Chesterfield domestic violence reports more than doubled in three years, police figures show
Reports of domestic violence incidents in Chesterfield have more than doubled during the last three years police figures show.
The shocking data comes following a Derbyshire Times Freedom of Information request to Derbyshire Police.
Police statistics reveal that reports rose to 3,174 in the year 2020-2021 - up from 1,270 in 2018-2019.
In 2019-2020 there were 2,576 reports – the biggest year-on-year rise before the pandemic took hold and forced couples into prolonged confinement at home.
Just three years previously the Serious Crime Act 2015 created a new offence of controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship.
There followed a number of police campaigns including TV adverts and news reports raising awareness of the crime.
Helen Mitchell, head of operations at Chesterfield-based domestic abuse charity The Elm Foundation, says the reporting rise could be a direct result of more awareness.
She said: “Since that legislation has come into effect it’s become evident that domestic abuse is being taken more seriously.
“There have been a lot more programmes and documentaries on TV about domestic abuse and that gives victims more confidence.
“It also means family members and friends are more likely to spot the signs and report perpetrators abusing their loved ones.”
“People are now more likely to ring us and say ‘I’m concerned about my daughter or sister’ or ask themselves ‘how can I support them?’.”
A domestic abuse survivor from Chesterfield - a former client of The Elm Foundation herself - told how it was her mother who reported her now ex-husband after a terrible assault.
During the prolonged attack the mum-of-two’s drunk husband came home in the early hours and strangled her in a jealous rage due to attention she received from another male the evening before on a couples’ night out.
After a court case in which he eventually pleaded guilty to the assault after some legal wrangling the woman - who does not want to be named - is now divorced from her ex.
Speaking about his behaviour during their 11-year relationship she described how he would “chip away” with negative comments until “it wasn’t me”.
She said: “He would just belittle me - I’m quite a confident woman but he would use it as a negative thing.
“It’s like a little dripping tap that got to the point where I couldn't even make a decision about what we were eating without him telling me what we’re eating for tea.
“If I put on weight he’d call me fat, if I lost weight he’d call me a slag and say I was doing it for attention.
“I feel like it wasn’t me - you feel like you’re nothing without that person. He would say, ‘you’ll have nothing without me’ or ‘no-one will want to be with you - you’ve got two children’.”
The divorced mum told how her former husband abused drugs and alcohol from outset of their relationship and it dominated his behaviour throughout.
However Helen Mitchell of the Elm Foundation describes that as an “excuse”.
She said: “When you’re living with a perpetrator they will have 100 per cent control over that individual - living with someone who is abusive anyway you will see significant abuse.
“If someone has alcohol, drug or mental health issues that doesn’t make them abusive - what makes an individual abusive is wanting power and control.
“We can all have stresses and strains, struggles with unemployment and grumpy moments with our partners but that doesn’t make us abusive - the bottom line is power and control.”
The Crown Prosecution Service provides a long list of “relevant behaviours” to coercive control.
They include isolating someone from their friends and family, monitoring their time, financial abuse including control of finances and many more examples.
However “monitoring a person via online communication tools or using spyware” is particularly relevant now.
Helen describes the mobile phone as “a domestic abuser’s charter” - allowing “permanent access” and meaning “horrendous consequences” if not picked up after “two rings”.
While the development of smartphones means jealous partners can demand video calls allowing them to see who their wife or husband is with.
Some go even further and install spyware on their partners’ phones to keep tabs on them.
Detective Inspector Beth Lee, operational lead for stalking and coercive control for Derbyshire Police, describes the offence as a perpetrator “enforcing a regime upon the victim”.
She said: “They decide the rules of the relationship and also decide on the consequences when they perceive the rules have been broken - the victim may not even know what the rules are.
“Consequences can be physical violence, but it can also be emotional abuse, isolation, taking away access to personal belongings or finances.”
DI Lee says the way officers investigate domestic abuse incidents changed in recent times.
When police are called out to, for example, a domestic assault, they also investigate other crimes the victim reports.
She said: “Changing the crime recording process highlighted coercive control, harassment and stalking - which were sometimes not in the forefront of the investigator’s mind.”
DI Lee says police view an increase in reporting - which was noted during a storyline played out by Coronation Street characters Yasmeen Nazir and Geoff Metcalfe last year - as a “really positive thing”.
She said: “With domestic and child abuse we would worry more if the figures reduced because we’d be concerned people were not reporting it.”