News – Police urged to better support black victims of abuse

The Met Police are being urged to build better relationships with black women and girls who report cases of domestic and sexual violence in an effort tackle the inequalities that they experience, according to a report.  

The National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) has set out new guidance on how best to combat escalating violence against women and girls (VAWG) and the unique challenges that black and other ethnic minority face.

They propose that police forces should engage with black and other ethnic minority women to learn more about their experiences and to work closely with specialist organisations to provide better support for marginalised women while in the line of duty. 

The report comes after the Met released its action plan to combat VAWG in November last year and after the appointment of Baroness Louise Casey of Blackstock who is set to lead an “independent and far-reaching” review into police culturel and standards following the murder of Sarah Everad by a serving police officer. 

Louisa Rolfe, a Domestic Abuse Lead at the NPCC, is behind the charge for black and other racialised women to receive culturally aware support when interacting with officers through training devised with the charity Safe Lives and the College of Policing.

I have a huge benefit of working with a lot of the charities that support victims and survivors of violence against women and girls.

We work with charities to develop training for officers who respond to victims of domestic abuse. The trainingtook a number of years to develop and its evidence base,” she told The Voice.

“They have worked with some academics and researchers in developing it…it’s proven to increase both officers’ understanding of the dynamics of abuse and empathy with victims.”

“The training contains modules that do focus on things like unconscious bias and the additional barriers that victims might face.”

The framework follows campaigning efforts by leading domestic and sexual abuse charity Sistah Space, who are driving the push for Valerie’s Law to now be debated in Parliament after garnering over 100,000 signatures and backing from celebrities like FKA Twigs and Sir Lewis Hamilton. 

With the support of MPs such as Dawn Butler, Diane Abbott and David Lammy, the charity is calling for specialist training to be mandatory for police and other government agencies to support the cultural needs of black women and girls affected by abuse. 

Research by Sistah Space, revealed that in the UK 86% of women of African and Caribbean heritage have either been a victim of domestic abuse or know a family member who has been assaulted.

Only 57% of victims said they would tell the police about abuse.

Many black women have reported that they face questions over the abuse they experience when marks do not show up on their darker skin.

An investigation by The Voice also revealed huge disparities in charges and prosecution rates for black victims of gender-based violence. 

Andrea Simon, Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said: “Across the board, women are systematically not believed or taken seriously when they report abuse to the police. This is worsened by stereotyping and discrimination due to women’s race and ethnicity, class or disability. Can we really be surprised that many women don’t report violence to the police?” 

“In the last couple of years we’ve seen a wave of support for the Black Lives Matter movement and a national outpouring of anger and distress about violence against women, and there is a growing momentum around movements demanding change on race and gender discrimination. 

She added: “Whilst the government has claimed it is committed to tackling violence against women, to do this we need to see the structural discrimination and inequality which underpins this abuse addressed, alongside more effective leadership and accountability in our justice agencies and a radical transformation of a system that routinely investigates survivors rather than focusing on perpetrators.”

The NPCC report aims to improve  trust and confidence in policing, relentlessly pursue perpetrators and create safer spaces for victims of abuse.

An update of outcomes and performance of the guidance is to be published on 31 March.

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