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Police and partners on the Isle of Wight have been working together to better understand issues connected to male violence against women and girls, and take action against perpetrators.
Tackling this type of offending is a priority for us on the Island, and we are utilising a mixture of proactive operational policing, engagement and intervention to deliver a robust response.
We have also been working closely with sexual violence and abuse support service Hampton Trust, who recently surveyed their service users on the Island as well as other members of the public. Hampton Trust are an inclusive specialised service offering support to survivors of all ages who have been subject to sexual abuse and violence within their lifetime.
The survey focused on safety concerns when out in public, experiences of harassment and unwanted contact in the community, and individuals’ reasons for either deciding to, or not to, report their experiences to the police.
So what are we doing, and who are our partners?
Patrolling officers will be focusing on spotting the signs and behavioural traits of potential offenders, particularly during the night time economy. This will also include plain clothes and unmarked vehicle patrols, looking to identify individuals at risk as well as perpetrators causing harassment, alarm, distress, or displaying misogynistic behaviour.
Our licensing team, in partnership with Neighbourhoods officers and Isle of Wight Council, regularly visit pubs, bars and other venues on the Island to create a safer space for customers. Part of this work involves engaging with members of staff, including door staff, to help them spot the signs of someone who is vulnerable, being abused or in need of help, and provide venues with a toolkit so they can take practical steps to make a safer environment.
Paragon is the commissioned Integrated Domestic Abuse, sexual violence and stalking service on the Island and they work in partnership with The Hampton Trust to provide practical and emotional support to all victims, adults and children. For further information about the service or to make a referral visit: https://paragonteam.org.uk/
For more information about The Hampton Trust, visit: https://hamptontrust.org.uk/about-us/who-we-help/
Paragon also provides The Dragonfly Project, which offers training for community members who want to offer signposting and support for people affected by domestic abuse. ‘Dragonfly Champions’ are trained to provide a listening ear and act as a link to domestic abuse support agencies so that people who are isolated have access to help. To find out more about the Dragonfly Project, visit: https://paragonteam.org.uk/dragonfly-project/
Superintendent Jim Pegler, District Commander for policing on the Isle of Wight, said: “We want the public to have confidence in what we are doing not only as a police service but as a partnership to create safer spaces for people and tackle perpetrators of violence and sexual violence.
“The way we police the night time economy is changing, with an increased focus on identifying vulnerability and perpetrator behaviours. Sergeants are regularly briefing their teams to ensure they are spotting these behaviours, and anyone who could be at risk. The more we do to recognise and understand predatory behaviours and the signs of someone at risk, the better chance we have of protecting people.
“Our partners are taking similar steps too. In May this year, concerns were raised by door staff at Fever Nightclub in Newport to police about the behaviour of a man who was loitering near the club, before following a group of women. The man was already known to door staff for previous behaviours reported at the club.
“The staff on this occasion intervened and ensured the women were able to get home safely. We are grateful to them for taking this action. Police have subsequently served a Community Protection Notice Warning on this man. If his behaviour continues this will escalate to a Community Protection Notice, which can lead to an arrest if not complied with.
“Police are actively targeting offenders, and instances of formal action being taken by officers against perpetrators for serious sexual offences has increased by 25 per cent since 2019.
“I am grateful to the Hampton Trust for the survey work they have carried out, as it allows us to directly hear the voices of people who have been affected or have witnessed this sort of behaviour. Some respondents said they would not bother reporting this to the police, particularly with regards to lower level or suspicious incidents, as they felt they would not be considered or taken seriously by the police. Whilst I am confident that this is not the case, the survey reminds us that we need to work hard to win the confidence of victims.
“We are encouraging people to please keep reporting all of these behaviours to us either by calling 101, by visiting www.hampshire.police.uk or calling 999 if you are in immediate danger.
“Sexual violence comes in many forms – it can be discomforting and sexualised commentary, unwanted advances, harassment as well as physical violence. If you experience any of these behaviours – whether this be while you’re out in the community, on a night out, at work, or indeed even in your own home, please tell us or tell a support service.
“As a partnership we will continue to engage with victims through support services and women’s groups, to understand the community’s concerns which will help inform our ongoing plans.”
Amanda Gregory, chair of the Isle of Wight Community Safety Partnership, said: “The issue of sexual violence against women and girls has been longstanding and we are hopeful that these interventions will help in raising awareness of a much needed culture change. It’s encouraging that so many businesses have been engaging with this work, which demonstrates a real community collaboration around this theme”.
Safer Streets Funding
The Isle of Wight Council, in partnership with Portsmouth City Council, were successful in their bids under the Safer Streets 3 and Safety of Women at Night Home Office funds to deliver a range of projects aiming to reduce violence against women and girls.
These include the ‘Step Up’ campaign to raise awareness of sexual harassment and violence, a peer mentoring programme in schools and training for those working in the night time economy to help people recognise the signs of inappropriate and violent behaviour and how to be a positive influence in their community.
An initiative is also due to be launched soon where various venues are trained to provide safe places people can walk into, be believed, and receive support if they experience sexual violence or harassment. Participating venues will display the ‘We Stand Together’ badge in their window.