There was so much I could have written about this month including, Sally Challen’s courage in sharing her experience of coercive control, the Domestic Abuse Bill progressing through Parliament and Rosie Duffield’s powerful speech in the Commons. However much of this felt overshadowed locally by the release of the HMIC report and assessment of Cleveland Police as inadequate including the response to vulnerable adults and children. We were saddened to hear Cleveland ranked the worst in the Country but in no way surprised.
The voices of those experiencing abuse are vital in understanding what is needed to effect change and women often tell us that they feel let down with regards to the response they receive, that they want to feel that Police take their case and domestic abuse seriously and that this is not always demonstrated on the ground or in the follow up they experience. The report reflects this and whilst we cannot shy away from saying that things need to improve we remain hopeful that the line in the sand the Chief Constable has talked about is a catalyst for change.
I might have been a little sceptical if it wasn’t for experiences of our support team during Operation Phoenix, of a male officer working alongside them to offer additional support to victims. Their experience with this officer was of an openness to learn, hear from specialist services about what women tell them they need and want; and a willingness to hear about and understand the barriers women face. He was compassionate and provided the kind of response you would hope all women would receive when reporting domestic abuse.
We know there are champions within the Police who are motivated to see positive outcomes for women and children. It also feels right to acknowledge the reality that is laid out in the report and accepted by those who have the power to change things. It is also important that women feel they can continue to call Police, to have confidence in the response and to feel able to influence change. Our organisation will continue to work in partnership to see the force succeed in the making the necessary changes and I hope that sometime in the near future I will be reflecting on how far Cleveland has come in policing domestic abuse.