A childhood spent in and around Bristol and 27 years serving in Avon and Somerset has given me an immense pride in our city and the opportunities it offers. My role as national police lead for adult sexual offences has been one of the most significant opportunities I’ve had to do that, working alongside policy makers, campaigners and victim groups to set direction for much needed improvements in tackling violence against women and girls.
We’re committed to putting that change into action in Avon and Somerset. Our pioneering new approach to investigating rape and serious sexual offences, Bluestone, is seeing us increase resource, tighten our grip on offenders and better support victims. I’m delighted that this approach is to be rolled out nationally.
Now, with the national spotlight firmly on tackling violence, against women and girls and in wider society, and a commitment from the Government to fund much needed solutions, we have the opportunity to make real and sustained change.
To do that we need to look beyond enforcement and build a better understanding of what drives violent and abusive behaviour. Prevention and early intervention must be part of our strategy as well as educating young people on healthy relationships.
Bristol’s Violence Reduction Unit, established in 2019 and made up of representatives from the police, health, education and local authorities, is doing amazing work; guiding and protecting those most vulnerable to becoming involved in serious violence either as a victim or perpetrator.
Its success shows what can be achieved when we come together and I know that I am joined in my commitment to finding more opportunities for change by leaders across the city including the Mayor and Deputy Mayor, colleagues at North Bristol NHS Trust and Public Health England and the Crown Prosecution Service.
We must also support those without a voice, many of them women, many in marginalised groups, who feel unable to seek help when faced with violence and abuse.
This isn’t something that we can tackle alone. In Bristol we’re fortunate to have many organisations that share our passion and commitment, including The Bridge, which I’m proud to have played a role in establishing in 2009. I was also involved in setting up our Independent Sexual Advisors service which provides invaluable support to victims of domestic and sexual abuse as part of Safe Link and Next Link; and there are many others.
We also want to hear from you – to understand what you feel we can do better or differently, to support you so that we all have the chance to live in a city where we feel safe in our relationships, in our homes and in our communities – where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.