A crime tsar heard there has been a surge in the number of domestic violence cases involving teenage girls in Flintshire.
The news was revealed to North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Winston Roddick CB QC during a visit the Domestic Abuse Safety Unit (DASU) in Shotton.
Mr Roddick was also told about the support provided to the victims by the multi-agency team based there.
They also run a satellite office in Buckley and a four-bedroom refuge that’s available to women and their children.
According to the Commissioner, tackling domestic abuse is a key pledge in his updated Police and Crime Plan, the blueprint for policing North Wales.
In the plan he promises to work with Chief Constable Mark Polin to ensure appropriate support services for victims – whatever their age.
Among those who met Mr Roddick at the DASU was Independent Domestic Violence Advisor Victoria Roberts.
She said: “Last year alone we saw 120 criminal cases stemming from domestic violence and abuse go through the courts, three of which the victims were men.
“But what we are seeing more and more are younger victims of domestic abuse, people aged between 16 and 24, who are in need of help.
“The increase is partly due to the fact that cases involving 16 and 17 year olds are no longer viewed and recorded as a child protection issue but instead domestic abuse.
“Quite often we find 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds living together and when we have reports of domestic abuse that’s how they are treated. This is a shift in how things are recorded and accounts for the increase we have seen in domestic abuse cases involving younger people.”
She added: “The way we deal with domestic abuse and the ways we try and help victims has changed. We now have a multi-agency approach.
“We hold a monthly Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MAREC) which involves North Wales Police, Flintshire County Council, Education, North Wales Probation, Women’s Aid, Hafan Cymru, Health Services, Victim Support and North Wales Fire and Rescue.
“This gives the opportunity for people such as health professionals, who are obligated to ask questions, or school teachers, for example, to report any concerns they may have.
“Early intervention can be vital and if we can step in and help a victim of domestic abuse that has to be the right thing to do.”
“Our aim is to offer 24 hours direct access to refuge accommodation for women and children and to offer information, support and practical help to any victim or survivor of domestic abuse.
“And to ensure everyone who may need to know of the services provided is aware we are here and how to contact us. We also need to recognise the various needs of any dependent children involved to ensure their needs are catered for by ourselves or another agency.
“We also feel it’s important survivors are encouraged to make their own decisions and determine their own futures. Finally, we need to educate and inform the public and media of the difficulties faced by people who experience domestic abuse.”
Jackie Goundrey, Flintshire County Council’s domestic abuse lead officer explained to Mr Roddick that in the last year there had been more than 2,200 incidents of domestic abuse and violence across the county.
She said: “Domestic abuse comes in many forms. It isn’t just violence but can be in the form of sexual, mental or emotional abuse.
“No one is ever turned away and the All wales Domestic Abuse Help Line is linked to local groups.
“All One Stop Shop staff volunteer to attend an emergency on a call-out basis if it required. We do have our refuge which can accommodate four women and their children for up to six months, longer if absolutely necessary.”
Mr Roddick told the One Stop Shop staff that domestic abuse, quite rightly, had been elevated in importance.
“My Police and Crime Plan deliberately concentrates on one main theme, safety both at home and in public places.
“Domestic abuse is an issue which crosses, age, financial and diversity gaps and is an issue which can and does affect not just those who are being directly subjected to abuse, but also those who see and hear is going on.
“In policing terms the higher profile we can give domestic abuse the better. This is an essential service and we are seeing a good model of partnership working. Domestic violence is not hard to detect once you see it or become aware of it.
“The task is to raise public awareness not only of the fact domestic abuse is happening but that there is somewhere for victims to go, somewhere where they will be safe and somewhere where they will be helped.”
To contact the Domestic Abuse Safety Unit call 01244 830436 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and to contact Women’s Aid call 01352 712150. To contact Wales Domestic Abuse call 0808 80 10 800