In my 28 years in the police service I cannot remember a time when the media spotlight has been so intensely focused on the issue of violence against women and girls.
In past times these appalling crimes were more likely to be committed out of sight and go under-reported. Now they are being discussed more openly than ever.
The police have seen a significant increase in victims coming forward, particularly in cases where the abuse concerned took place many years ago.
Quite rightly the public is concerned about what the police and Government are doing to help such abuse ever happening again.
Within ACPO, there is a child sexual exploitation action plan for police forces across the country. It sets out key considerations which will guide police officers and staff working with partners such as local authorities and children’s services, to tackle this abhorrent crime.
One of its key priorities is to improve the way in which data around this crime is collected by local forces.This will prevent the national picture and our understanding of this crime being hidden by the way data is stored at local levels.
The plan also seeks to enhance victim protection and the pursuit of offenders.
It will help raise awareness of child sexual exploitation and ensure tackling it is at the heart of local policing.
Since the summer riots in 2011 the public have been made much more aware of the dangers that gangs pose to our communities. While the focus at that time was criminal damage and violence, the work of the Children’s Commissioner for England on child sexual exploitation in gangs and groups has helped draw attention to another criminal side to some gangs.
Police are determined to tackle this head on and build support for victims which is accessible, relevant innovative and sustainable.
Victims may feel isolated, or in some cases not even see themselves as victims, but we are working hard to improve identification and support anyone who comes forward. Police are also working with the Home Office to look at the facilities that are in place across the country to safeguard victims of abuse.
With the Crown Prosecution Service we have produced a‘charging checklist’ for cases of domestic abuse, this ensures we can give the best evidence to allow the CPS to charge and take forward effective prosecutions which will give the support victims deserve. One-in-four women and one-in-six men experience domestic abuse in their lifetimes and this is a further step forward in protecting vulnerable people.
It should not be forgotten that continued focus on domestic abuse is a vital contribution to public safety in other areas.
This kind of criminality is closely linked to risk factors for other types of crime so by continually improving the police response to it we are often tackling dangerous people and preventing other offences.
There is also a lot the public can do such as supporting the White Ribbon campaign, which started last weekend (25th November) and will see men and boys wearing ribbons as a visible pledge never to commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women.
In the next month we will also see campaigns linked closely to rape and serious sexual abuse, including the Home Office teen rape prevention campaign.
The 11 December will see a parliamentary event on the Ugly Mugs campaign, which allows sex workers to report crimes through a third party, and 17 December is International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.
In my last blog as the lead for adult sex offences I talked about a report from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) which looked at rape investigations and prosecution.
I am pleased to say work continues across forces to improve the service to victims of rape and the way we manage the risk posed by offenders.
These campaigns all help emphasise the importance of partner agencies working together to deliver services, which is vital to preventing and dealing with these crimes.
With these crimes prominent on the news agenda and in the minds of the public, we need to see this as an opportunity to strengthen our services for protecting the public and bringing perpetrators to justice. One of the best ways to do this is to demonstrate to the public that we will listen to them and take positive action when they come to us for help.