SCRATCHing beneath the surface of domestic abuse
Monday 22nd February 2016 13:13 Ashton News Posted by Becky Cahill

Greater Manchester Police is asking people to scratch beneath the surface of their relationship and consider whether it is abusive as new coercive control laws come into their second month of implementation.

The new SCRATCH campaign sees officers highlight the new legislation that makes controlling and coercive behaviour a crime – enabling police to pursue arrests and charges, and safeguard victims who may have previously been unable to make a criminal complaint.

During the launch, members of the public were given SCRATCH cards which, instead of revealing a cash prize, will uncover another layer of control as the sections are scratched away. Officers visiting domestic disputes will also be encouraged to use the scratch cards with victims, to help them understand what constitutes coercive and controlling behaviour.

Assistant Chief Constable at GMP, Robb Potts, said:

“There has long been a call for the law to adapt and acknowledge that psychological exploitation in a relationship can be as damaging as physical abuse. Now that the new legislation has come in, our work as a force also needs to develop.

“We have already trained over 500 front line officers to deal with reports of this nature and this work will continue over the coming months. As an employer GMP also has a responsibility for the welfare of its staff and as such, we will also be sharing information on the change in the law internally.

“It’s really important for us to make the public aware of this change in the law and for people to know that we are taking reports of this type seriously. The SCRATCH campaign will add to our existing work.

“We know that this type of crime is less likely to be reported to the police as victims often feel that they won’t be believed. It is therefore vital that officers are aware of the new legislation and make great efforts to understand the underlying causes and triggers for abuse, particularly in cases where physical violence may not be apparent.”

The new legislation came into effect on 29 December 2015 and means that incidents that stop short of serious physical violence but amount to psychological and emotional abuse are now recognised as a crime within the domestic abuse framework.

Police officers out in the community are able to hand the SCRATCH cards out to people that they think may be victims of domestic abuse, helping them signpost victims to support services and deal with any crimes that may have been committed.

The launch saw Detective Chief Inspector Nicky Porter and Bunmi Abdulrauf from Manchester Women’s Aid join officers to hand out the SCRATCH cards and answer any questions that the public have.

Joanne Simpson, Manager at Independent Choices said: “Domestic Abuse agencies have campaigned for a long time for coercive control to be recognized as a criminal offence. We know from speaking to thousands of victim/survivors that the effects of emotional and psychological abuse can be long lasting and devastating.

“We encourage anyone who is concerned about being controlled or emotionally abused by their parents to seek support. We can speak to people confidentiality at the helpline Monday to Friday 10am to 4pm on 0161 636 7525 or visit our website at www.endthefear.co.uk.”

Greater Manchester’s Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd added: “Domestic abuse takes many forms, whether physical or controlling, but all have long-lasting devastating impact on victims. In the same way society condemns violence towards a loved one, controlling someone through fear, constantly belittling or degrading them and isolating them from their friends and family will not be accepted or tolerated.

“Victims of coercive and controlling behaviour may not see themselves as a victim, remaining trapped in a cycle of abuse. I am determined that this new law and awareness raising campaign will empower people to take a hard look at their relationship and come forward, reassured that there is protection, help and support available.”

For more information, whether you are a victim, friend, family member or neighbour please visit: www.gmp.police.uk/domesticabuse.