WEALDEN residents are being urged to speak out against all forms of domestic abuse as the number of recorded cases over 12 months exceeds 1,000 for the first time.

From November 2019 to October 2020, Sussex Police received 1,037 reports of domestic abuse. This is a 4.5% increase compared to the same period last year.

“We need to be much more open about this problem in our homes,” said Councillor Philip Lunn, Wealden Cabinet member for Community and Public Health. “Lockdown has undoubtedly added to the pressures faced in some relationships. But even before Covid came on the scene domestic abuse, which includes coercive and controlling behaviours, was a problem hidden in our midst for too long.

“Wednesday November 25 is White Ribbon Day.  It is the day when every man or boy over the age of 14 is asked to promise to never commit, excuse or remain silent about male violence against women. Wealden District Council was awarded White Ribbon status in 2016 and I am pleased that we are applying for re-accreditation this year.

“Lockdown can make it very difficult if someone is living with their abuser. As well as violence, the threat may come from emotional or financial abuse, or other forms of controlling behaviour or sexual intimidation. It can show itself in ceaseless verbal criticism, removal of individual choice, isolation, or by stopping access to money or taking away a mobile phone. It is so important that home is a place where everyone is safe. Men and boys can also experience domestic abuse.

“In many cases people are unaware they are the abuser. Self-awareness is so important. Through the White Ribbon campaign, more people have become willing to talk about these issues.”

Who to contact if you are at risk

Support for women and men who are at risk from domestic abuse and violence in East Sussex is available from the Portal  https://theportal.org.uk/. It runs a 24-hour domestic abuse helpline on 0808 2000 247. The Portal also provides information for friends and family who may be concerned about a colleague or family member. You can also call Sussex Police on 101. In an emergency, ring the Police on 999.

Emergency services now provide a Silent Solution for people making 999 calls from a mobile phone who are afraid to speak. They need only press 55 and the call will be transferred to a police handler. They will ask simple questions to find out more about the callers safety and situation without requiring a direct answer.

Last year Wealden District Council introduced a new policy to help protect residents from domestic abuse. The policy commits the Council to ensuring all staff on visits will be trained to identify the signs of domestic abuse and, with the permission of the victim, make referrals to the relevant agencies. Council tenants are able to report domestic abuse to Housing Officers directly or by a third party and the Council will ensure total confidentiality.  The Housing Officer will contact the tenant and discuss immediate housing options, contacts with the police and medical services and agree an action plan.

As well as the support of a refuge, the Council can offer a sanctuary scheme. This can enable the person to stay in their own accommodation after a risk assessment. This may involve the installation of a range of security devices, including CCTV, to ensure person is in a safe and secure environment.