Wealden District Council has been awarded White Ribbon status for the stand it is taking against domestic violence.
Councillors and staff are being encouraged to sign a pledge opposing domestic violence in all its forms at the Full Council meeting tomorrow (Wednesday, November 23).
Front line staff in the Council’s services have received training in how identify domestic abuse and encourage people not to tolerate it.
The Council is also planning a number of campaigns to raise awareness about the issue in the wider Wealden communities.
“Domestic violence and sexual violence affects men, women and children, but particularly women and girls,” said Councillor Claire Dowling, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Community Safety, “It is a problem which affects everyone.
“I am sorry to say that we have seen a steady rise in the number of domestic abuse crimes in Wealden over the past four years. They have risen from 315 in 2012/13 to 580 in 2015/16.
“Increased awareness has led to better reporting of these crimes but, as by definition, so much domestic abuse takes place behind closed doors, it is difficult to gauge the full extent of this problem.
“We hope by encouraging everyone, including men and boys, to become more aware, we can create a safer, fairer climate in our homes.
“Domestic abuse is also a critical cause of homelessness, accounting for between 5-8 per cent of all homeless applications in Wealden during the past two years.
“Domestic abuse is not just violence. It can involve many kinds of controlling behaviour including physical and sexual intimidation, as well as economic and emotional abuse.
“In many cases people are unaware they are the abuser. Self-awareness is so important. We hope through the White Ribbon campaign we can raise this as an issue more and more people will be willing to talk about.”
A number of senior figures in the Council, including the Chairman, Councillor Chris Hardy, and the Leader, Councillor Bob Standley, have volunteered to become White Ribbon ambassadors.
Wealden’s elected councillors will be encouraged to sign the pledge their opposition to domestic violence at the Full Council meeting and Council staff are being encouraged to do so, as are members of other local public services on November 25, White Ribbon Day.
Parish and town councillors from across Wealden will be encouraged to give their pledge when they attend the Wealden Parish Conference on November 30 in Hailsham’s Civic Community Centre.
Councillors are being asked to agree to the following, “We pledge never to commit, condone, or remain silent about domestic violence in all its forms.”
Where domestic abuse is an issue, members of the public should contact Sussex Police on 999, if it is an emergency, otherwise use 101.
People can also use a new website, The Portal, www.theportal.org.uk or freephone 0300 323 9985 has been set up to provide advice and support to people suffering domestic violence in East Sussex.
Refuge provides a 24 hours emergency hotline on 0808 2000 247.
The Council also provides a Sanctuary Scheme which provides an alternative to relocation through enhanced security measures to an existing home. Contact the Council on 01323 443380.
On its website, the White Ribbon Campaign says, “We’re a group of men who know that there’s never an excuse for violence against women.
“We pledge never to condone it, or to stand by when we know it’s happening. We’re part of a worldwide movement. There are thousands of us. Join us. Stand with us.
“You can get involved, wherever you are. If you can, help us to reach our goals by making a donation. Above all, we want to know that you’ve got our back, and that you’re one of the huge majority of men who will never, ever allow domestic abuse to happen unchecked.”
For more information, visit www.whiteribboncampaign.co.uk