Police plan to tackle violence against women launched in Sunderland and Durham

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SUNDERLAND and cities across the North East are to have the first ever regional strategy to tackle violence against women and girls.

Launched today by the three regional Police and Crime Commissioners, a 20-point plan has been devised to provide support and protect women and girls who are victims of violence or abuse of any kind.

The Violence Against Woman and Girls Strategy, with a foreword written by Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper, follows months of consultation with a range of partners and the North East Women’s Network.

It contains pledges around:

•Domestic and sexual violence and abuse

•Human trafficking and sex work

•Forced marriage and so-called honour crimes

•Harassment and stalking

•Female genital mutilation

Figures show that in the three North East forces alone over the past year there were over 4,800 violent crimes against women, including 109 serious sexual offences, 86 honour based violence incidents and eight cases of stalking - as well as 53,500 incidents of domestic violence.

However, it is estimated that nationally less than half of the 1.2 million domestic abuse victims and only about 20 per cent of all sexual abuse victims ever report incidents to the police.

Vera Baird commissioner for Northumbria, said: “These are all real, measurable actions – it is not a vague wish list of what we’d like to see in the future. These priorities will happen and many are already underway.

“Our overall aim is simple - to make help more available so that whenever or wherever a victim-survivor feels able to seek help, there is someone in her immediate surroundings who has the training needed to cope calmly with any disclosure and can engage her with support services and a route to safety.

Sunderland group, Wearside Women in Need, were asked to consult on the strategy.

Claire Phillipson, director of the organisation, said: “This strategy is historic. To have a team working together with the same standards to tackle violence against women and girls is essential.

“Things like female genital mutilation is an issue here in this region now, as is the sexual exploitation of young girls and we have to work together in order to combat them.”

Ron Hogg, Durham Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “I believe that we have produced a strategy which can drive forward major differences in service delivery, but which most importantly will deliver better outcomes for victims, hopefully leading to fewer of those as we make progress.”

Among the priorities is a strategy for employers - ‘Domestic and Sexual Abuse and the Workplace’ - to make sure anyone affected can find confidential support at work and be helped to safety.

A substantial number of Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse Champions will be identified before March next year.

Other plans include establishing a Police Rape Scrutiny Panel in each force area to scrutinise case files.