Cheshire’s police and crime commissioner has visited a women’s refuge in Cheshire West to talk to victims of domestic abuse about their experience of the criminal justice system.
David Keane met the women at the refuge, which is run by domestic abuse charity WHAG, ahead of White Ribbon day this Sunday.
After meeting the support staff and receiving a tour of the facility, the commissioner talked to clients about their experiences and how the help and support they have received has benefited them.
One particular issue that the commissioner, the women and staff at the refuge discussed was how the criminal justice system can better control the behaviour of perpetrators using early intervention methods to minimise the risk they pose and protect the victim.
One woman said that she felt if her former partner had been given support at an early stage, he would have been more aware of the consequences of his actions and may have changed his behaviour - this may have meant she would not have had to flee her home.
David said: “It was harrowing to hear first-hand the experiences of women who have suffered at the hands of an abusive partner. Refuges provide a life-saving service for victims, enabling them to flee domestic abuse to a place where they feel and can be safe.
“Earlier this year, I asked the government to reaffirm their funding commitment for refuges, which resulted in a U-turn on their plans to limit funding for supported housing for vulnerable people.
“Domestic abuse can have a terrible impact on both men and women and is not acceptable in any form; but I believe we need to do more to challenge the behaviour of perpetrators and encourage change.
“I am going to raise this issue with other criminal justice leaders to discuss how we can put measures in place to protect victims of domestic abuse from the outset by managing the risk caused by perpetrators.”
Kate Oakes, service manager at the refuge, added: “I am pleased with the level of commitment shown by the commissioner in addressing the issue of domestic violence and abuse.
“I look forward to the possible introduction of new initiatives that reduce risk for victims and hold perpetrators accountable.”
The commissioner’s visit to the women’s refuge was part of a week-long campaign to reduce the stigma of domestic abuse following on from an event hosted at his office with service providers across Cheshire to talk about the effects of domestic abuse on everyone in society.
Cheshire West and Chester Council commission the refuge service. Councillor Nicole Meardon, cabinet member for children and families, said: “It is critical that perpetrators are held accountable for their behaviour, the impact of which can have devastating consequences on both victims and the children within a family.
“It is also important that if they have the motivation to change, they are supported to do so and the earlier support can be offered, the better. In Cheshire West and Chester Council, we have a range of programmes available for perpetrators who have identified the need for change.”