UNLESS you have experienced it first-hand, it is almost impossible to understand the utter trauma victims of domestic abuse endure at the hands of the very person who should love and care for them.

During my time as Police and Crime Commissioner, I have always made it clear that victims and witnesses should be at the heart of everything we do, and providing a quality service to victims of domestic abuse is one of my priorities.

As part of this, I commission Horizon Victim and Witness Care, which guides victims and witnesses through the justice process. The Citizens Advice Bureau’s Witness Service also provide emotional support to victims of crime, including prosecution and defence witnesses, who have been called to court to give evidence.

I know that one of the biggest fears for those reporting domestic abuse, is having to face their abuser should the case go to court. Here at Wiltshire Police, victims should feel reassured that they will be put in touch with a support worker who will remain their single point of contact throughout their journey through the criminal justice system, and who can help familiarise them with the court process to help them feel more at ease.

I fully support the Domestic Abuse Awareness Campaign which the Force is running this month and have been saddened to read some of the accounts of those who have suffered at the hands of a partner, including Maria Hopkins from Swindon, whose partner has been jailed for over six years.

As Maria says, domestic abuse does not have a particular ‘look’. It doesn’t discriminate – and it is really important that we as a community look out for one another, whether it be friends, family or colleagues, and that we can recognise the signs of abuse which can be physical, mental, sexual, coercive or financial.

Internally within the Force, we have also been raising awareness amongst our own officers and staff, not just ensuring they know how best to deal with victims, but how they too can report information if they find themselves in an abusive relationship, or how they can report concerns about colleagues who they fear may be suffering. We have an organisation of nearly 2,000 people and it is therefore only right that we ensure our officers, staff and volunteers know where to turn if they find themselves in need of help.

So where can you turn? In Swindon, I commission Swindon Women’s Aid, which operates a 24/7 support service and refuge. In Wiltshire, there is Splitz Support Service, who help people come to terms with the challenges and provide solutions based on an individual’s needs. Both of these services put victims first and I am proud to support them.

I am full of admiration for Maria – I have no doubt that her courageous decision to share her personal story will help others in a similar situation take that important step in reporting the abuse to police.