Collective Responsibility Emphasized in New Strategies to Combat Abuse against Women and Girls in Cornwall

Safeguarding organizations in Cornwall and Isles of Scilly (CIOS) are launching two new five-year strategies aimed at tackling domestic abuse, sexual abuse/violence (DASV), and male violence against women and girls (VAWG). These strategies, developed by the statutory boards responsible for community safety, safeguarding adults and children, and health and wellbeing, underscore the collective responsibility to address what is described as a ‘public emergency’.

At the core of both strategies are the individuals affected by abuse in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. The organizations are determined to bring about real and sustainable change by working together to enhance services and improve people’s lives.

Cllr Carol Mould, Portfolio Holder for Community Safety at Cornwall Council, expressed the ambition for Cornwall to become a place where abuse and violence are not tolerated, where equality and respect are expected, and where people can live without fear. The strategies aim to strengthen prevention efforts, increase support for victims and survivors, enhance the justice response, extend behavior change initiatives for those displaying abusive behavior, and ultimately reduce the prevalence of domestic abuse, sexual abuse, and violence against women and girls.

The publication of these strategies follows a particularly challenging period of three years for adults and children affected by domestic abuse, sexual abuse/violence, and violence against women and girls. The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns created conditions that allowed domestic abusers to intensify or conceal their abusive behaviors, leading to a ‘shadow pandemic’ that exacerbated existing abuse and violence. Despite these challenges, specialist services have continued to provide high-quality support, a testament to their dedication and commitment.

The Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) strategy, the first of its kind published by the CIOS boards, is a direct response to what is perceived as a public emergency. Cllr Thalia Marrington, Chair of the VAWG cross-party working group at Cornwall Council, highlighted the interconnected nature of acts of violence against women and girls, underpinned by inequality, male power, and control. The strategy aims to confront patriarchy, sexism, and misogyny prevalent in society and culture, raise awareness, and engage everyone in the fight against male violence.

Both the VAWG strategy and the new Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (DASV) strategy adopt a preventive approach by challenging societal causes of abuse, addressing root causes through education, awareness, and early identification, and providing support. The strategies promote a whole community approach that fosters better understanding of abuse, supports healthy relationships, and challenges the attitudes and beliefs that perpetuate DASV and VAWG.

The strategies focus on prevention and education, increasing support for survivors and improving access to it, fostering collaboration between organizations to share knowledge and expertise, raising awareness to empower communities to recognize signs of abuse, and prioritizing a person-first approach to promote a healthier Cornwall in all aspects.

An autumn conference is planned in Cornwall to promote the strategies and showcase best practices from around the county.

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