Nicole Westmarland, a Professor of Criminology at Durham University, believes that there is more domestic violence in the United Kingdom that people realise.
Sputnik: Britain’s government is being urged to set up a new domestic violence prevention programme which would target offenders as well as victims. How significant is the direction of this new policy announcement?
Nicole Westmarland: It is significant because it's the first time that people have come together to say we're trying to reduce crime and we are, until now, focusing predominantly on the victims and keeping the victims safe. What we've got today is another piece of evidence, which shows that if we work with offenders, that we can reduce domestic violence and it sounds like a very basic and sensible approach - of course, if you've got a crime, you should be working with the offenders, but in fact there has been a lot of reluctance in the UK and internationally to do this type of work.
Sputnik: Just how bad is domestic violence in Britain and why for so long has this approach been overseen?
Nicole Westmarland: There's lot more domestic violence than people realise. People tend to think domestic violence is something that's rare, that it's unusual, that a perpetrator has this particular look about them, that they're some kind of monster but the reality is that they're there in our families, our school playgrounds, their teachers, their police officers and they are causing a lot of problems not just in terms of crime but in terms of problems with education with the health system. Domestic abuse underlies a lot of serious social problems that we have within society. So that's why it's important to kind of take more of a root and branch approach to this problem and say that we need to come together to tackle it from multiple perspectives.
There's been a lot of skepticism about the ability for men who use violence in relationships particularly about their ability to actually change. People say that they can't change, you know, a leopard can't change its spots and they say we should focus on getting predominantly women and children, although, obviously, it does affect men as victims too but predominantly people say we should focus around keeping women and children safe from violent men. Well, what we see when we try to do that is, first of all, it's actually quite difficult to keep victims safe if you're not doing anything with the perpetrator. What you see is perpetrators going on to become serial perpetrators. You hear women's groups in particular who maybe have worked with 5, 6, 7 different victims who have all been abused over time by the same perpetrator. That's not good for anybody including obviously the public purse.
Sputnik: Could this create further problems for tackling domestic violence and domestic violence victims?
Nicole Westmarland: We know that there aren't enough resources at the moment in terms of protecting victims. We know that services for children who've been affected by domestic violence have been almost completely removed. If we go back 10, 15 years ago, we would see things like refuges having children's workers, player workers, counselling for children, after austerity is how all of these things have been if not reduced then completely eliminated. What we must ensure is that these new services which do have a lot of evidence behind them, they do make a difference, they must not be at the expense of services for victims or for children. This isn't about an either-or do we have services for victims and children or do we have services for perpetrators. This has to be an add on, it has to be additional to what we're already doing.
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