Police Apologise For ‘Clumsy Language’ In Defending Controversial Domestic Abuse Campaign

A police force has apologised for a “clumsy” defence of a domestic abuse campaign that was criticised for emphasising how victims can remain with their abusers.

In a now-removed Facebook post, Essex Police pleaded with people to “at least look at the website” of the campaign that showed examples of relationships, based on true stories, where, the police said, there was “less harmful abuse”.

The language and one of the case studies were labelled “irresponsible, silencing, diminishing” by author Jack Monroe, who tweeted its message to victims was “put up and shut up”.

Wow, Essex Police. I just… have no words for what an irresponsible, silencing, diminishing campaign this is. Basically telling women to ‘put up and shut up’ re domestic abuse. In 2017. This is absurd. pic.twitter.com/aqZ9BLjy6c

December 15, 2017
My #1 issue with this campaign is that it is the ABUSED WOMAN being taught to modify her behaviour to stay with the ABUSIVE MAN. https://t.co/lfRb3vXMJs

December 15, 2017
The case study Monroe referred to was about 65-year-old “Sheila”, who is quoted saying she and her abusive partner had been able to “stay together but safely”.

An Essex Police spokesman denied the campaign’s message was “stay in any relationship no matter how abusive”.

He told HuffPost the language on its Facebook post “has clearly caused offence and we are sorry for that”.

He said in a statement: “We have used clumsy language… However, the stories featured in the campaign are real stories.

“We heard from victims who wanted help to leave relationships and we heard from victims who would never have called police but have been able to have counselling, family therapy and other interventions that have made them feel safe.

“Our message in this campaign isn’t ‘stay in any relationship no matter how abusive’. It’s ‘if something is happening in your relationship even if you’ve been with someone for decades there is help you can get’.”

Sheila is quoted as saying: “It was bad but I knew I would never leave. The support we have had has allowed us to stay together but safely.”

In a video about her story, a woman stands in front of a man while on-screen text sets out what happened. The man – meant to be the abuser – then steps forward as she smiles.

The campaign, which focusses on victims aged 55 and over is promoted by Essex Police but created by Essex County Council.

Cllr Dick Madden, who chairs the Southend, Essex and Thurrock Domestic Abuse Board said the campaign was developed in conjunction with refuges, abuse specialists and survivors.

In a statement, he said: “Within the comments on this particular post, there were a number of supportive comments – some from survivors who sought support and have stayed within their relationship.

“We think it is positive that the campaign has sparked a debate on a very important issue.”

He added older domestic abuse victims are “too often forgotten” and have “have suffered in silence for too long”.

He added: “The scenario which has prompted debate on social media was one we thought very carefully about.

“Not all domestic abuse cases are the same, and not all victims will want to leave or consider reporting to the police.

“Through this particular scenario, we are aiming to reach out to this audience and give them information about the support available, whatever their circumstances.”