Awareness event on Violence Against Women and Girls and Domestic Abuse
An impressive line-up of speakers and attendees was brought together by the City of London Crime Prevention Association in February 2023 at the Livery Hall, Guildhall in the City of London to address crimes of violence against women and girls (VAWG) and domestic abuse (DA).
During a packed two hours, the objectives were to create a greater understanding and promote awareness with an emphasis on taking action. As chair, Don Randall MBE CSyP shared motivation for organising the event as the startling increase in rape offences and a disturbing revelation by a colleague that she had experienced three separate incidents: sexual assault, harassment and drink spiking.
It is clear that there is a consensus on many aspects of these insidious problems. In her welcoming speech, Angela McLaren, Commissioner, City of London Police, said: “Violence against women and girls is deep rooted and complex. The police cannot deal with this alone; we work best in partnership with the public, private and third sector.”
Lucy D’Orsi, Chief Constable, British Transport Police, added: “This affects us all and cannot be ignored. We all have a role to play.”
There were frequent references to these crimes representing a societal problem. Lucy D’Orsi said: “There is a culture around violence; we need to make a culture that is inclusive, respectful and safe.” Anthea Sully, White Ribbon UK, added: “These crimes can be prevented, we need to hold onto that. We want women to live free from violence.” She outlined some of the cultural changes that White Ribbon support: “We need to engage with men and boys as allies.” She added: “We know it is a continuum of violence, we need to get involved with low-level behaviour, men need to be empowered to call things out.”
The speakers shared the related statistics and Lucy D’Orsi commented: “The statistics are alarming. One in six women have experienced unwanted sexual behaviour on public transport. One in four women experience domestic abuse.” Susan Bright from EIDA highlighted that two women a week are killed by a partner.
T/Det Chief Supt Matt Pilch from the Metropolitan Police Domestic Abuse Unit added: “In the last 12 months, there have been 150,000 reports of domestic abuse incidents, 96,000 domestic abuse crimes reported and 67,000 suspects.”
Insights from Survivors
Shital V, founder of FREE2BYou Foundation shared some of her lived experience of domestic abuse. She described how it is about power and control and how some men feel entitled to entirely control the women in their lives, isolating them, making them subordinate and destroying their self-belief.
Domestic abuse can also impact men. Paul, a victim and survivor, shared his story. He endured a long journey of abusive, controlling behaviour. He eventually managed to survive this experience with much involvement and support from police, social services, his employer and charities.
Difficult time for policing
The police representatives spoke with candour about recent tragic and shocking crimes involving police officers. Angela McLaren said: “Trust and confidence is low.” Lucy D’Orsi added: “The abhorrent behaviour of some police officers is sickening.” Inspector Stephanie Williamson from the College of Policing spoke of 2021 as the watershed moment for policing legitimacy. Matt Pilch said: “Professionally and personally, I am embarrassed having these colleagues. It is going to take a long time to recover confidence in us.”
Insights into current initiatives
The speakers provided useful insights about initiatives currently taking place:
New Policing Framework for Delivery
Lucy D’Orsi explained how December 2021 brought a new national framework for delivery for policing violence against women and girls. In a fundamental shift, VAWG is now a national strategic priority. It will be treated with the same commitment and determined action as counter terrorism.
Stephanie Williamson spoke about the VAWG taskforce. Their goal is to drive consistency in police forces across the country, promoting best practice and building related policies and performance frameworks. A key part of this is rebuilding confidence and trust, a relentless pursuit of perpetrators and creating safer spaces for women and girls.
Detective Chief Superintendent Paul Furnell spoke about a pilot with TFL – banning predatory people from the rail network – toolkits and training. He also highlighted the BTP media campaigns and how their purposefully provocative approach is helping to encourage bystander intervention on staring, cat calling and sexual harassment.
The imabi Platform
Mark Balaam introduced imabi – the unified technology platform that aims to tackle harmful and unacceptable behaviours. This unified platform can be tailored and customised and is behind a number of safety products including the BTP Railway Guardian app and other applications for schools, businesses and a soon-to-be released community version.
