New move to tackle domestic violence

By Ted JeoryPOLICE have launched a major crackdown on domestic violence after receiving almost 40 reports a day of people being abused in the home.Officers have teamed up with the probation service and women's refuge groups to launch a booklet in Essex aimed at encouraging employers to do more to tackle the crime.

By Ted Jeory

POLICE have launched a major crackdown on domestic violence after receiving almost 40 reports a day of people being abused in the home.

Officers have teamed up with the probation service and women's refuge groups to launch a booklet in Essex aimed at encouraging employers to do more to tackle the crime.

Essex Police dealt with more than 14,000 reported cases of domestic abuse during 2003/4 and the Home Office has estimated domestic violence accounts for almost a quarter of all violent crime.

However, a British Crime Survey reckoned the real figure of actual violence was likely to be four times higher that official statistics and added 81% of all abuse was inflicted on women.

The new initiative in Essex comes days after the Government suggested that time off due to injuries and low staff morale as a result of domestic abuse cost employers almost £3billion a year.

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As part of the new clampdown, a 12-page booklet, Domestic violence and the Workplace, aimed specifically at employers has been produced.

It encourages bosses to create safe workplace reporting environments in which victims of physical and mental abuse feel able to talk about their experiences at home.

This would allow individuals to discuss domestic issues on a confidential basis with managers, who could then help the victim report the crimes to the police.

The move comes three years after Essex council manager, Jill Bluestone, and two of her four children were bludgeoned to death with a claw hammer by her policeman husband.

Speaking yesterday at the launch of the new initiative, Mrs Bluestone's sister-in-law, Caroline Skerry, said: “Her work colleagues knew about what was going on and were begging her to pack her bags and leave.

“But in many companies there's a lack of a formal system and that can add to the loneliness and fear that many women feel.”

Experts said fear and humiliation prevented most domestic violence victims from reporting cases to the authorities.

Dr June Freeman, chairman of the co-ordinating group for Essex Against Domestic Violence, said it wanted to raise awareness of abuse and ensure there were systems in place to deal with the aftermath while at work.

“Employers are not doing enough on this at the moment. There's a real lack of understanding by companies on how to approach the topic,” she added.

“A woman can be turning up to work traumatised by what is happening to her and she will feel afraid and alone. Her work colleagues and bosses may be the only people she feels she could talk to.”

Inspector Alan Stevens, of Essex Police's vulnerable victims unit, said the companies to whom he had spoken had been supportive and had recognised the moral - and financial - implications of abuse.

“We hope this will force the abuse out into the open. There were more than 14,000 recorded cases in Essex alone during 2003/4, but that's just the tip of the iceberg,” he added.

“If a manager is aware of domestic violence taking place, there is no obligation in law for them to report that to the authorities.

“However, if that abuse touches on the welfare of a child, then there is a legal obligation to report.”

The booklet advises bosses to listen sympathetically to abuse victims and continue their support once a victim takes the difficult step of leaving home.

It added: “It is important not to underestimate the danger or assume that a woman's fear of violence is exaggerated.”

n The Domestic violence and the Workplace booklet is available by contacting 01376 501626.

ted.jeory@eadt.co.uk

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