South Yorkshire Police has this week embarked on an innovative new domestic abuse training programme with UK charity SafeLives, which aims to enhance our response and strengthen the support we provide for victims and survivors.
Domestic Abuse (DA) Matters is a bespoke culture change package, developed by the College of Policing with SafeLives, practitioners, academics and other charities.
The programme will be rolled out to 1800 officers, staff and partner agency workers in the coming months, after successful trials elsewhere in the UK.
It involves intensive, immersive training sessions which look to create long-term, cultural change and shift attitudes towards abuse and controlling behaviour.
Force Lead for Domestic Abuse, Superintendent Shelley Hemsley, said: “We already have a solid approach in place and our teams are securing very positive investigative outcomes in lots of cases, but we’re always looking for ways to enhance and improve what we do.
“This training is being delivered to our first responders, officers and staff who come into direct contact with victims and perpetrators of abuse every single day.
“It is important that throughout their career we continue to inspire and empower them to provide the best possible service for victims that they can.
“The programme has had a huge impact at several other forces and it was something we really wanted to bring here, to South Yorkshire.”
The programme has a significant focus on coercive control, controlling behaviour and emotional abuse and explores how early intervention can make a difference.
Supt Hemsley said: “The training is taking place as we continue to face challenges thrown up by the pandemic, but this makes it even more timely.
“It has been well-publicised that police forces are concerned about the impact Covid-19 has had on those who may be in abusive relationships, this training can only serve to improve our response and will hopefully help protect more people.
“Coercive control is a theme that we are seeing emerge more and more and it’s vital that we’re supporting victims of this type of abuse. Often controlling behaviour is harder to identify and goes underreported, that needs to change; emotional abuse is not a normal part of a relationship.”
The programme has been endorsed by other forces, but perhaps more significantly by survivors including Lucy* from South Yorkshire.
Lucy was in an abusive relationship for 16 years and was subjected to emotional and physical violence.
She’s now part of the SafeLives programme and says she’s so pleased her local force is taking part: “I am a passionate advocate for this training, it looks at abuse from all different angles and I know it’s made a difference to officers in other places.
“I got involved because I wanted to help bridge the gap between victims and the police, I didn’t have the best experience, but I see value in being a critical friend, rather than just a critic.
“I’m so happy South Yorkshire Police have signed up, it shows a commitment to improving the service they provide and also an investment in their own officers, which we should all support.
“On a personal level, being part of is my justice, it means that I can play a part in others getting the help they need.”
SafeLives added: “We’re so pleased to be working with South Yorkshire Police to deliver Domestic Abuse Matters.
“The police play a vital role in the response to domestic abuse. We know that currently only one in five victims of domestic abuse call the police – we need to see those numbers rising, and we need to ensure that victims and whole families are getting the response they need when they do reach out for support.
“With this training, South Yorkshire Police will be able to see the whole picture for victims and families experiencing harm – helping them become safe, sooner, and holding perpetrators to account.”
If you are suffering abuse within your relationship or in your family, please contact us, you are not alone.
Please call 999 if you are in immediate danger.
You can also report concerns to us via 101 or by using our dedicated domestic abuse reporting tool here
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