A PROJECT has been launched to help shape a new approach to tackling violence against women and girls in the North East.
The North East Women’s Network (NEWN) has joined forces with the police and crime commissioners for a public survey, which will help shape their strategy to counter the problem.
It follows research by the group which shows that a third of women in the region would not report a rape by someone they knew, and half would not report domestic violence or stalking.
Black and minority ethnic women are even less likely to report crimes or access support services.
If current trends continue, it is estimated that more than 160,000 local women will experience domestic abuse and nearly 150,000 will suffer a sexual assault at some point in their lives.
NEWN, which supports women’s volunteer and community groups, is helping with the consultation and will report back to police and crime commissioners Ron Hogg in Durham, Vera Baird in Northumbria, as well as Barry Coppinger in Cleveland.
Groups, organisations and individuals across the North East are being urged to fill in an online questionnaires at the NEWN website.
The results will be used to create an action plan later this year for a range of agencies, including the police.
“There are concerns that many, many people do not report rape,” said Mr Hogg.
“They don’t feel that they are always going to get a fair hearing from the police, and the whole criminal justice system, being adversarial, does not make it a good system for vulnerable victims.
“The evidence has to be tested in a very difficult way.
“For many of the victims, it is like going back and reliving the offence, which is really something they would prefer to put behind them.
“It’s something we have got to work very hard on and address the issues and support the victims.”
Sue Robson, NEWN co-ordinator, said: “We think this is the first time, anywhere in the country, that three crime commissioners in a single region have come together to create such a strategy.
“It is a ground-breaking project.”
Aspire, Learning, Support and Wellbeing, in Chester-le-Street, is a member of the network.
Director Janice Rokni said: “We must find new ways of supporting women and girls through the criminal justice system so they can feel able to report such horrendous crimes when they are often at their most vulnerable.”
For more information about the project, visit www.newwomens.net.
The deadline for questionnaires is August 30.