Domestic abuse is soaring in Lancashire, and it’s feared not only adults but thousands of children could be victims.
The crime has been declared a “priority issue” for every district in the county as a new report revealed a 24 per cent rise in reported abuse in 2017.
Meanwhile there were 22,100 referrals about domestic abuse to Lancashire Victim Services in the year to March 2018.
Although the figures are shocking, some domestic violence charities welcomed the rise as a sign that domestic violence was being taken more seriously, and people were more willing to report it.
Dee Conlon, Operations Manager for domestic abuse and sexual violence with Lancashire Victim Services, said: “It seems to indicate there’s more awareness and more confidence in coming forward which is a real positive.”
Her service gets the majority of referrals from the police, but other victims contact the service direct or come through referrals from other agencies.
Dee said: “We’ve been running the county wide service for 12 months. Before it was a consortium of separate providers. There is now a consistency across the county.
“What we’re trying to create is one front door so it makes it as straightforward as possible for people to pick up the phone or look at the website. We are trying to be as visible and accessible as we possibly can.”
She says “numbers have gone through the roof” in the last year for referrals of children affected by domestic violence and the service has also focused on awareness raising.
She said: “I think the general call to arms has to be don’t ignore it. If you’re hearing control arguments from your neighbours’ property or your work colleague comes in with bruises or is late for work - think ‘are these people being controlled? Are they short of money – why is a partner phoning her (many) times a day?’. They are all signs of coercive control.”
This week councillors and experts gathered to consider the scale of the problem and how it affects youngsters as well as adults.
The chair of the county council’s Children’s Services Scrutiny committee has now called for laminated posters with helpline numbers and contact information to be placed on the inside door of every high school toilet - to ensure young people know where to get help, do not suffer in silence and are not prevented from getting help through feeling intimidated.
County Coun Andrea Kay said: “It’s about making sure children grow up in a safe environment and live a happy life to the best of their ability. We want them to grow and thrive. We do not want them to be in a bad place.”
The report to her committee revealed how both adults and children are victims of abuse - which can range from violence to intimidation, bullying and emotional manipulation.
Experts believe the rising numbers of reports is in part due to individuals having more confidence to report abuse, knowing they will be listened to.
Domestic violence is ranked second and domestic abuse fifth in terms of risk of harm in Lancashire.
Police recorded 8,944 abuse crimes in the county in 2017 - a rise of 24 per cent on the previous year, with figures for both contacts about and recorded crimes steadily rising over the past two years.
It meant the police dealt with an average of 1,664 calls or contacts each month about the issue.
Meanwhile the County Council was contacted 4,067 times in the year from April 2017 with concerns about children and domestic abuse.
In the same period the council’s Children and Family Wellbeing Service worked with 562 families, including 667 children affected by such abuse.
Jane Booth, chair of both the independent Lancashire Safeguarding Adults and Lancashire Safeguarding Children Boards fears many cases of abuse still go unreported.
She said: “The reality is most people don’t report the first few incidents of domestic abuse. There will be lots of families out there where this is an issue and they don’t get any help at all because they don’t report it.”
Detective Inspector Allen Davies of Lancashire Constabulary’s Public Protection Unit said: “We think that the rise in the number of domestic abuse crimes is partly down to improved crime reporting practices and because people are having the confidence to come forward and speak to us despite more often than not, extremely challenging personal circumstances. We have identified, for many years, domestic abuse as one of our core priorities.”
“I would like to remind people those suffering domestic abuse should always remember that what is happening to you isn’t your fault.
“Help is always available and you and your children will be supported. You can speak to a police officer or there are a number of different organisations that can help you put a stop to what you have or are suffering.”