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  1. ITV Report

Domestic abuse on the rise in Devon and Cornwall

The offence of controlling and coercive behaviour came into law in December 2015. Credit: PA

Abusers can be very subtle, clever and manipulative...often the victim doesn’t realise they are being abused.

– Det. Insp. Dave Pebworth, Devon & Cornwall Police

Devon and Cornwall have seen an increase in the number of domestic abuse incidents reported so far this year.

January usually sees an increase in abuse following the festive period and 2,637 people made contact with the police in January 2019 - already a rise on the previous year's total.

But the local police force believes that many more victims have not come forward and want to encourage them to do so.

Detective Inspector Dave Pebworth says domestic abuse "is about one person having power and control over another".

He added: "Abusers can be very subtle, clever and manipulative. The level and type may change and increase over time, often the victim doesn’t realise they are being abused.

"Perpetrators can use intimidation, coercion, threats, blackmail and other tools to control their victims. Abuse isn’t just physical."

Devon and Cornwall Police wants to heighten awareness around the issue of coercive and controlling behaviours, which can be physical, emotional, psychological or financial.

The offence of controlling and coercive behaviour came into law in December 2015

67
Controlling and coercive behaviour offences recorded across Devon and Cornwall in 2016
402
Controlling and coercive behaviour offences recorded across Devon and Cornwall in 2019

Anyone can be the victim of domestic abuse. I have been.

– Alison Hernandez, Police & Crime Commissioner
The Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall has been the victim of domestic abuse. Credit: ITV West Country

Police and Crime Commissioner, Alison Hernandez, has herself been a victim of domestic abuse.

She said: “Anyone can be the victim of domestic abuse. I have been. I chose to report my case to the police and justice was done."

Hernandez was assaulted and then stalked by her ex-partner when she ended their relationship last year.

She kept it to herself for months - now she's urging other victims not to make the same mistake she did because "under-reporting of domestic abuse presents a multitude of problems".

On an individual case level it means perpetrators get away with it and victims go unrecognised. The cycle of violence continues - especially in rural areas where episodes of domestic abuse are likely to last longer as it is harder for victims to get away from abusive partners.

– Alison Hernandez, Police & Crime Commissioner