LGBT DOMESTIC ABUSE
Greater Manchester Police steps up to support victims
In 2016, Greater Manchester Police became the first police force in the UK to record domestic abuse in same- sex relationships. The groundbreaking scheme, developed over an 18- month period in consultation with Broken Rainbow and LGBT Foundation, makes GMP the only force in Britain to record sexual orientation and gender identity, providing statistics on same- sex domestic abuse for the first time. Jacqui Gavin spoke to Detective Constable Sarah Harris (pictured right) one year on to find out what progress has been made.
DIVA: GMP became the first police force in the UK to record LGBT domestic abuse. Since this policy was introduced in June 2016, have you noted changes in how domestic abuse is reported?
SARAH HARRIS: We started with a trial period from June to December 2016 [during which we] recorded 100 incidents of domestic abuse. We have no figures to compare this to yet but along with an external joint campaign with our partner agencies, we hope to continue to promote the work we are doing and increase reporting.
Many were sad to hear of the collapse last year of LGBT domestic abuse charity Broken Rainbow, which you worked with to set up this scheme. Who are you now working with and signposting to?
We are working with Galop, which runs the National LGBT Domestic Abuse Helpline, and local agencies including Independent Choices and LGBT Foundation. Being able to provide figures from the six- month trial means that partner agencies had facts and figures to assist in commissioning an LGBT Independent Domestic Violence Advocate (IDVA), who has been in post since February. We also have a joint media campaign, an advert on Gaydio and a poster campaign. We held a launch event that attracted local and national media in April. But we are always looking for new ways to promote the work and ultimately encourage victims to come forward and get help.
Same- sex domestic abuse is hugely underreported, with many reluctant to come forward as the LGBT community hasn’t always been taken seriously by the police. What would you say to that?
GMP officers have received specific training from an external trainer, Emma Miller- Mccaffrey. This not only assists officers when attending incidents of same- sex domestic abuse but it has also shown the community that we want you to come forward. If you don’t want to speak to the police, please make sure you speak to someone.
How do you think we can raise awareness and encourage people to report abuse in Manchester and beyond?
Hopefully other forces will be able to mimic the work that we are doing. GMP will continue to promote our work but we can’t do it alone. It’s important that everyone works to raise this as an issue.
What have been your biggest successes in the area of same- sex domestic abuse?
We are proud that we are the first force to do this groundbreaking work and initial feedback is that the community is proud to live in an area where this has been introduced. We have built good relationships with members of the LGBT community and we want to continue with this success.
Finally, what would you say to some who is or has been the victim of domestic abuse?
I would ask anyone who feels they are being abused by a partner, ex- partner or family member to come forward to the police or the National LGBT Domestic Abuse Helpline. You will be believed and we can help. Or if you know someone – maybe a friend – who is suffering, please pass this information on and encourage them to seek help. Being able to communicate is key to a successful conclusion.
“If you are being abused, come forward – you will be believed and we can help”