WILTSHIRE Police is joining a campaign to tackle domestic abuse as one in five crimes reported in the county are linked to this crime.

The 16 Days of Action initiative launched on White Ribbon Day as new figures reveal that a fifth of all crimes reported around the county are related to domestic abuse.

According to Home Office figures, the force recorded 14,237 domestic abuse-related crimes and incidents in the 12 months leading up to March 2021 - a year when many victims were trapped at home with their abusers.

This is equivalent to 20 incidents and crimes for every 1,000 people who live in the county and a nine percent increase on the previous year which saw 13,082 incidents and crimes.

Although these figures are the 13th lowest of all 43 police forces in England and Wales, Wiltshire Police and its partnership agencies say they are determined to build on their previous work to tackle this issue.

Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Wilkinson said: “While these statistics highlight the prevalence of domestic abuse in our county, I’m still not convinced they are a true reflection of how horrifying the situation really is.

“It is difficult enough for victims and survivors of domestic abuse to report, but this was compounded by the various lockdown restrictions meaning there will have been many more victims suffering in silence.

“That is why it’s so important to look past the statistics and my Police and Crime Plan will set a clear direction and bring together my office, Wiltshire Police and key partners to ensure that people in Wiltshire feel safe in addition to actually being safe.

“At the heart of the work my office delivers is the commissioning of specialist support services for the victims affected by crimes, and that includes victims who report to the police, and those who don’t.”

The figures show that demand for victim support has jumped nationally during this period, as calls to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline increased by 22 per cent.

Earlier this year, Wiltshire’s office for the PCC secured additional funding for seven additional independent domestic violence advisors to support victims.

Swindon Domestic Abuse Support Service, and Splitz Support Service, both commissioned by the OPCC, will benefit from these additional posts and provide specialist support to all victims of domestic abuse.

Figures from 16 Days of Action show 25 per cent of women and 16 per cent of men are affected by domestic violence in their adult lifetimes.

A further 75 per cent of people who endure domestic violence are targeted at work and 68 per cent of abused women miss at least three days of work a month.

So, over the next 16 days, police will be working with schools to promote healthy relationship messages to young people, encouraging people to look out for the potential signs of domestic abuse of colleagues they work with, and highlighting the experiences of victims of domestic abuse.

Detective Inspector Helen Clarke said: “This year’s White Ribbon Day reflects our collective commitment, as a police force, as a society, to prevent violence against women and girls.

“We fully support this campaign as well as the following 16 days of action which focuses on all aspects of domestic abuse against anyone who is a victim of this crime.

“We will not stop after the 16 days of action either and will continue our work to tackle the perpetrators of violence towards women and men.

“With the help of our partners across the criminal justice system we are committed to making long-lasting change to the daily lives of anyone who faces coercion, and mental and physical violence from a partner. Whoever they are.”

The action campaign is supported by Wiltshire Council, the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, local authorities, charities and healthcare providers.

White Ribbon Day is a national day of awareness about male violence against women.

People who are experiencing domestic abuse in Swindon can access support from the Swindon Domestic Abuse Support Service, which offers a range of services to help both male and female victims of domestic abuse

Visit www.swadomesticabuse.org or call the 24-hour helpline 01793 610610.

For victims living in wider Wiltshire, the Splitz Support Service provides county-wide help for those in need. Visit www.splitz.org/wiltshire or call 01225 775276 between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday. Outside of those hours, call the Swindon service's helpline.

Always call 999 in an emergency.