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Met enhances response and support to domestic abuse victims

News   •   Jul 15, 2021 10:00 BST

The Met is enhancing its response and support to victims of domestic abuse across London.

Domestic abuse is one of the most complex and largest risk areas the Met deals with. Throughout the various phases of lockdown there was significant concern that victims of domestic abuse or those in difficult domestic settings could feel trapped with no access to help.

We launched Predatory Offender Units across London to identify and arrest the most serious offenders and reduce the risk of repeat offending. Officers have made more than 1,700 arrests since November 2020.

To continue developing our response to domestic abuse we have launched an online reporting system and have adopted the Domestic Abuse Matters cultural change programme, in collaboration with the domestic abuse charity SafeLives. The programme has been funded by the Mayor of London.

Domestic Abuse Matters was designed for the College of Policing by SafeLives and other stakeholders to transform the response to domestic abuse, ensuring the the victim's voice is prioritised. 

Former officers and domestic abuse practitioners will work together to train 8,000 frontline officers to ensure they can identify and gather evidence of coercive controlling behaviour, recognise perpetrator tactics and understand the dynamics of domestic abuse.

We are committed to protecting those who are at risk whenever and however we can.

Detective Superintendent Matthew Pilch, the Met's lead response officer for domestic abuse, said: “I am delighted that we are able to roll this training out across the Met to our key frontline officers who are the first to attend domestic abuse calls across the capital.

“We are developing the ability of our officers to spot subtle signs, behaviour and traits of all forms of domestic abuse. It is key that we understand signs of coercive and controlling behaviour, how best to identify and gather evidence of domestic abuse, challenge victim blaming and help them to recognise the signs of manipulation used by perpetrators.

“The new online reporting tool is also a huge step forward. It enables those who can’t pick up the phone, who can’t attend a police station or seek help through traditional means to report through a safe, secure and specially designed system. I hope this encourages and enables anyone in fear to seek help. Everyone has a right to feel safe at home, and we have a vital part to play in ensuring that is the case. We are here for you.”

Coercive controlling behaviour can be a single act or pattern of threats, humiliation, intimidation or other abuse used to harm, punish, or frighten a victim. This behaviour is used to create subordination or dependency by isolating the individual from support. Victims are often exploited for personal gain, and are deprived of the means to live independently or escape.

The offender is often a partner and may be the parent of their children, so the victim could be fearful about what calling for help may mean for their children. Similarly victims may have concerns about finance or housing.

Alongside this training, we have also launched a new bespoke online reporting system. The safety of the victim was paramount when designing the platform – it has an easily accessible button allowing someone reporting to leave the site quickly if they are disturbed. To mitigate any potential risk, the victim will not automatically receive a copy of the form.

Pete Williams, head of Domestic Abuse Matters at SafeLives, said: “We are pleased to be working with the Metropolitan Police and a fantastic team of experienced associate trainers to deliver DA Matters, a cultural change programme created with survivors designed to create long-term, sustainable change.

“We know that the Met becoming an adopter force of DA Matters will be welcome news for victims and survivors of domestic abuse, as the programme is designed to increase awareness and understanding of coercive and controlling behaviour and create attitudinal change throughout the entire force.

“Independent research carried out by Professor Iain Brennan shows the positive and sustained impact of the programme – DA Matters was associated with a 41 per cent increase in arrests for controlling and coercive behaviour for adopter forces compared to forces who have not yet adopted the programme.

“Londoners and police officers alike want to know that the criminal justice response to domestic abuse is as good as it can be. The Met adopting DA Matters is an important step towards that.”

In the training, officers will discuss different types of behaviour, all of which amount to abuse, for example if the perpetrator has taken control of the victim’s phone, prevented them from leaving home or forced them to reveal their location at all times – even to the extent of being made to wear a monitoring device. Perpetrators may isolate victims from support and access to friends and family, resulting in victims sometimes withdrawing from the world around them.

The training will help to reassure victims that if they call for help, they will receive an empathetic response from the police who will understand why it's important that all their issues including those around housing, mental health and support for children should be addressed, alongside referral to specialist domestic abuse services. The correct police response for victims of domestic abuse is vital, and DA Matters equips officers to get it right the first time, every time.

Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, Sophie Linden, said: “It is vital that victims reporting abuse have the trust and confidence that the police will support them, and take their allegations seriously. It’s really important we give our officers the tools to support victims and that’s why City Hall has invested £700,000 in Domestic Abuse Matters training for Metropolitan Police officers, to help improve the response given to domestic abuse victims.

“This important training aims to increase officers’ knowledge of coercive control, the experiences of male and LGBTQ+ victims, and challenge victim-blaming and stereotypes. It will help frontline police officers, who are the first responders, to spot the early signs of domestic abuse, better understand the tactics used by perpetrators, and ensure victims’ safety.”

To report domestic abuse online visit www.met.police.uk – in an emergency dial 999.