While collaboration is key for protecting women and girls from male violence, Aurora New Dawn has an important message for organisations charged with keeping us safe: in order to truly help, they need to get better at policing themselves.
It’s a notion we feel strongly about – however, with this year’s worrying release of a report centred on corruption in the metropolitan police force, we believe that now is the time to put these risks on a platform and encourage ALL forces to prioritise their own policing; otherwise, how can they effectively protect the women and girls who need it the most?
The culture of the police force needs to change in order to support victims of domestic abuse
The police watchdog report found that:
- In the last two years, the Met recruited people with criminal connections and more than 100 people who have committed offences. Some of these decisions “may have been justifiable, but the force failed to properly supervise these people to lessen the risks”;
- Property and exhibit procedures were “dire”. Hundreds of items were not accounted for, including cash and drugs. In one instance, the security access code for a property store was written on the outside of the door;
- The force does not know whether all those in sensitive posts – such as child protection, major crime investigation, and informant handling – have been cleared to the level of vetting needed;
- More than 2,000 warrant cards issued to personnel who had since left the force were unaccounted for.
It also found that, among several cases of misogyny and sexual misconduct, one officer convicted of domestic abuse and one accused of sexual assault were accepted into the force.
‘There is a widespread cultural problem with those working in positions of power – we often find patriarchal and hierarchical attitudes within the force, and these can heighten feelings of power and control for perpetrators of abuse. It’s vital that these institutions do better; we cannot face more findings like this. Change must happen and immediately,’ says Dr Shonagh Dillon, CEO at Aurora.
It’s important for us to highlight that the report is focused on the Met and the findings are not true of all police forces. There are very good individuals working in police forces but it takes everyone to change the culture. Trust is paramount for victims and survivors – with reports like this widely available in the public domain, there is a serious concern that victims may feel less inclined to disclose personal information to police officers.
It’s easy to tar an entire group with the same brush and it would be unfair to generalise when there are some fantastic teams and officers working hard to support victims in the best way possible. Having said that, the risks of not speaking up about these issues are too great to ignore, and that’s why we continue working alongside police officers to influence behaviour, support survivors and, ultimately, alter public opinion.
How does Aurora work alongside the police?
Earlier this year, Hampshire and IOW constabulary launched a new service after police officers and staff highlighted barriers to reporting domestic abuse, and feedback showed that some had felt unsupported in reporting domestic abuse or violence in the past.
The team were approached to form part of a specialist panel that includes Stop Domestic Abuse and the YOU Trust. Together we provide expert advice and guidance on how victims can be effectively supported to reduce risk, cope with damaging behaviours and how perpetrators can be held to account. The service enables us to use our expertise to guide the constabulary in their methods for investigating reports of domestic abuse and violence in order to empower victims. We were even awarded the ‘Chief Constable’s certificate of gratitude’ for our support – an accolade we are proud of.
In addition, we run our DVA Cars™. This long-term service has proven to be a brilliant way to help victims feel safe, seen and supported when reporting incidents of domestic abuse to the police.
Shonagh continued: “We have a good relationship with our policing colleagues in Hampshire and we are proud of the improvements we’ve been able to make so far, but we are also clear that there is more to be done. Organisations like police forces cannot hope to investigate reports of domestic violence internally and reach satisfactory outcomes for everyone involved; they need expert advice, new perspectives and independent support to make it an unbiased process.
A lot of the work we currently do is changing attitudes. When we began the DVA Cars™ service, many of the officers couldn’t see the benefit of having domestic abuse advocates working alongside them, but now they understand how we support victims and we work well together. We need to continue challenging these barriers so we can work as a solid partnership in supporting victims and educating perpetrators.”
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