THOUSANDS of silent sufferers of domestic violence in Leeds are being urged to speak out to escape a life of fear.
The city council, police and a consortium of anti-domestic violence charities are forging ahead with a new strategy to “get to grips” with the epidemic.
But bosses say it can only work if victims come forward – and help their city to help them.
There were 13,348 incidents recorded by police in Leeds during 2012/13. However, the majority of attacks are never reported – and the actual number of victims is thought to be more than double the estimates.
Ten people have been killed by family members as a result of domestic violence in Leeds in the past two years.
The figure, revealed by the city’s support services and neighbourhoods boss, lays bare the shocking toll of the city’s problem with an issue which still remains “the last taboo”.
Coun Peter Gruen is now calling on silent sufferers to come forward, and help the city to help them, as the council, police and a consortium of anti domestic violence charities forge ahead with a new strategy to “get to grips” with the epidemic.
There were 13,348 incidents of domestic violence and abuse recorded by the police during 2012/13, prompting the authorities to make tackling the issue one of their top priorities for the year. Of the reported incidents 4,816 – more than a third – were repeats.
Estimates suggest only half of incidents at most are ever recorded, and the majority suffer in silence.
“We are talking 30,000 incidents, which is absolutely huge,” Coun Gruen said.
“It is an issue that is occurring a lot, and we now want to get to grips with it.
“It’s a bit like how we dealt with the burglary issue. It’s no good being quiet about this.
“We perform badly and we need to give it some attention.
“It’s probably the last taboo that people feel uncomfortable talking about. But it is happening everywhere, in all class and faith groups.
“It’s a problem for all of us and we need to own it collectively.
“We want people to come forward – and we will handle it as speedily and effectively and as sensitively as we can.”
Leeds City Council and its Safer Leeds partners are pushing ahead with a full inquiry into tackling the city’s domestic violence problem. The eventual aim is to bring together key services to help both victims and perpetrators, as well as increasing public awareness.
* Helplines: Leeds Women’s Aid 0113 2460401; Behind Closed Doors 0800 328 2430.
THE PATH TO TACKLING ‘LAST TABOO’
Safer Leeds is in the process of developing a new Domestic Abuse Delivery Plan.
The four key areas which have been agreed are:
Improving services for victims
Better deterrents and sanctions for perpetrators
Increased public awareness
A recent meeting between key project figures heard that “significant work” will be undertaken this year to review current services and to “identify gaps and explore opportunities to improve service delivery”.
A key focus will be encouraging victims of domestic violence to come forward, reassuring them that they will be looked after if and when they leave a violent situation.