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  • Writer's pictureTanya Fowles (Local Democracy Reporter)

Be ‘alert and aware’ of domestic abuse this Christmas - former PSNI specialist officer

Woman looking sad in dark beside Christmas tree

“It’s not okay to be afraid in your own home, to have to tiptoe around another individual to try to ensure some semblance of peace”

A former specialist PSNI Domestic Violence officer has urged people to be ‘Alert and Aware’ of domestic abuse in all its forms, which statistics have shown significantly increase over the Christmas period.

Nuala Lappin, who is now a consultant in addressing and raising awareness of domestic violence said everyone should be ‘Alert and Aware’ of what constitutes domestic abuse which is not confined to physical assault, as well as the options and support available.

In addition, the PSNI has set out exactly what and who can suffer from domestic abuse as well as what support services are available for ant victim when a report is received.

Nuala said:

“Domestic violence is epidemic in our society In Northern Ireland. The statistics paint a troubling picture particularly but by no means exclusively for women.

"A woman in Northern Ireland is twice as likely to be murdered during a domestic violence incident here than anywhere else in the UK. Year-on-year the number of reported domestic violence incidents is rising at an alarming rate, particularly at Christmas time. It is vital that victims understand they have a voice, they will be heard and supported. There is a path to freedom and safety and all affected must no longer be afraid to speak up.

"It’s not okay to be afraid in your own home, to have to tiptoe around another individual to try to ensure some semblance of peace for you and your family, including children.”

Meanwhile a PSNI spokesperson stated:

“Domestic abuse can have a devastating effect on individuals and wider families. The PSNI are here to help anyone suffering domestic abuse and are committed to bringing offenders to justice. We work closely with our partner organisations to provide help, support and guidance to those in need.

“Domestic abuse is threatening, controlling, coercive behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, virtual, physical, verbal, sexual, financial or emotional) inflicted on anyone (irrespective of age, ethnicity, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or any form of disability) by a current or former intimate partner or family member.

“There is no time frame for reporting. It doesn’t matter when the abuse occurred, all reports are taken seriously and investigated. Even the threat of violence is domestic abuse.”

In regard to support services:

“PSNI work daily with our partners to offer wrap-around support to reporting victims and their families. Some of the services we would regularly refer to or recommend are:

24 Hour Domestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline is available to anyone who has concerns about domestic or sexual abuse, now or in the past. It is open to all women and men affected by domestic and sexual violence. Phone 0808 802 1414.

Women’s Aid is the national domestic violence charity that helps up to 250,000 women and children every year. They work to end violence against women and children and support over 350 domestic and sexual violence services across the country.

Men’s Advisory Project provide counselling services for men experiencing domestic abuse. Support and counselling services are also available to men who have previously left a violent or abusive relationship and who are still experiencing the effects.

ASSIST NI is an advocacy service offering impartial and practical support for victims of sexual and domestic abuse. The service assesses individual need and risk; develops a safety support plan; helps encourage and maintain engagement of victims within the criminal justice system; and refers victims on to other agencies for specialist support as appropriate.

The Rowan Centre is a specialist regional facility jointly funded by the Department of Health and PSNI. Managed and run by the Northern Trust, it provides a range of services for anyone who has experienced sexual assault or rape. Police/self-referrals are offered a forensic medical examination by a specially trained doctor. Self-referrals who decide they may later wish to report to the police can do so. Forensic evidence can be stored for up to two years. The 24 hour Freephone Helpline is 0800 389 4424.

Services are also available through a GP as many people experiencing domestic abuse feel they can be trusted with disclosure and can offer practical support.

Social Services can also provide assistance and guidance.

The spokesperson added: “On average, PSNI receive a domestic abuse report every 17 minutes. All officers are trained to respond on a daily basis to reports. We also have a dedicated Public Protection Branch with Detectives who have enhanced skills and training to provide specialist support and information on procedures and legal proceedings.

"Strategically and at day-to-day local level, we remain absolutely committed to the protection and welfare of victims and will continue to work with partner agencies to support them.”

In concluding Nuala said: “Domestic violence can only be viewed as a scourge on our society, a literal battle between life and death. This is everyone’s responsibility. Too many victims have had their lives cruelly stolen. It’s in all of our hands to stop it, so be ‘Alert and Aware’ this Christmas.”


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