Domestic abuse in Bedfordshire: Family and friends can help break the cycle

Domestic Abuse, Woman alone in dark street

“Domestic abuse is an invisible crime as it happens in the home.” In the final part of a three-part series on domestic abuse, Local Democracy Reporter, John Guinn, speaks to Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Festus Akinbusoye about ways family and friends can help someone suffering from domestic abuse.

Trigger warning: Descriptions of abuse

Read: (Part 1) Domestic abuse in Bedfordshire: 4,612 cases in the last 12 months
Read: (Part 2) Domestic abuse in Bedfordshire: It’s not easy to just walk away from an abuser

“[Police] officers could be patrolling the streets outside, but wouldn’t necessarily see it,” says the PCC who says that those closest to those in abusive relationships may be able to spot the signs and take steps to help end the abuse.

“One of the things I noticed from the people who have now come out of the situation is their partner only allowed them to have two or three telephone numbers on their phone.

“The numbers were controlled and whenever [the victim] was taking calls their abuser was pretty much in the room with them.

“That person would monitor who they’ve called. And let’s say a mother or dad called, if he was not around that woman couldn’t answer the phone, even though he was not there.

“The level of control was so strong that he could be five hours away and she still wouldn’t dare answer the phone.

“So one thing I suggest is whenever you call your daughter or your son, are they able to answer the phone regularly,” the PCC said.

“Or are they only able to answer the phone when their partner is there? Are they limited in what they are able to say, are you able to send anything there?

“If you’re having a family gathering, are they able to come on their own? Are you able to visit them?

“All of these things I think potentially are a sign that something is not quite right,” he said. “If the person [being abused] is not able to report this I would encourage you to call the police anyway.

“And then see what advice you are given by the force control room, they are very well trained in the signs to be mindful of. They can probably give you some advice on things to check as well.

“And if you’ve been calling [your loved one] for several weeks and you’ve had no response, a police officer could go and do a welfare check.

“They can usually spot the sign if someone is not right the moment somebody opens the door,” he said.

The PCC said a marker may then be placed on the address in case anything escalates in future.

Women being abused can call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, run by Refuge, on 0808 2000 247 for free at any time, day or night.

Men being abused can call the Men’s Advice Line on 0808 8010 327 (Monday to Friday 10am to 8pm).

Other providers of help and assistance can be found on the NHS Domestic Violence and Abuse webpage.

If you are in immediate danger, call 999 and ask for the police.

If you can’t speak and are calling on a mobile press 55 to have your call transferred to the police.

The Chrysalis Centre is a local partnership whose programme of interventions sets out to break the cycle of domestic abuse making victims, families and communities safer. More information can be found here.

Additional reporting by Paul Hutchinson
for the Bedford Independent

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