Conference held in Essex to tackle violence against women, female genital mutilation and ‘honour’ abuse

Essex Police and Crime Commissioner, Nick Alston

Essex Police and Crime Commissioner, Nick Alston - Credit: Contributed

Leading figures in health, education and social care have gathered in Essex to tackle violence against women and girls and, in particular, female genital mutilation and “honour”-based abuse.

Around 40 professionals attended the conference in Chelmsford to discus issues around these kinds of harm and discuss how to raise awareness to save children and young people from falling victim to it.

Adwoa Kwateng-kluvitse, the director of FORWARD, a charity which campaigns around the issues of FGM and child marriage, offered advice about what to do if there were reasonable suspicions that FGM would be carried out, or had been carried out.

She also stressed the importance of not letting fear of being labelled as racist or culturally insensitive stop professionals from tackling these problems.

Penny Rogers, the head of safeguarding at the North Essex Partnership, the NHS Foundation Trust, and former Essex Police Detective Inspector Nicola Burston, also spoke at the meeting, which was held last month.

Their discussion on managing challenges around mental health needs and honour-based abuse, highlighted the complexities of supporting victims of this type of abuse and demonstrated the crucial importance of partnership working.

Nick Alston, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex, said: “I am concerned about hidden harms such as ‘honour’-based abuse and FGM.

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“There is growing awareness that a significant number of people are victims of honour-based abuse over and over again, and often receive no help or support.

“We need to provide them with the confidence and freedom to seek help from the police and other agencies.

“We should be asking ‘why do perpetrators do this and why do they get away with it?’

“And then we should be developing practical steps to intervene against perpetrators and support victims.

“Looking ahead, my aim is to be strongly involved in work to develop a multi-agency strategy, with effective partnership working, to identify victims and those at risk of hidden harm, and to provide support for them across Essex and the unitary authorities of Southend and Thurrock.”