Every year in Hampshire there are more than 30 000 reports of domestic abuse, making it the largest reported crime in the county. Official statistics show that it accounts for 15% of all recorded crime nationally and affects nearly 2 million people each year. These numbers are stubbornly high, and we know that they are also the tip of the iceberg, because the true figures are concealed by chronic underreporting.
I was therefore alarmed to see local Police figures report an unexplained fall in reported cases of domestic abuse. There is no evidence that Basingstoke is bucking national trends, so I am concerned that this change is likely to be explained by a decline in the reporting of domestic abuse incidents. This is backed up by a recent survey conducted by the Borough Council; when asked, over half of Basingstoke residents said they would not know where to seek support if they were experiencing domestic abuse.
In truth North Hampshire has no shortage of expert support, knowledgeable employers, safe place scheme participants and more. So, ahead of the summer holidays – a period where year after year we see a spike in domestic abuse incidents - I have teamed up with Hampshire-based charity, Stop Domestic Abuse to help make sure more people are aware of the significant amount of support available to victims.
Over the next 6 weeks, I am working with local charities, businesses, schools, community groups, the police, and many others who already do so much to support victims, to raise awareness of the different forms of domestic abuse, the many different people it can affect, and the ways victims in Basingstoke can get help. Acknowledging the importance of dealing with the root causes of domestic abuse, I will also signpost the support available to perpetrators.
Nowhere in the world has put more in place to tackle domestic abuse than the UK. In 2021 Parliament passed landmark legislation to better define domestic abuse, emphasising forms of abuse other than just physical, creating a Domestic Abuse Commissioner, requiring all local authorities to provide emergency refuge accommodation for victims and making violence against women and girls a strategic policing requirement. I had the privilege to chair the cross-Parliament scrutiny of this new legislation and know that it is well supported across political parties, experts, and charities.
These new measures are important, but legislative change alone is never enough. We must make people aware of the changes, the new law, and the extra support services in place. Too often people suffer in silence, not knowing where to turn to for help. Working with the experts, this campaign is designed to make sure people are aware of the assistance on offer in our town, ensuring they have the confidence to seek help if they need it.
To keep up to date with the awareness raising campaign that I have developed with Stop Domestic Abuse, Hampshire Constabulary and the Police and Crime Commissioner, keep an eye out for posters around Basingstoke and please follow me on Facebook and Twitter.
All of us have a responsibility to end domestic abuse. Let’s make a start this summer.