Council launches new preemptive approach to violence against women and girls

Photograph: Hackney Council.

Hackney Council has launched a new three-year strategy to tackle violence against women and girls (VAWG) through a public health approach.

The strategy introduces a raft of objectives with the aim of entirely preventing VAWG from occurring, against the background of a London-wide increase in the reporting and accessing of support for domestic abuse and sexual violence.

The council initially formulated a strategy in 2016 following an external review of domestic abuse provision which was sparked by five homicides in quick succession in Hackney between 2012 and 2014.

Domestic violence intervention manager Lesley Weber said: “VAWG affects every single section of society. Think of the number of people who are experiencing it, and the knock-on impact that has for them and their families, as well as the cost to us a society and our communities.

“But VAWG is a preventable issue. We can be doing more, thinking about how we stop it from even materialising, which we do believe is manageable.

“Domestic abuse and VAWG is everybody’s business. We want Hackney to be a safe place. We want all victims and survivors of all types of VAWG to be encouraged and to have the confidence to come forward and to speak, disclose, and to get the support that they want.”

Weber added that the strategy was worked up by including the voices survivors of domestic abuse, the opinions of young people, as well as the views of those who have perpetrated abuse themselves, to identify what would have prevented from using violence in the first place.

According to Crime Survey for England and Wales and ONS statistics, 12 per cent of young women aged 16-19 have experienced domestic abuse in the past year, with three in 10 women experiencing domestic abuse at some point in their lives.

One in five children will be exposed to domestic abuse in the home.

Four priorities underpin the council’s new approach:

  • Recognition, Prevention and Early Intervention
  • Protecting, Supporting and Addressing the Impact
  • Whole Systems Partnership Approach
  • Perpetrator Accountability and Enabling Change

Under the umbrella of the strategy lies a range of goals, from a roll-out of training for professionals and key staff on female genital mutilation, to developing a Women’s Safety Charter in partnership with licensed venues to tackle harassment, intimidation and assault.

Key to the plan will be the council’s ‘whole systems partnership’ approach, which will establish a dataset across the council and all its relevant partners to provide an overview of the extent of VAWG in Hackney.

Cllr Rebecca Rennison (Lab, Kings Park), cabinet member for finance and housing needs, said: “Talking to people about domestic abuse, there’s often disbelief almost when you tell them the numbers, how serious it is and the impact of it.

“Three in 10 women experience domestic abuse at some point in their lives, which is a truly terrifying figure. The most chilling statistic is that two women die every week as a result of domestic abuse.

“Women can experience abuse time and time again and it can take a lot to build that trust and confidence for them to reach out and access support, so we are seeing what we can do to bring that time forward.”

Cllr Caroline Selman (Lab, Woodberry Down), cabinet member for community safety, policy & the voluntary sector, said: “VAWG can take many forms, be it domestic abuse, coercive control, sexual violence, sexual exploitation, forced marriage or trafficking, all of which have devastating effects. and which we are taking a preventative and public health approach to tackling.

“When you look at the statistics, it’s clear why tackling it is so important. Nationally, one in five women have been the victim of a sexual assault since the age of 16, and in Hackney between 17/18 and 18/19, we’ve seen a 16 per cent increase in reports of rape.

“Each of those statistics has a person behind them and a devastating story with a serious impact.”

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