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Sussex Police and charities tackling domestic violence
Increasing numbers of domestic violence victims in Brighton and Hove are coming forward to report beatings and abuse in their own homes.
Bill Gardner talks to victims, Sussex Police and charities to find out what is being done to help those who are suffering in silence.
So far in 2012, Sussex Police have already solved 443 domestic violence cases in the city compared to 484 in the whole of last year.
But DI Miles Ockwell, who leads Sussex Police’s domestic violence team in Brighton and Hove, said there were still victims across the city who were suffering in silence.
He said: “We have on average one call every hour in Brighton and Hove from a victim of domestic abuse.
“But what’s happened over the last 12 months is that we have made real changes.
“We work closely with charities like RISE which lets us concentrate on providing more support for the victims.
DI Miles OckwellThe biggest problem we have is that around half of all perpetrators that come to our attention are getting away with it
“Hopefully that means people feel more confident in coming forward.”
However, DI Ockwell said that even when his team investigates violent assaults, often the victim is unwilling to press charges.
One case involved a man who allegedly drove a car at his partner following an argument.
DI Ockwell said: “The biggest problem we have is that around half of all perpetrators that come to our attention are getting away with it.
“But the fact is the criminal justice system isn’t going to solve the problem. Why would a mother want the father of her children to go to prison?
“So our approach is often to really focus on supporting the victim. We want to make sure they are safe, even if in a lot of cases we don’t move for prosecution.”
Many domestic violence victims in Brighton and Hove have been sexually abused in their own homes.
Nationally, 54% of rapes are committed by a woman’s current or former partner.
DI Ockwell said his force was currently investigating “several” allegations of rape made by women about their abusive partners.
Now a specialist domestic violence court has been set up and sits every Wednesday at Brighton Magistrates’ Court to hear domestic violence cases.
Every two weeks a Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference made up of representatives from the council, charities and the police meets to discuss the most high risk victims.
- RISE operates through Brighton & Hove and across West Sussex. Its Helpline number in 01273 622822 but in an emergency, call 999.
- Men affected by domestic abuse can call the Men’s Advice Helpline 0808 801 0327 or they can call the Anti-Victimisation Unit 01273 665 657.
- For LGBT people there is the Brighton & Hove LGBT Switchboard on 01273 20 40 50.
'It was about control – but control is not love'
IT WAS two o’clock in the morning.
Louise was asleep in her upstairs bed while her three-year-old daughter Emily slept soundly next door.
Suddenly, there was a crash from downstairs and the sound of heavy feet running up the stairs.
Louise’s bedroom door burst open to reveal the stocky shadow of her bodybuilder boyfriend Lee, Emily’s father.
Stepping forward silently, he grabbed Louise’s hair and punched her hard in the face.
Then he began to drag his screaming partner downstairs, past the little girl’s room, and outside to his waiting car.
Lee and Louise had been together for five years and lived in a Sussex town.
During that time, 37-year-old Louise had been regularly punched, kicked and beaten.
On one occasion, at a family barbecue, she had gone round to the front of the house to make a phone call when Lee discovered she was missing.
He rushed round and attacked his girlfriend, knocking her to the ground and repeatedly kicking her in the head.
After the beating, Louise was unconscious in hospital for three days and suffered nine haematomas on her brain.
Her injuries were so bad that her daughter Emily failed to recognise her in her hospital bed. She decided not to press charges when Lee threatened to kill her little girl if she refused to stay with him.
As Louise was dragged into the car that freezing winter night, Lee rained down more blows on her head and body.
Sobbing, she sat slumped in the front seat and asked where she was being taken, but her boyfriend didn’t reply.
Soon the car stopped inside a nearby forest, and Louise’s nightmare truly began. Lee started to abuse her, accusing her of cheating on him.
After every sentence he punched her in the head and face as she cowered against the passenger door.
Every time she tried to make a break for freedom, Lee would grab her and hold her inside the car.
After almost four hours, Louise’s ordeal finally came to an end. She was driven back to her home and was left crying on the pavement while Lee went to work.
But this time she had endured enough. She called the police, who arrested Lee and charged him with kidnapping and ABH. At court he was found guilty, but sentenced to just six months’ community service.
Louise (not her real name) now lives in another Sussex town with Emily and has changed her name by deed poll.
She told The Argus: “It was all about control, but control is not love. He didn’t love me at all.
“But so many people don’t go to the police because they know at the end of the day they are not going to get punished fairly by the courts.
“At least I am away from him now where he can’t get to me. I didn’t feel like there was anyone I could talk to but when I finally called the police I realised there was someone who could help.”