A chilling story emerged this week which tells the story a domestic violence victim living in fear of her abusive partner.
Mother of two, Lucy – not her real name – was subjected to two years of extreme physical violence and emotional turmoil. She was not only robbed of all confidence but large sums of money, leaving her financially crippled.
Lucy was issued a personal alarm after she finally plucked up the courage to call the police. She was too frightened to press charges, so her partner was released from custody and returned to their home.
Although facing death threats from her abuser if she ever used the alarm, Lucy summoned the mental strength to press the button and call for help. The moment she did this, her life changed dramatically.
Within minutes, the Police had rescued Lucy and her abusive partner was taken away. He spent six months on remand and was sentenced to 18 months probation. Although Lucy had lost her job and her house, she’s now well on the road to recovery after a hostel for DV victims helped her back on her feet. Lucy is now currently living in a cosy house and has ambitions to return to her nursing career in the future.
At just one press of a button, her life changed for the better. It took insurmountable courage to do so, but the turn of events after that one action has enabled Lucy to positively turn her life around.
Unfortunately, as shocking as Lucy’s story is, it’s not unusual.
Women’s Aid – The national domestic violence charity reports that 1 in 4 women will be a victim of domestic abuse in their lifetime. Alarming statistics include the fact that one incident of domestic violence is reported to the police every minute. And often the abuse is horrific… in fact, on average, 2 women a week are killed by a current or former partner.
Women’s Aid report that the estimated total cost of domestic violence to society in monetary terms is £23 billion per annum. This figure includes an estimated £3.1 billion as the cost to the state and £1.3 billion as the cost to employers and human suffering cost of £17 billion.
Restoring as much normality as possible to the lives of people who are at risk of violence, and reducing the number of assaults they suffer, are two of the principal objectives for any Police Force Domestic Abuse Department.
As highlighted in Lucy’s case, one of the ways that Domestic Violence Departments can help combat the problem is by issuing personal alarms… either fixed units within the home or handheld personal safety devices.
Kelly Eaves, of the West Midlands Police Force Domestic Abuse Department says “These [personal alarms] are, without a doubt, helping us to reduce the number of assaults, not least because attackers are starting to realise that their victims now have a very fast and efficient way of summoning help.”
In addition to the excellent benefits for victims of domestic abuse, Anita Mckenzie, South Yorkshire Police’s Domestic Abuse Co-ordinator says, “There are savings for the police as these devices often lead to rapid arrests, which have a sobering effect on many attackers and reduce the rate of repeat offending. Additionally, most at-risk individuals can be protected in their own community, thereby eliminating the cost of moving them to safe houses. But other agencies benefit too. For example, fewer assaults mean less spending on accident and emergency services by the National Health Service. Explaining these wider benefits helps to make a much stronger case for providing personal protection devices.”
How do Personal Alarms Work?
Personal alarms are simple to use and effective in operation. When the victim triggers an alarm, an alert signal is instantly passed to a dedicated Alarm Receiving Centre. Some units (such as Skyguard’s GEMshield and MySOS personal alarms) transmit GPS coordinates of the device. Specially trained operatives at the centre then pass the details to the police, using pre-arranged codes and terminology to ensure rapid, accurate and unambiguous communication. The data relayed is sufficiently detailed to allow officers responding to the incident to call up background information and start making appropriate preparations before they arrive at the scene.
In addition, once the device has been triggered, an audio connection to the Alarm Receiving Centre is established, allowing any conversation or noises relating to the incident to be recorded for potential later use as evidence should the case reach court.
An example of the beneficial effects of the devices is provided by a case in Rotherham, which is very similar to Lucy’s story. In this instance an offender had made multiple and regular attacks on his partner. After she had been issued with a personal alarm, she used it to call for help when she was threatened with yet another assault. As a result of the fast police response, the attacker was arrested and subsequently convicted of harassment.
In another case, an offender visited the home of an at-risk female who had just been issued with a GEMshield unit, and started banging on windows and doors in an attempt to force entry. Once again the police attended very quickly, and the offender was arrested in a nearby garden. The most important benefit in this instance was the effect it had on the victim – because of the rapid and effective police response, her confidence was boosted and she started to feel that, for the first time in some considerable period, she was safe in her own home.
“In the end, this is a demonstration of the most important benefit by far of personal safety devices says Anita McKenzie, “in that they help to give these individuals their lives back. To restore normality for these people is our primary goal and the devices are proving to be a valuable ingredient in the mix of measures that are needed to do this.”
Personal safety services such as Skyguard have proven to be very effective in helping tackle the problem of domestic violence. In fact, Skyguard have protected over 5,000 victims of abuse in the last three years alone. And their effectiveness isn’t lost on the Police, of which over half of the UK’s Police forces are now using the service to protect those vulnerable individuals under their care.
Whilst personal alarms cannot solve the root cause of domestic violence, of which the underlying causes are a deep, societal problem, they can, and do, help bring those perpetrators to justice and allow victims – like Lucy – begin to rebuild their lives… and that cannot be a bad thing.
To read another story about how personal alarms bought an abuser to justice, click here.