Providing training was a key theme for many of the speakers. Bethany Nash of Safer Business Network introduced Wave training. This staff-based training provides intervention guidance on difficult situations and more than 10,000 people have already been trained. They are offering free events, face-to-face and online training, and are also looking to make this available as an e-learning package.
Anthea Sully, White Ribbon UK, also emphasised the importance of training. They are working with the Suzy Lamplugh Trust on bystander training – gentle ways to effect change. White Ribbon also transforms workplaces with briefings and training, providing: “powerful awareness raising and encouragement to unite to end violence”.
Safe Havens is a scheme that aims to make the most of the many buildings around our cities. Paul Dickenson said: “We wanted to use the already existing infrastructure, with the existing 24/7 workforce, to provide a short-term refuge for someone to keep safe.” Working with Croma Security Solutions, they are developing the Safe Haven app.
Operation Reframe, City of London Police
Inspector Caroline Hay and Chief Inspector Sarah Dobinson provided an insight into Operation Reframe, a high-visibility partnership in the City of London with the aim of making the City safer. This includes a welfare tent at Liverpool Street station staffed by the Samaritans with partners St Johns Ambulance and the SIA. They are constantly evolving their measures, including tackling drink spiking, bystander and Ask Angela training.
David Ward CSyP from the City Security Council (CSC) described how they can offer part of the solution: “The CSC reach is impressive so we can educate security officers about VAWG. We can help identify safe havens – make these places identifiable, properly equipped, and train staff.”
Chris Smith CSyP from the Security Institute explained how this membership organisation for those working in security can help influence and work in partnership. They host seminars and webinars bringing together senior influencers, police and security organisations.
What can I do?
Each speaker highlighted what individuals and organisations can do to support efforts to tackle VAWG and DA:
Download the BTP Railway Guardian App
DCS Furnell from the BTP encourages everyone to download their Railway Guardian App (available for iPhones and Android). This enables you to report crimes and concerns and be an active bystander.
Text 61016 to report a crime on the rail network
DCS Furnell also reminded everyone that you can text 61016 to report any crime on the railway network. Use this number if concerned about your or someone else’s safety.
Make the White Ribbon promise
Anthea Sully, White Ribbon UK, asks everyone to make the White Ribbon promise:
I promise never to commit, excuse or remain silent about men’s violence against women.
Join the Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse – EIDA
Susan Bright, CEO of EIDA, explained how EIDA brings together experience and expertise so all business can support their staff. EIDA provides tools and resources, including a template domestic abuse policy, helps businesses to share best practice and works with government and other partners to ensure employers are equipped to support people enduring or recovering from domestic abuse and to address the negative behaviours of perpetrators. You can join for free here: EIDA.org.UK
Sign up to the Mayor of London’s Women’s Night Safety Charter
Sarah Walker from Safer Business Network explained that any organisation that operates at night can nominate a champion to share guidance with staff and customers; spread the word via social media and newsletters; provide ways of getting help and advice; give training. Sign up to the charter here: London.gov.uk/womensnightsafety
Attend Wave training events
Safer Business Network is putting on a host of free WAVE (welfare and vulnerability engagement) training sessions which cover Ask for Angela. Open to hospitality staff, front-line workers, volunteers, security staff etc. These are live on Eventbrite and are offered on a first come, first serve basis – you can find out more here: www.saferbusiness.org.uk/training-briefings-wave
Working Together in Partnership to Make a Difference
Valeria Cadena, Community Safer Manager from the City of London Corporation concluded with how positive it was to hear from so many people – working together in partnership. She said: “We can support each other with our complementary strength skills and expertise.”
Lucy D’Orsi said: “UK companies can make a difference – can effect real change. We have seen the impact on Counter Terrorism: the level of collaboration was exceptional. Our community can create a hostile environment for CT, so we can do this for VAWG.”
Don Randall thanked all the speakers, attendees and sponsors Unitrust, QCIC and City of London Corporation for hosting the event. All speakers will make up the core committee of the team that will take the results of this useful and valuable meeting forward.
Editor, City Security magazine