Herefordshire and Worcestershire launched their White Ribbon campaign, 16 days of action to end violence against women and girls on Friday 24 November.
This began with a conference attended by over 250 professionals from a range of organisations from across the counties. It was described as a powerful day with the voice of survivors of abuse at its very heart.
Violence experienced by women and girls takes many forms. Some behaviours and words may seem harmless, but normalising them ignores the short and long-term effects on women.
The aim of White Ribbon UK is to #Change the story – to change harmful attitudes and behaviours that perpetuate gender inequality and men’s violence against women. It encourages us to think about our own actions, promote equality and respect, and to be prepared to call out harassing, sexist and violent behaviour when we see it in others.
The White Ribbon promise is to never use, excuse or remain silent about men’s violence against women.
The conference was opened by its keynote speaker Maggie Blyth, National lead for the police service in this area, who talked about the ongoing challenges and work in this area from a policing perspective. This included the challenges, in developing trust and confidence in the service following high profile cases such as the murder of Sarah Everard. Also, the ongoing challenge in the criminal justice system, ensuring victims are at its very heart.
This year the conference had a focus on businesses and their role in supporting staff who maybe suffering in abusive relationships by having policies in place to support staff. The Employers Initiative on Domestic Abuse (EIDA) shared national best practice and a survivor shared her powerful experience with conference. Find out more at https://www.eida.org.uk/
Susie Hay, from SafeLives, said: “It was such an interesting and meaningful event. The speakers brought knowledge, depth and their whole selves into the space, striving for change and sharing their passion to make people and families safer. As always a real pleasure and privilege to be involved.”
Martin Lakeman, Domestic Abuse and Safeguarding Consultant from Worcestershire and one of the hosts of the conference, said: “It was humbling to hear the powerful voices of the survivors who spoke today.
"We have much to be proud of within the counties and the range of specialist services available to support victims. However, we know that there are many victims out there suffering in silence.
"My message to them is “Please don’t suffer in silence, tell someone, what’s happening to you in not ok, and it’s not your fault. There is help and support just one phone call away.”
Cllr Carole Gandy, Cabinet Member Community Wellbeing at Herefordshire Council, said: “This conference highlighted the fact that domestic abuse is a major issue which often goes unreported or unseen.
"Both local authorities are working tirelessly along with the police to tackle the problem but it is important we make it as easy as possible for victims to come forward and they are listened to and appropriately supported”
Councillor Karen May, Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing at Worcestershire County Council, said: “I’m pleased that the event was well attended and was incredibly poignant and powerful, particularly when survivors shared their stories.
"I’m really glad we’re able to work together with our partners across Herefordshire and Worcestershire to provide a strong support network across the two counties. I would encourage anyone who needs support to tell someone, and get help and support.”
The helpline numbers for West Mercia Women’s Aid Helpline are Worcestershire 0800 980 3331 or Herefordshire 0800 783 1359.