Violence Against Women and Girls: The national, regional and local picture
Violence against Women and Girls” (VAWG): refers to typically gendered patterns of violence. The Government Strategy uses the United Nations Declaration on the elimination of violence (1993) to guide work across Government departments. VAWG includes domestic violence and abuse which incorporates so called ‘honour based’ violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage
Further information about the new Government definition of domestic violence and abuse can be found at the GOV.UK website
The Government published its first Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) strategic narrative in November 2010 to outline its vision in tackling violence against women and girls. This was then refreshed in March 2016 and the national strategy is called “Ending Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy 2016-2020  -” and is built around 4 pillars
- Preventing violence and abuse;
- Provision of services;
- Partnership working; and
- Pursuing perpetrators.
It reflects on work done to improve police, criminal justice and health responses to VAWG (e.g. via HMIC inspections) and how it has strengthened the legislative framework through: the new offence of coercive and controlling behaviour; Clare’s Law; FGM mandatory reporting; and new protection orders for domestic violence, sexual violence, forced marriage and FGM.
It recognises the need to do more to stop people offending (less than 1% of perpetrators receive a specialist intervention), break the cycle of abuse and provide ways out of difficult circumstances that achieve sustainable and lasting change.
It adds that it has devolved responsibility for local service provision to local areas. It states government is providing a comprehensive package of support for local commissioners which will include targeted and collaborative support from local and national experts driving service transformation, a National Statement of Expectations, and up-to-date guidance. The ambition is to reform services to support earlier models of intervention with victims, perpetrators and their families, at the same time as maintaining crisis provision.The overall outcomes by 2020 are to be a reduction in the prevalence of all forms of VAWG, matched by increased reporting, police referrals, prosecutions and convictions.
Statistics and further information about domestic violence and abuse can be accessed through
The Regional VAWG Strategy
The three Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) in the North East (i.e. Northumbria, Durham and Cleveland) have developed a regional approach to tackling violence against women and girls (VAWG). The strategy is available to view on the Police and Crime Commissioners website.
The strategy includes a 20-point plan to co-ordinate efforts across the region to provide support and protect women and girls who are victims of violence or abuse of any kind. It contains the following pledges from the three PCCs:
- Domestic and sexual violence and abuse (DVSA) – “DSVA has a devastating impact on the lives of women and girls. We aim to make access to help more readily available and to improve the responses of the authorities when a disclosure is made. We will strengthen the work done by police and the criminal justice system and support work to change the behaviour of perpetrators. We will tackle the culture which makes VAWG acceptable”.
- Human trafficking and sex work – “Human trafficking is the movement of a person from one place to another into conditions of exploitation, using deception, coercion, the abuse of power or the abuse of someone’s vulnerability. Our primary concern in this strategy is with trafficking for sexual exploitation, which includes sex work, escort work and pornography. Regardless of whatever brings women into sex work it is apparent that they are vulnerable victims. We will work to ensure that the appropriate support and guidance is available to help women exit this way of life”.
- Forced marriage and so-called honour crimes – “At present forced marriage in this country is not a criminal offence but there are civil remedies available to someone who is under threat of becoming a victim and the law is about to change. So-called honour crimes are where a family or community is punishing the person for conduct which they believe has undermined the ‘correct’ code of behaviour. Violent criminality has no justification”.
- Female genital mutilation (FGM) – “FGM is illegal in the UK and it is also illegal to take a British national or permanent resident abroad for FGM or to help someone trying to do this. To date there has not been a prosecution in the UK. Babies, children and young girls suspected of going to be cut or presenting with FGM should be considered as potential victims of crime and referred to support services and the police as appropriate”.
- Harassment and stalking – “The impact of stalking can vary widely depending on the victim’s characteristics, past experience, current circumstances, and relationship with the stalker. It is important for key agencies to understand that the way they manage the situation or episode can influence the overall impact on the victim”.
