Figures of those reporting domestic abuse are on the rise and have been for a number of years.
This is an increasing but encouraging trend that more and more people - women and men - are finding the courage to come forward and report the abuse. The impact of abuse is significant, not only on the victims and their families, but also on society as a whole. The cost of domestic abuse to Scotland alone is £2.3 billion a year. All this we cannot and will not ignore.
As a single policing service for Scotland and all its communities, we are working hard to ensure a consistent policing approach in how we tackle the issue so that no matter where a victim lives, they will receive the same response and supportive approach.
The benefits of a national service mean we can apply specialist expertise right across our local policing teams. Instead of diverting resource from local policing, we can now supplement it with specialist skills and support.
As well as a national unit, we now have a domestic abuse unit in every one of the 14 local policing divisions across the country. These are supported by specialist investigators and multi-agency tasking and coordination units to help deliver that consistent policing response. This means that no matter where these crimes take place, as a policing service we are taking every available action to prevent these crimes happening in the first place and, when they do, ensuring they don't happen again.
Effective policing evolves along with the society it serves. As with attitudes towards rape, training to recognise victims of domestic abuse and our policing response towards it has changed significantly over the years. Domestic abuse is not an issue that local communities regularly raise as a priority. It's a crime people will rarely witness in the street and the "behind closed doors" mentality has meant much work has been done to encourage more victims to come forward to report this abuse and receive the support they and their families need.
And the ways of contacting the police have changed. We want to make it easier for people to come forward. For victims of domestic abuse, they can contact us themselves or we actively encourage third-party reporting, where individuals, be it a health worker, concerned family member or friend or even a work colleague can report their suspicions and we will investigate. We want to ensure fear does not stop anyone from coming forward.
Sometimes, in spite of all our efforts, there remains insufficient evidence. As we still see all too often, victims can sometimes suffer for years. The reasons why victims don't always come forward are complex. But that doesn't mean we stop supporting the victim or targeting the abuser. We can continue to target them and disrupt and hopefully stop their behaviours.
The cost to society of domestic abuse is significant - to the police, to health services, to other public services such as housing, social work and the courts. It costs the economy and while the police will always focus on enforcement it is working with others that provides the key to success in tackling this crime. By working in partnership, with groups such as Sacro and Assist we are able to address not only the crime but sometimes the causes of crime. While we focus on the offender, other groups such as these can provide support both to the victim and the abuser. While in some cases a custodial sentence is delivered, in others diversionary courses which include assessing the abuser's own background and issues can deliver results. Of course this is not appropriate for all cases, but by working together there is much we can achieve and learn.
Our aim is to see a smarter approach to tackling domestic abuse, working together with Scottish Government, partners and agencies, and to see the approaches that work being made available to all across Scotland, not just in certain areas. Our policing focus is on keeping people safe. By working with many across Scotland, it is a focus we share.
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