'Explosion' of domestic violence against women in Merseyside prompts emergency meeting

An emergency meeting has taken place after what has been described as an "explosion" of violence against women in Merseyside.

It follows the deaths of three women, killed in just one weekend - Helen Joy, Rose Marie Tinton and N'Taya Elliott Cleverley, at the end of January.

Local domestic abuse charities are now warning of a funding crisis, with more women expected to need support because of the lockdown.

'Samantha' - whose identity has been protected for her safety - says she is grateful for the help she received from a charity.

Samantha spent years being physically and emotionally abused by her former partner. It was only when her children told their teacher that social services convinced her to leave.

She told ITV Granada Reports: "I don't really remember how long [it was going on for] because it was a while before I admitted it to myself.

"There were things that happened - I was pushed down the stairs while I was pregnant, I got accepted to university and my letter was hidden so I couldn’t go.

"I’ve got a scar on my lip where I was punched in the lip."

The mum - whose identity has been changed to protect her - says she is grateful for the support she received.

It was support she says saved her life: "If it wasn't for the charity I would have been dead, either at the hands f him, or my own doing."

Samantha was helped by Sefton Women's and Children's Aid (SWACA) who, she says, gave her everything she needed to help her start her life again.

She added: "I felt like any support or anything that I needed they would give, they still are now, all this time down the line.

"I got counselling from SWACA, my children got counselling from SWACA, I got Christmas presents when I did't have money, I got clothes, everything, just everything."

Samantha welcomes the conversation around women's safety, but says for many it is too little too late.

She added: "It’s really really good that it’s become more prevalent in the media but why is it only happening now? It's 2021, you know.

"Women are getting killed, murdered, battered, now. Women are dying, kids are suffering. It’s too late for a lot of people."

Not everyone does manage to get out and access support. Currently there are waiting lists of up to two years for domestic abuse services.

The number of domestic violence crimes has increased year on year since 2016 - with "further significant increases" since lockdown began in March 2020.

Between April and November 2020 Merseyside Police say it saw a 10% increase in reports of domestic abuse - equating to 18,782 victims.

At the end of January three women were killed in their homes in one weekend alone - N'Taya Elliott Cleverley, aged 20, 54-year-old Helen Joy and Rose Marie Tinton, who was 77.

Following the deaths many charities said they had seen a dramatic increase in demand for counselling, group-based support and the self-referrals, over the past year.

SWACA, the charity which Samantha credits as saving her life, they say that vital services like theirs must be funded.

Neil Frackelton, the Chief Executive the charity, said: "It’s absolutely essential, it's urgent, that more funding is invested in Merseyside domestic abuse organisations.

"The risk is we’ll have more domestic homicides, more women losing their lives, more women facing multiple forms of domestic abuse. The outcomes could be significant."

The Government has already announced an extra £19 million for domestic violence services, but as lockdown comes to an end the number of people seeking help is only expected to increase.

SWACA say reducing violence in the longer-term requires a change in attitude.

Sue Platt, a senior practitioner for SWACA, added: "From an early age it needs to be shown to be wrong. Someone who's grown up in an abusive environment doesn't understand that that's not normal - so education matters, and that has a massive impact on future generations."

SWACA says it has seen calls for help increase during the pandemic.

Merseyside Police say too are aware of the rise in demand.

Ian Critchley, Asstistant Chief Constable of the force, said "It is an issue for us that we take very, very seriously.

"We’ve had our officers into houses every single day to protect the public and we want that message to continue that there is a service here that we want people to be confident in.

"But we know some of the conversation now is about is that enough."

Labour MP Paula Barker called the crisis meeting of officials about how to bring down the number of women suffering.

She says: "This is not unique to Merseyside, albeit Merseyside’s are very stark statistics, but this is a societal issue we need to have a holistic approach to bring about a societal change."

We discuss the topic of women's safety on the latest episode of From the North - listen to that, and our other discussions below: