Cleveland Police holds first Violence Against Women and Girls conference
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More than 200 people attended Cleveland Police’s first multi-agency conference specifically aimed at tackling violence against women and girls.
The Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) conference was held at Middlesbrough FC’s Riverside Stadium on Wednesday 18th January.
The event was led by the Force’s VAWG Lead Detective Superintendent Helen Barker, and brought together experts to talk about the issues facing women and girls in a bid to increase awareness and understanding.
Guest speakers included DCI Rachel Taylor from the Force’s Historical Investigation Unit and Jeanette Smith, Specialist Prosecutor for the CPS who worked together on Operation Rosa – an investigation into complex sexual offences spanning 20 years in Cleveland.
Sammy Woodhouse spoke to attendees about her experience as a victim of the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal and her work as an activist against child sexual and criminal exploitation.
Professor Jane Monckton-Smith from the University of Gloucestershire explained the links between homicide, coercive control and stalking and Sue Willoughby, operations manager for the charity A Way Out, shared her 30 years of experience supporting women, men and families through their criminal justice journey. Psychotherapist Franca Mongiardi also spoke at the conference.
Cleveland Police will continue to tackle VAWG as part of the government’s ‘Enough’ campaign and robustly challenge any form of abuse against women and girls.
Detective Superintendent Helen Barker said: “The conference was an opportunity to highlight that tackling VAWG remains an absolute priority in policing across Cleveland.
“It provided a platform to listen and reflect but also to understand a victim's perspective. Thank you to our speakers for giving their time to share their practice and in particular Sammy, for sharing her story.
“This event is just one of a number of things we are doing to tackle the issue and, as a Force, we are working to develop action plans to address VAWG locally.
“We have introduced online reporting for sexual offending to reduce the trauma for victims and make it easier to report incidents to us.
“In February and March, domestic abuse service My Sisters Place are providing 150 officers and staff with training in taking a trauma-informed approach to victims, thanks to funding from the Cleveland Unit for the Reduction of Violence (CURV).
“We also held a week of action in September as part of our relentless pursuit of perpetrators of VAWG and have another planned for April.”
If you need to report an incident to police, call 101 and speak to our specially trained officers.
If you think you’ve been sexually assaulted, you can go to your nearest sexual assault referral centre (SARC) for specialist care and support.