Sussex Police and RISE, the Brighton & Hove domestic abuse charity, are joining together to offer a new Domestic Abuse Drop-in 'Surgery', with the support of Brighton & Hove City Council.
From 22 January, the surgery will be available at the Customer Centre at Hove Town Hall, every Wednesday morning between 9am and 12 noon.
Through the service, which adds to the ongoing Sussex-wide 'talk to us' campaign, focusing on domestic abuse. women and men of all ages will be able to access expert information and advice from Sussex Police staff and RISE volunteers.
The surgery offers people a safe space to talk through their concerns, a chance to find out more about the options available to them as well as access to assistance with their housing options and finances.
People will also be able to find out more about their partner's offending history so that they can make more informed choices. Each case is considered individually and information will be shared when it could reduce the risk of someone being a victim of crime.
Louise** a local domestic abuse survivor who now supports the work of RISE, believes that new services like the surgery are vital in encouraging people to reach out and access support.
Reflecting on her own experience of making a report, Louise said: "It took me 24 hours to make it to a police station after I had been assaulted. It was only a few streets away but felt strange and alien. I had a heavy feeling knowing that I had to make the change and stand up to the person who had hurt me. I walked slowly there, even stopping for coffee to put it off; I wasn't even sure the police would take action and worried that the abuse wouldn't stop.
"When I got to the police station I just started crying, right there at the front desk. They were fantastic and being listened to and believed made me feel safe. The new domestic abuse surgery would have been a really good option and far less daunting. I would be very pleased to see it succeed in making people feel safe in discussing any worries they have about themselves or people they know. Hopefully the informal setting will make people feel more comfortable and make it easier to report abusive behaviour."
More than 10 incidents of domestic abuse are reported to Police and council workers in the city each day. But behind these statistics are personal tales of fear, intimidation and often violence. It is believed that the true picture will be much higher as often abuse goes on 'behind closed doors'. It is estimated that up to 6,000 people experienced violence or abuse last year.
Cllr Jason Kitcat, Brighton & Hove City Council Leader and chair of the Community Safety Forum, said: "Domestic abuse destroys lives and that's why we're determined to prevent it. Working closely with city partners we run a whole range of services and initiatives to not only make sure residents know what domestic abuse is but where they can get help to stop it.
"This ranges from educating school children about healthy relationships, providing direct advice and help to those affected or offering a refuge to those directly under threat.
"This is the first walk in domestic abuse surgery in the city and as such will provide easy access every Wednesday morning at HoveTown Hall to residents who need some expert advice and support."
Chief Superintendent Nev Kemp said: "Every day of the year, voluntary and statutory organisations work in our city to encourage people to access support and advice as early as possible and before abuse escalates. The surgery is another way that people can talk to us and our partners at RISE. It is an additional service being offered and is open to everyone in the city."
Gail Gray, CEO of RISE a local domestic abuse charity, said: "RISE is very happy to be involved in supporting this new initiative. RISE is very keen to increase access to support for survivors of domestic abuse in Brighton and Hove".
Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, Katy Bourne, said: "Any new way of making domestic abuse services more accessible to those who need them, has my full support. The Domestic Abuse Drop-in 'Surgery' demonstrates that partner work and sharing best practise is essential if we want to encourage more reporting of this hideous crime. I look forward to following the progress of this new project and meeting some of the staff and volunteers involved."
To access the drop in from 22 January, visit HoveTown Hall and ask for 'The Surgery' at reception.
Facilities also available through the customer centre at HoveTown Hall include parking services, building control, highways and policing services - including the facility for people to report crime, or lost or stolen items.
This latest initiative supports the ongoing Sussex Police 'talk to us' campaign focusing on domestic abuse. For details and support visit www.sussex.police.ukor call 101 or 01273 470101
If you don't want to talk to the police, call the RISE helpline on 01273622822 - see also Rise
The 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline is also available on 0808 2000 247 - helpline
Brighton & Hove was awarded ‘White Ribbon City’ status in 2010 in recognition of its commitment to the White Ribbon Campaign (WRC), a global campaign to ensure men take more responsibility for reducing the level of violence against women.
The organisation is committed to supporting the aims of the White Ribbon Campaign: never to commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women, helping and supporting everyone who is experiencing domestic abuse. The White Ribbon is a symbol of hope for a world where people can live free from the fear of violence and abuse.