WE need to help Portsmouth become the flagship city for the awareness of domestic violence and stop abuse having a crippling impact on people’s lives.
That’s the message from the woman at the heart of the city’s campaign to eradicate the growing crime as she believes more must be done to reach out to victims in desperate need of help.
It comes as Portsmouth City Council launches a drive with Havant-based refuge provider Southern Domestic Abuse Service to support perpetrators of violence and get them out of ‘the cycle’ of abuse.
The council’s domestic abuse service, Early Intervention Project (EIP), has seen a 27-per-cent increase in referrals since 2013/14 and 55 per cent since 2012/13, with 1,347 referrals in 2014/15.
Ukip councillor Julie Swan, who has spoken publicly about her struggle in an abusive relationship, said: ‘Portsmouth needs to lead the way and I don’t see why we can’t be a flagship city.
‘It’s not good enough the police receive calls about domestic violence every three hours in the city – I would rather it’s more. It takes on average 33 phone calls to the police for a victim to leave a perpetrator and get out of the situation.
The problem is people don’t seem strong enough to do anything about it. They don’t know which way to turn.Portsmouth Ukip councillor Julie Swan
‘The problem is people don’t seem strong enough to do anything about it. They don’t know which way to turn.
‘My experiences are very different to a lot of people, most victims have gone through far worse. But a lot of people have come to me since (I have spoken out) seeking help.
‘These are very strong women, some have very high-profile jobs and have put up with consistent abuse for years.
‘We need to get people talking and stop it being such a taboo subject.’
Cllr Swan also says the council’s domestic violence poster campaign highlighting where to get help should start targeting older women as well as teenagers and advice needs to go up in supermarkets, shops and bars.
Talking about its work with the council, SDAS chief executive Claire Chatwin said: ‘This is a new innovative approach looking at it from a healthy relationship point of view.
‘It could make a significant difference to how perpetrators are able to either re-engage with their children or break their cycle of domestic abuse.’
Domestic abuse charity Aurora New Dawn has already revealed that 173 people in Portsmouth were referred to it for help in the first six months of this year – equivalent to about one a day – but that does not take into account 24-hour assistance.
And figures show there were refuge requests for 359 women and 491 children across Havant and East Hampshire last year – but that’s expected to go up this year as Fareham and Gosport have come on board.
Mrs Chatwin said domestic abuse was not going away and the majority of victims – around three quarters – are still women. She said: ‘More people are asking for help.
‘Refuge capacity remains the same.
‘People are asking for different types of support. In the past everybody would telephone.
‘Now we are getting messages on our Facebook page.’
Police chief backs campaign to reduce crime rates
HAMPSHIRE’S police and crime commissioner has backed the campaign to reduce domestic violence.
Simon Hayes has made tackling the crime one of his key objectives and praised the initiative.
He said: ‘It is important that victims of domestic and sexual abuse speak out about their experiences; we know that this helps others to seek support and report crimes. So, I very much applaud Councillor Swan’s initiative to raise awareness of the impact that domestic abuse has on victims, their families and friends.
‘Speaking out about any form of abuse plays a critical role in reinforcing the fact that it is an unacceptable and needs not be tolerated in silence.
‘I wholeheartedly support any campaign that supports victims and survivors. Society needs to support family members that have grown up witnessing this form of abuse from becoming the victims or perpetrators of this crime.
‘Affecting social change in this way does not come cheap. I hope to have helped improve outcomes for victims, survivors and their families in Portsmouth by investing over £220,000 in prevention, intervention and support in this area since 2014.’