Sunderland’s Contribution to the Regional VAWG Strategy
The Sunderland Domestic Violence Partnership (SDVP), Sunderland Safeguarding Children Board and Sunderland Safeguarding Adults Board contribute to each of the 20 actions in the plan and have produced a position statement which provides examples of what Sunderland partner agencies were already doing to help achieve the regional plan. Key actions have been included within the SDVP’s delivery plan (refreshed annually) which includes partnership improvement activity around the VAWG agenda and this is monitored by the SDVP, and progress is reported to the Safer Sunderland Partnership Board on a quarterly basis. An update has been produced showing that partnership working has moved at a pace around the domestic and sexual violence agenda since 2014. Sunderland’s Position Statement shows activity to June 2015.
Sunderland has a strong domestic violence partnership and a co-ordinated community response to domestic violence involving the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (MARACs); an Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA) Service and a Specialist Domestic Violence Court (SDVC) which together, are particularly effective for high risk victims at crisis point. In the recent HMIC inspection of all police forces (Everyone’s Business), Northumbria Police was only one of eight forces that came out positively in its approach to tackling domestic violence. The Sunderland Domestic Violence Partnership co-ordinates added value partnership activity and works to an annual delivery plan. It makes a significant contribution towards tackling VAWG alongside the SSCB and SSAB. There is some cross membership with children and adults safeguarding.
Locally, Sunderland now has a “Multi-Agency Domestic Abuse Referral Pathways and Staff Guidance”. It has been developed as a good practice guide for all multi-agency staff working with children, families and vulnerable people who may be living with domestic abuse in Sunderland. This includes those working with adults at risk of abuse or neglect and those at risk of sexual exploitation.
The guide aims to help staff enable a disclosure and make safe enquiries by safely and confidently asking about domestic abuse and knowing how to respond (i.e. ‘ask and act’). It:
- Provides guidance on carrying out a risk assessment and how and where to make referrals according to the levels of risk and vulnerability;
- Includes good practice guidance when working with victims, children and perpetrators;
- Covers safety planning advice and links to a range of local, regional and national help and support agencies;
- Provides advice on what intervention approaches are most appropriate according to the stage of change the victim may be at – and their needs;
- Provides links to relevant on-line procedures, risk assessment tools, referral forms, training and further guidance;
- Appendix 6 in the document acts as a stand-alone aide memoire focusing on some of the key advice as part of a referral pathway summary sheet.
Cutting them free:
Barnardo's appeal to tackle Child Sexual Exploitation
Sunderland Safeguarding Children Board along with Sunderland City Council have announced it is backing Barnardo's efforts to tackle child sexual exploitation. Sunderland has signed-up to support the charity's 'Cut them free' campaign, which aims to reduce the number of children and young people experiencing the horror of child sexual exploitation.
Barnardo's has been tackling sexual exploitation since 1994. Their direct support of victims now extends through 21 services across the UK. Each year they work with 1000 children and young people who have been sexually exploited or are at risk of exploitation.
Barnardo's has been influencing policy and practice on sexual exploitation from the start. They have succeeded in improving attitudes to young victims but are still waiting for 'the major step change in policy and practice needed to recognise sexual exploitation as a pervasive form of abuse from which, all children are at risk.'
At the start of 2011, Barnardo's launched their Cut them free campaign to call on the Government and local authorities to take action to protect vulnerable young people and children. Their calls for action were published in Puppet on a string This report sets out the progress and focuses on what is still needed if young people are to be better protected and supported.
In England the updated government guidance on addressing child sexual exploitation sets out how Local Safeguarding Children Boards and statutory agencies should act to protect young people. This guidance also contains an action plan and was released in November 2011.
Barnardo's contacted all local authorities in 2011 setting out the importance of tackling child sexual exploitation, of which Sunderland has signed up to, in support of their campaign. Sunderland have undertaken the checklist for local authorities issued by Barnardo's and have developed a strategic management group of the SSCB to ensure the relevant organisations in Sunderland cooperate effectively to tackle child sexual exploitation.
Barnardo's released their Cutting them free report in 2012 to demonstrate how far their campaign calls have been met in England, following on from Puppet on a string. For further information about the campaign please visit the Barnardo's website www.barnardos.org.uk.