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‘Words Leave Scars Too’ says PCC Vera Baird QC as domestic abuse campaign is launched

01 Dec 2016 14:21 PM

DA launch group picture [View Full Size]

‘Words Leave Scars Too’ says PCC Vera Baird QC as domestic abuse campaign is launched

The 1st December marks the launch of #WordsLeaveScarsToo – the latest domestic abuse campaign from Northumbria Police and Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird QC.

The awareness raising campaign will run until New Year’s Eve and aims to dispel the notion that domestic abuse is about bruises and scars and highlight how emotional abuse can be just as damaging to victims, and in the eyes of the law is a serious, punishable offence.

It aims to educate victims who are unaware the abuse they are being subjected to is domestic abuse, and that this realisation will give them the confidence they need to seek help.

At the same time, it is hoped that those committing emotional and psychological abuse, which is described as ‘coercive and controlling’ behaviour, will realise their behaviour is unacceptable and can lead to a custodial sentence of up to five years.

'Words Leave Scars Too' poster male

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird QC, said: "We’re not talking about an argument here; emotional abuse happens over a sustained period of time. It involves the perpetrator repeatedly controlling their victim, wanting to scare them, drag them down, and chipping away at their confidence with remarks and put-downs.

“This emotional abuse is still the lesser-known side of domestic abuse - it’s vital that everyone is made aware that domestic abuse doesn’t just come in the form of scars and bruises - far from it. If he or she is telling you, time after time, that you’re ugly, stupid, no one else will love you – they are guilty of committing a crime - domestic abuse.

“I am 100 per cent committed to ensuring our officers tackle this issue head on, working closely with our partners to provide the help and support that victims need, while taking a robust stance against those responsible for it."

Assistant Chief Constable, Darren Best from Northumbria Police's Safeguarding Team, said: “It’s an unfortunate reality that domestic abuse incidents rise during the festive period. For many victims it’s the hardest time of the year – one they fear and dread. If this is you - please don’t suffer in silence. I want all victims to know - we are here for you and want to help.

"Most people are aware that abusers carry out physical abuse but many are blind to that fact that emotional abuse is also a criminal offence. With this campaign we want to make this very clear - every form of domestic abuse in unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

Words Leave Scars Too - female poster

One victim of domestic abuse has spoken out about her experience and said she is still stuck in a situation where she has been controlled emotionally and financially over more than ten years. She still lives with the perpatrator but contacted Victims First and is receiving support.

The woman, who has been called 'Sarah' to protect her identity, said: "I have been going through financial and emotional abuse for years but I have been trapped in that situation because I didn't feel like what I was going through was domestic abuse.

"I am not allowed to use the house phone, I'm not allowed to use the computer, I'm not allowed the wifi code, I'm not allowed to use a car, all of these things I didn't realise consituted abuse because I had know bruises or scars to prove it.

"It is demeaning and all of my self worth has just gone down hill. People who are in my situation now will still be in denial that they are in an abusive relationship but they should ask their friends or their family if what they are going through is normal.

"I am now getting support through agencies like Victims First and they are helping me to get out of this situation. Any person who recognises what I have gone through as something they are experiencing in their relationship should know support is there for them and they will be believed."

North East actress and former Emmerdale star, Charlie Hardwick, has given her full support to the campaign and said she is passionate about raising awareness of domestic violence.

She said: "Physical and mental abuse is not alright. It's not something that you "have to put up with". If you witnessed this abuse in the street you would report it to the police. The crime does not become acceptable because it happens within the home. It is against the law. A lot of people, women in particular, are understandably afraid or don't think they deserve to take that first step to stop it.

"Domestic abuse story lines may be prominent on TV soaps but this is happening for real in our local communities, amongst our friends and even within our own families. We all need to do our bit to raise awareness and to encourage sufferers of domestic abuse to seek help and support. Nobody should be made to feel worthless because of who they are."

For more information about domestic abuse visit www.northumbria.police.uk. For independent and confidential advice call Victims First Northumbria on 0800 011 3116. For help to change your behaviour, call Respect on 0808 802 4040.

To contact Northumbria Police to report a crime call 101 or 999 in an emergency.