Hertfordshire Constabulary latest force to adopt WEPROTECT app and protect victims of Domestic Abuse
After a successful pilot phase in Watford, Three Rivers, St Albans & Dacorum, the Domestic Abuse (DA) Alliance’s free-to-use WEPROTECT app has been rolled out to all frontline police officers across Hertfordshire, to help tackle domestic abuse across the county.
Head of the Domestic Abuse Investigation and Safeguarding Unit (DAISU), Detective Chief Inspector Ben Wright, said he was hopeful about the results the WEPROTCT app will yield. ”We have already seen the success of the WEPROTECT app across half of the county, with hundreds of victims being safeguarded from further harm. We are pleased that officers across the rest of the county can now benefit from offering instant legal access to help victims of domestic abuse.
This is especially important at the moment with the latest COVID-19 restrictions in place, making many people within our community more vulnerable to domestic abuse. It is vitally important that those suffering from abuse get the right help and support alongside our police investigations.”
Hertfordshire is the second police force to roll out use WEPROTECT, following Cambridgeshire Police’s adoption of the app in 2020. In Hertfordshire, the Domestic Abuse Alliance are hoping to reach more victims with the Force’s message that “If home isn’t safe, we’re here to help.”
Razi Hassan, Director of Partnerships for the DA Alliance explained the need for immediate legal assistance. “Sadly, we know that COVID-19 has resulted in an escalation of domestic abuse incidents across the UK, with many survivors only able to seek help once lockdown restrictions ease. Now, more than ever, access to legal support can provide a lifeline to those who are desperately trying to escape their abuser.”
Once a referral is made by a Hertfordshire Police officer, the victim of domestic abuse will be assigned a dedicated DA Alliance advisor, who will talk the victim through their legal options. If the victim wishes to.
Can you help local women and children spending this Christmas in a refuge after fleeing domestic abuse?
For women leaving a domestic abuse situation, packing their children’s favourite comforters, toys, clothing and toiletries – let alone a Christmas gift – is often the last thing on their minds. Faced with homelessness, women and children will seek a safe space at a local refuge, often bringing only the clothes they are wearing with them. Hertfordshire-based legal support service, the Domestic Abuse Alliance, has set up an online gift list, containing many of the essential items that women and children escaping domestic abuse may find themselves without this Christmas.
Razi Hassan, Director of Partnerships at the Domestic Abuse Alliance said: “Police forces typically report a spike in domestic abuse incidents during the Christmas period as families tend to spend more time together. Police recorded crime data shows an increase in offences flagged as domestic abuse-related during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, when it has also been much harder for those experiencing abuse to seek help and leave their tormenters.
“We work with a number of local domestic abuse support services, providing legal assistance and protection for victims, so we hear first-hand the struggles families face when they do manage to escape, particularly at Christmas.
“The reality is that women and children will often arrive at a refuge with no personal belongings. This is because they may see a fleeting chance to leave their abusive situation, and they take it, without having a chance to pack anything. “That’s why we have set up an Amazon Wish List, meaning you can personally buy a present that will be delivered to a local women’s centre or refuge before December 25. You can choose from a long list of essential items and gifts for babies, women and children. We really hope that residents will join us and take this opportunity to #GiveaGift and spread a little cheer for those who need it most in Hertfordshire this Christmas.”
In these uncertain times when Domestic Abuse cases are rising during lockdown, it’s important to bring attention to those working hard to eradicate domestic abuse. In these difficult times and despite their own difficulties Sistah Space are doing just that.
Interviews with service users of Sistah Space revealed that BAME women feel they are not taken seriously by police when reporting domestic abuse. In addition since 2012 and the introduction of the ‘Hostile Environment’ policy, even women with British citizenship are concerned about being deported. This in turn could keep them trapped in the cycle of abuse. Sistah Space work out of Hackney to support victims of domestic abuse from the Caribbean community and those of African heritage. The “Roof Not A Home Report” by London Black Women’s Project, found that Since 2010 government austerity measures have impacted benefits and services in ways that unfairly influences the lives of Black and minoritised women. Sistah Space works to try and combat this through providing advocacy, advice and education.
Running on the goodwill of volunteers, the charity has just one Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (IDVA). Their crowdfunding page is raising money for a vehicle to ferry victims to safety and the means to maintain their IDVA’s services. This funding is not just essential for victims of domestic abuse. Sistah Space is a pillar of the Caribbean and African community in Hackney. They have helped to organise a celebration of an Ethiopean Christmas celebration called Genna which is not officially recognised in the UK, despite being celebrated privately by many of African heritage. Their hard work in the community has been recognised by being shortlisted for the 2020 Ethnicity Awards in the Charity Or Community Initiatives category.
Unfortunately, Sistah Space’s office space is under threat and their operation has had to be scaled back, potentially putting the lives of the women they help at risk. The community of Hackney has come out in force to support the charity to help finance a possible new office space when they are able. There is a Gofundme underway to raise money for the cause.
The loss of this important service would be a devastating loss to the community in London not just in Hackney. The representation of black women by women from the same communities as theirs is crucial. Especially when reporting their abuse to police where there can be a distrust there about being taken seriously. Services like these should be protected. If they aren’t the toll on black women could be enormous.
Yesterday, the Domestic Abuse Alliance met with some of its supporters including their Ambassador Lorraine Stanley to discuss producing a short film around domestic abuse. Chris Luff MBE was there to consult on the meeting held in Harpenden, giving his wise insight. There was a reading of a prospective script written by Domestic Abuse Alliance’s Emily Norris, Lorraine’s performance of which moved the room significantly. Domestic Abuse Alliance are now trying to garner support for this project to be able to gather a crew and the equipment to make the film a reality. The discussions stretched the whole morning including casting, gathering a crew and financial support.