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North Wales to continue feedback sessions for abuse victims

The force created the sessions to find out more about how victims experienced accessing services in North Wales after making a disclosure of domestic abuse or sexual violence.

North Wales Police is to continue with an initiative designed to learn more about the experiences of those who have suffered domestic and sexual violence after the scheme was positively received.

The forums, which began last year, were the product of discussions between PC Mike Taggart, the force's Domestic Abuse Officer and Rhiannon Edwards, the North Wales Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Advisor (from Flintshire Council).

The aim was to gain a better understanding of how victims found accessing services following a disclosure of violence, and whether this could be improved.

Detective Sergeant Vicki Keegans, of the Protecting Vulnerable People Unit, has explained more about the format of the sessions.

She told Police Oracle: "It was decided that we would follow the survivor journey from initial disclosure, through the investigation process and any court proceedings, as well as looking at any support that was offered prior, during and after the investigation and any support for children and the wider family."

Crucially, survivors do not speak about their individual experience of abuse, with the focus firmly on the journey to accessing support.

"These sessions are not designed to re-traumatise anyone," said DS Keegans - emphasising that their purpose is to learn what could have worked better or could be improved for the future. 

Separate forums are held for those who have experienced domestic abuse and sexual violence, to reflect the differences in the investigation process and the support required by victims of each.

So far, the force has held three of the domestic abuse forums and will soon hold its second which will be dedicated to sexual violence. Looking forward, the sessions be held every six months.

A number of safeguarding checks have to be carried out before each forum, such as ensuring that no known perpetrators join and that as far as is possible survivors are not linked in any way.

Attendees are allowed remain anonymous and turn their cameras off, though the force makes it clear it cannot promise that others will not recognise their voice. 

With an average of five survivors at each forum, Ms Edwards said the feedback has been positive, with numbers that are growing as "some people have decided to keep attending each session".

Survivor aftercare is also a priority. "We also ensure that they all have the contact details of the support services present for any longer-term recovery support," she explained.

"Any immediate safeguarding concerns are followed up straight after the meetings."

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