As we continue to raise awareness of the United Nations 16 Days of Activism to end violence against women, we wanted to shine a light and reflect on one of Aurora’s most influential partnerships: our DVA Cars™ in collaboration with Hampshire Constabulary.
In 2015, Aurora New Dawn launched DVA Cars™ – a service whereby every Friday and Saturday night, our staff head out in police patrol cars to work alongside Hampshire Constabulary in attending reports of domestic abuse. The aim is to offer independent support and advice to victims and survivors during that window of opportunity: the moment they make the choice to reach out for help.
This partnership is just one of the many ways that Aurora unites with organisations to deepen the support available for survivors in the community. The impact has been huge – from victim engagement to police understanding, we know that our DVA Cars™ offer a crucial lifeline to women and girls in their time of need.
Why do victims and survivors of domestic abuse need DVA Cars™?
The very nature of the service is to show the victim that they aren’t alone – and to offer someone independent who genuinely believes them. This in itself can be transformative for a person and can encourage them to disclose far more than they normally would if the police were there without us. One of our earliest research reports on the effectiveness of DVA Cars™ found that 100% of victims agreed to speak with Aurora staff. In addition to this, 100% agreed to take information about support services with 50% of these still being engaged with services over a month later. The fact that 50% of the victims had never engaged with services before evidenced the benefit of having an independent, trained, specialist female advocate with the officer deployed to the address.
‘We find that victims are really surprised when we turn up – they had no idea that we existed. Many say that they felt believed and taken seriously for the first time. Often, this means that we are able to empower them to engage and do a risk assessment when previously they hadn’t,’ says Charlotte Robinson, Senior Advocate for the DVA Cars™ service.
There can be a huge number of reasons why a victim may not feel as open to sharing information with a police officer – it can feel intimidating, for starters. The neutrality of DVA Car™ advocates, the lack of preconceptions and even the normal clothing that they wear creates a softer, more comforting environment. Through this environment, we can then support the police in gathering the information and evidence they need, whatever the next step.
Why do the police need DVA Cars™?
The landscape of domestic abuse support is constantly changing – and unless you are working within it on a day-to-day basis, it’s near impossible to keep up. Add into the mix an extremely demanding job and it’s no surprise that the police benefit from our expert guidance and support.
Domestic abuse lead for Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary, Detective Chief Superintendent Fiona Bitters, said: ‘This level of partnership working is imperative to tackling domestic abuse, utilising the skills of police officers alongside Aurora New Dawn’s independent victim-focused advocacy, to provide victims and survivors with unique face-to-face support when they may need it the most.’
This is a huge advantage of DVA Cars™ – we are able to take the role of signposting victims to the right place, review police forms and their grading, and be that point of support whenever they hand out one of our out of office helpline cards.
‘I’ve been working in this role for a year, and I feel now that the officers are receptive and grateful to have us on shift with them. Even if nothing moves forward criminally, we’re there to help them with safeguarding and referrals. It’s really tricky to stay on top of ‘what next’ for victims unless you are fully immersed in it, so with our help we can jointly make sure that victims have everything they need to make an informed choice,’ says Charlotte.
As a charity, we also increase shifts at times when the likelihood of domestic abuse cases is set to rise; for example, we are getting more cars out across the east and west during the upcoming World Cup, a time when police calls will sadly increase, not because football causes violence but because large male sporting events are more heavily policed and therefore reported incidents increase.
Ultimately, everything that we do with DVA Cars™ is a collaborative effort – one that shows survivors that there are options and they can take them of their own choice and with their own power. We are committed to continuing this service and working with Hampshire police officers and our partners at Paragon to ensure we can deliver the right support to those who call and report domestic violence and abuse incidents across Hampshire.
Domestic abuse lead for Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary, Detective Chief Superintendent Fiona Bitters, said: ‘Domestic abuse or violence, of any kind, will not be tolerated. Together, Hampshire Constabulary and Aurora strive for a safe space for victims and survivors of domestic violence and this allows victims to feel supported for when they are ready to engage with us as organisations.’
‘Remember you are not alone – we, along with Aurora New Dawn, are here to support you.’
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