Helping those who need it most
Friday 25 October 2019
Trying to understand the mind-set of a victim of domestic abuse is extremely difficult and a situation that many of us will, thankfully, never have to ever deal with.
But for Rebecca Stringfellow, one of Horizon's Victim and Witness Liasion Officers, it's a regular occurrence. Understanding different people's reactions to being a victim can make all the difference to their experience of the justice system.
"A large proportion of the domestic abuse victims that come through to us do not support the prosecution - either because they are too scared of the defendant to pursue a complaint and give evidence, or because they are still in a relationship and don't think anything is wrong," Rebecca explains.
"This can be tricky as victims don't always understand the case can continue without their support, as the defendant still needs to be held accountable for breaking the law - regardless of whether they support the case or not.
"Realising this can sometimes lead to difficult, frustrating and upsetting conversations when, as a liaison officer, you have to try and win round the victim.
"We try and explain every aspect of the process - including any special measures, assisting at court, talking about potential outcomes of a court case or investigation or even the witness summons process, if they are refusing to attend.
"A lot of victims do not feel the incident that was reported constitutes a "domestic" and can become angry - they do not always see that anything bad has happened and do not always accept the support we are offering. This can be tough but our service is there for them regardless."
Occasionally, though, there are people who have managed to move past the 'role' of victim and want the justice that criminal proceedings can provide.
Rebecca adds: "Some victims talk about finding the courage to finally deal with the abuse they have been subjected to and how they have had enough.
"They can come across as very strong and determined, and in some cases want to face the perpetrator in court without any special measures to protect them.
"They do not want to let the defendant see them as scared or weak so are determined to stand in court. Unfortunately this is quite rare with victims of domestic abuse and I am in awe of how strong people can be."
Horizon are based at Wiltshire Police HQ and are a dedicated and specially-trained team of staff. They work closely with a wide network of services and partner agencies to provide support and guidance - allowing them to jointly deliver the best possible service to victims and witnesses when they need it most.