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Supporting a victim of domestic abuse

International Women’s Day 2018 - a Herts detective talks about supporting a victim of domestic abuse...

GEORGEClareDetective Constable Clare George became a police officer in 1990 and got her first role tackling domestic abuse two years later.  Over the years she has worked with hundreds of women suffering from abuse within the home and helped many turn a corner in their lives by breaking free from its negative cycle.

Detective Constable Clare George became a police officer in 1990 and got her first role tackling domestic abuse two years later.  Over the years she has worked with hundreds of women suffering from abuse within the home and helped many turn a corner in their lives by breaking free from its negative cycle.

Clare remembers a woman called ‘Grace’ (not her real name) who had suffered years of abuse at the hands of her partner: “Grace and her partner had been childhood sweethearts, had grown up together and managed to set up house. He was a professional with a good income for his age and they had three young children.

“At some point however her partner had taken to hard drugs and as a result had become violent towards her. Grace would call police following an incident but she would never support any further action against him. This was a pattern that went on for years and years. This was a woman who if you saw walking down the street, would never guess that she was a victim of domestic abuse.

“She finally left him, however the violence did not stop there. He lost his job and would come to her home high on drugs, but she still didn’t want to press charges. Many women in a domestically abusive environment experience coercive or controlling behaviour from their partner. She had for many years been made to feel worthless. It can be difficult to engage with women going through this because they don’t feel like they have strength themselves to leave the situation. Often they have lost all self-esteem and value for herself. Shame and pressures from family members can also stop them making a stand against the abuser.

“With Grace, I talked to her. I explained the cycle of abuse in her relationship and that without action nothing was going to change. For her, I was here to say: let me take all the blame for what police action may happen. I can be the strong one so you don’t have to.

“We secured a Domestic Violence Prevention Order which gave her time to think about her situation. But then he breached it and assaulted her again, cutting her badly. This time she put her trust in me and was willing to support a prosecution. Her case went to trial and she was brave enough to stand up in court to give evidence. She was able to do this within the court room, shielded from the view of her husband. He was sent to prison and from there she was able to move on with her life. All this was achieved was achieved in the name of the police and not the victim.”

Clare then asked Grace if she could write a letter that she could pass on to other women who were being abused. Her letter starts: “I am writing this to you because I have been in your position. I know you are feeling scared, shocked and overwhelmed by what you have been through and right now it can feel like there's no end in sight but I have been in your position and I can tell you that there is.”

Clare continues: “In a way, I as a woman was able to support Grace with strength that she didn’t have at the time. Then when she had gained strength herself, she was then able to use that strength to help other women like her.”

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