Ministry of Defence launches new strategy to combat domestic abuse in Royal Navy, army and RAF families

MILITARY top brass have vowed to stamp out the ‘hidden crime’ of domestic abuse plaguing armed forces families.

By Tom Cotterill
Tuesday, 9th June 2020, 4:35 pm
Updated Wednesday, 10th June 2020, 5:35 pm

Heads of the army, navy and RAF, alongside veterans minister Johnny Mercer, are redoubling their efforts as part of a re-energised strategy.

Labelled the No Defence for Abuse Strategy, the policy will run until 2023 and aims to reduce the ‘prevalence’ of the crime in the forces as well as supporting victims and rehabilitating perpetrators.

It was initially launched in 2018 but was given a new focus this week amid fears the coronavirus lockdown was causing a spike in assaults behind closed doors.

Johnny Mercer, veterans minister, vowed to stamp out domestic abuse in military families. Picture: UK Parliament

Afghanistan veteran and former army officer Mr Mercer said he was ‘committed’ to take the ‘vital’ government strategy forward.

He added: ‘We all have a role to play in reducing the numbers of domestic abuse cases and eliminating this hidden crime for our armed forces personnel, their families and wider society.

‘Our armed forces should look to act as a leading department across government as a role model for wider society in a way that we provide for so many other key areas.’

The strategy has been welcomed by the head of a domestic abuse charity, who warned the levels of violence had increased in Hampshire.

Stop Domestic Abuse team, which supports victims of abuse. Pictured is: Nikki Day, senior independent domestic violence advisor, Sue Harrower, service manager, Rachel Windebank, operations director, Jo Eamey, business support and development director and Helin Khan, community development worker, with (front l-r) Becky Roper, outreach adults project worker, Claire Lambon, CEO, and Marcus Ward, childrens and young person worker. Picture: Sarah Standing (021019-7904)

Claire Lambon, chief executive of Havant-based charity Stop Domestic Abuse, said the number of victims seeking help had skyrocketed across the county in the past two months.

Between the end of March and end of May, the charity – which also supports military families locally – recorded an 11 per cent surge in overall referrals.

Meanwhile, the number of victims calling for help and self-referring soared by a shocking 37.5 per cent compared to pre-lockdown figures.

Fears have since been sparked that more victims are suffering in silence and that as lockdown is eased, there will be another spike in domestic abuse claims.

Domestic abuse referrals during the coronavirus lockdown across Hampshire have been on the rise, according to the head of Stop Domestic Abuse. Photo posed by models.

Mrs Lambon told The News: ‘Lockdown is a gift for a perpetrator because it’s a really great way to control your partner or children.

‘Children in military and non-military households will have been exposed, under lockdown, to a level of domestic abuse that is unprecedented.

‘Normally children have that release to go to school where they can seek support from a teacher or from their peers. But lockdown has stopped this.

‘The isolation it has caused will impact on children quite significantly.’

She urged those behind the military’s new strategy to make supporting victims and children caught up in the violence the ‘number one priority’.