West Yorkshire Police has launched 16 days of action against domestic abuse - an international campaign which helps raise awareness of the issue and encourages victims to report offences.
The force is supporting the days of action with its own campaign, focusing on encouraging everyone to report domestic abuse to police and other support agencies.
Often, by the time domestic abuse is reported to the police or another agency, there are a number of close friends and family who probably realised something wasn’t right, the force says. An unexplained bruise or behaviour might mask the extend of the abuse they were suffering.
The campaign's focus, is to encourage people - family, friends, neighbours, work colleagues - to report these often hidden offences, and to seek help from the police and other agencies to protect the people they know and care about.
To emphasis the campaign, 16 videos have been created around Alex and Sam. Alex was a victim of abuse and people including Alex’s parents, friends, neighbours, hairdresser and window cleaner all suspected something wasn’t quite right but didn’t know how they could help.
The first video shows Alex’s mum speaking out about the changes she noticed in Alex, who she later found out was being abused by Sam.
Each day throughout the 16 days of action, a new video will be released showing another person who knew Alex and Sam and the things they had seen or thought, but not said anything about.
At the end of the 16 days, all the clips will be available as a single video highlighting that if one of the people had spoken out, they could have helped safeguard Alex sooner.
It is not only the victim or a family member who can make a report. Anyone can raise their concerns anonymously and in confidence with agencies including the police if they think that someone is being abused in any way. Speaking out could make a massive change to the lives of the victim and those around them.
By more people feeling confident and empowered to report their suspicions, more victims can be offered the support they need to make decisions about their future.
Assistant Chief Constable Catherine Hankinson said: “Tackling and reducing domestic abuse continues to be a key priority for West Yorkshire Police, however we cannot do it alone. We work closely with partners to maximise the way in which we can support victims of these often hidden offences.
“That is why reporting any suspicions you may have about people you know who could be a victim is so important. The sooner we know about it, the sooner we can help. If your concerns turn out to be unfounded, don’t worry – better we investigate and have an opportunity to make people safer. Your call could make a real difference.
“Ending domestic abuse is vital. By acting now, we can change the future of thousands of people providing support and the opportunity for them to move forward from the impact of domestic abuse.
“The cycle of domestic abuse can be difficult to break. Where there are often complex relationships, and it takes a lot of strength to come forward to the police.
“I would seek to reassure victims, or anyone who is worried about someone they think could be a victim; that every report of domestic abuse made to West Yorkshire Police will be dealt with by a police officer, and actions taken to minimise any risks to the victim and their families.
“We have specially trained officers working across the Force in our specialists safeguarding units who take all reports seriously, deal with them sensitively and do everything possible to safeguard those who are vulnerable.
“Solutions can include Domestic Violence Protection Notices and Orders, which seek to prevent offenders having contact with their victims, even when there may not be enough evidence to provide a realistic prospect of a prosecution, this can buy time for the victims to work together with victim services to break the cycle of abuse.
“This terrible crime often happens behind closed doors and we are absolutely committed to putting the needs and wishes of the victim at the heart of what we do. I would urge anyone who is subject to domestic abuse, or knows someone who is, to make contact with us directly. Alternatively make contact through other partners or third sector agencies to ensure that you and those around you do not suffer in silence, and that you all receive the necessary support and advice you need.
"There is also help available for the perpetrators. It is never too late for the perpetrators of domestic abuse to change their behaviour and improve the lives of people around them. Our website also includes details of agencies that can provide support and advice to perpetrators of such crimes."
Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, said the key message the force wanted to give its communities was to report domestic abuse.
He added: "However we do recognise that not everyone is comfortable with reporting instances to the police and that is why there are third party reporting centres and other routes to report through including helplines. If you are a victim of abuse or you suspect someone is then please report it by whichever means you feel most comfortable.”
If you have been a victim, or witnessed domestic abuse or have suspicions that someone you know could be being abused and do not wish to speak to the police, call the 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247.
Anyone can report domestic abuse by calling 101 and asking to speak to their local Safeguarding Unit. If a crime is ongoing, and there is a threat to life always call 999.
Information on domestic abuse, including ways to report and support agencies on our website at www.westyorkshire.police.uk/ReportDomesticAbuse – www.westyorkshire.police.uk/domesticabuse
*The videos feature volunteers. The videos have been scripted and are not based on any individual’s circumstances. Any similarities are coincidental.