Domestic abuse detective describes reality of male violence against women
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A specialist domestic abuse detective has given a frank insight into the realities of male violence against women and girls.
Speaking as part of the White Ribbon campaign, Detective Sergeant Stacey Hardstaff explained more about work officers do every day to protect victims from and hold perpetrators to account.
Based in the public protection department at Nottinghamshire Police, domestic abuse investigation teams deal with the highest risk domestic abuse cases.
That means the victims – almost all of whom are women – are deemed to be at real risk of coming to serious harm without further intervention from the police and partner agencies.
DS Hardstaff, who leads a team based at Mansfield Police Station, explained:
“The investigations my team deals with really are one step away from death – they are that serious.
“We've had incidents where people have had their head stamped on, we’ve had people that have had broken bones, broken arms, broken noses, fractures – right up to being stabbed in the chest.
“We’ve had items of furniture thrown at people and even boiling water.
“So, we’re not just dealing with one-off assaults – we are dealing with the most serious and sustained violence that can be committed in a relationship – mostly by men against women.”
Domestic abuse is wide ranging and can also include emotional, financial and psychological abuse as well as acts of physical violence.
Even over the last ten years the police response to this issue has improved significantly, with specialist officers working 24/7 behind the scenes with partners to ensure victims and their families are kept safe.
Recent changes to the law have also empowered officers to pursue perpetrators and safeguard victims – including making controlling and coercive behaviour a specific offence.
Officers are making better use of bail conditions and civil court orders to protect women from harm – even in cases where criminal charges cannot be secured.
Attitudes are also changing in wider society, with a greater emphasis now placed on the root causes of violence against women and girls – often the attitudes and behaviour of men and boys developed over a long period of time.
DS Hardstaff added:
“This kind of violence doesn’t normally just happen and in our experience it develops over time. It can start as simply as ‘you can't wear that’, ‘you can't wear makeup,’ ‘who are you going out with tonight?
“Checking a mobile phone for example – things which may seem protective at the start of a relationship but we know that that's often the slippery slope to controlling behaviour, which if that relationship continues could result in physical abuse and could go on for a number of years.
“And that is why White Ribbon Day is important to me – because this abuse always starts somewhere.
“You see it as you grow up – the attitudes that the men and boys have about women. You see the derogatory comments made; it can just be as simple as calling a girl a slag or calling a girl a slut or making comments about the way she's dressed.
“But we all know that in relationships little things like that do start to build up, and we see it in our investigations day after day that these comments are still being made by grown adults – by grown men. It is unacceptable and can be the start to much more serious abuse. This is where it starts and this is why this initiative matters.”
Police officers have a range of tools at their disposal to protect victims of domestic abuse. These include:
Proactive arrest and strict bail conditions – Officers are encouraged to arrest suspects, interview them under caution and put in place bail conditions that prevent further harm to victims. These can include restrictions on their movements, access to children and also prohibit any further contact through a third party.
Domestic Violence Protection Orders – civil court orders that can be granted within 48 hours of an officer issuing a temporary Domestic Violence Protection Notice. These are used to protect victims by prohibiting any form of contact by perpetrators.
Non Molestation Orders – civil court orders that place restrictions on perpetrators, including not contacting or visiting their victims. Victims are supported by advocacy groups to apply for these.
Evidence Led Prosecutions - where charges can be brought even when victims do not wish to give a statement or go to court.
Stalking Prevention Orders – civil court orders that allow police to intervene early before cases have gone to court and / or behaviours escalate. Nineteen such orders are currently in place and the force was recently praised by the Home Office for its work in this area
Clare’s Law (Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme) – which gives victims and or people connected to them the ‘right to ask’ police for a disclosure about their partner. In some cases Nottinghamshire Police may proactively approach women where concerns exist about their partner. Nottinghamshire Police was the first force in the country to introduce mandatory consideration or right to know legislation in all cases of domestic assault.