Grantham councillor Ray Wootten was recently appointed champion for the domestic abuse service on Lincolnshire County Council. Coun Wootten is a former police officer with the Bedfordshire Constabulary and served a similar role while based in Luton. Here he tells the Journal why it is important domestic abuse is tackled at this time of year and what his role entails.
Why is the problem of domestic abuse always highlighted at Christmas?
As we approach the festive season it can be an incredibly difficult time for those who have suffered domestic abuse. Christmas is when an abusive partner may be spending more time at home and monitoring their partner’s behaviour more closely than ever, making life even more difficult for them.
Domestic abuse affects all social, cultural and religious boundaries, including men as well as women. According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales in 2015, 8.2 per cent of women and four per cent of men reported experiencing domestic abuse in the last year. That is equivalent to an estimated 1.3 million female victims and 600,000 male victims between the ages of 16 to 59 in households in England and Wales. The number of incidents reported to Lincolnshire Police in April 2015 to March 2016 was 9,776.
Many victims suffer in silence for years before taking the courage to ring the police. It is estimated that 17 per cent of females subjected to domestic abuse do not tell anyone that they are suffering. Similarly, men feel too proud to talk to friends and colleagues.
What does your role as the champion of the domestic abuse service entail?
At the last communities scrutiny committee meeting I was elected as the council’s champion for the domestic abuse service. I have made a pledge to highlight domestic abuse and the help that is available. With my previous experience as a police officer working in the domestic violence unit at Luton Police Station I saw first hand how domestic abuse can affect people’s lives, with over 600 live cases being dealt with by the unit. It has been acknowledged that each week, on average, three women commit suicide because of abuse and that a further 30 contemplate suicide. There is support and real help, including the new domestic violence protection notice which enables police to prevent further abuse. This is authorised by a police superintendent and serves as a summons for court. A magistrate can issue a domestic violence protection order which lasts for 14 to 38 days and prohibits an offender from entering or being within a certain distance from a home.
Thirteen women have also been helped to escape abusive relationships after using the new domestic violence disclosure scheme.