a 24 hour helpline that provides a single point of access to other linked services, offer refuge and supported accommodation, offer group support programmes for adult victims and for children and young people affected by domestic abuse. They also train professionals, deliver educational programmes in schools and run survivor networks.
Worcestershire Domestic Abuse helpline (open 24 hours a day): 0800 980 3331
Victim Support: 01527 66462
West Mercia Rape and Sexual Abuse Support centre: 01905 611655
Honour Network Helpline: 0800 599 9247