A new campaign designed to raise awareness about how to spot domestic violence and abuse has launched in Bristol and the surrounding area.
Run in partnership between Bristol City Council, Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner, Avon and Somerset Police, Neighbourhood Watch, Crimestoppers and other local charities and public sector organisations, the campaign calls on people not to ignore a gut feeling that something may be wrong.
The campaign has been launched in response to recent domestic homicide reviews which showed that victims weren't known to services, but their friends and family were aware that the abuse was happening. By raising awareness of the signs to look out for, and the fact that abuse can be reported anonymously to Crimestoppers, more friends and family may feel able to speak up.
George Ferguson, Mayor of Bristol, who is backing the campaign, said: "Earlier this year we committed to making Bristol a Zero Tolerance City for gender-based violence, which includes domestic abuse against women and men. Bristol has an excellent reputation for tackling domestic abuse and this new campaign focusing on friends and family shows how we're looking at the issue from every angle. We want to involve the whole community, ensure people know what happens if they report suspected abuse, and make sure they feel supported and able to do so."
As part of the campaign new help guides for friends and family have been produced and are available to download online. To reach as many people as possible, billboards will also be visible across Avon and Somerset along with posters and postcards in key locations such as leisure centres, health centres and libraries. Radio adverts will also inform people about the signs to look out for.
Sue Mountstevens, Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner said: "Domestic and sexual abuse is never the victim's fault. I want any victims listening to know that they can come forward and report knowing that they will be taken seriously and will be believed.
"In many cases family and friends can offer a vital lifeline to those in distress. It's important that if you suspect someone you know is being abused you can seek help and share your concerns. Even if it's something small, it could be nothing, but it might mean everything."
Chief Inspector Andy Bennett, force lead for domestic abuse at Avon and Somerset Police, said: "Domestic abuse is an abhorrent crime in all its forms and we all have a responsibility to help tackle it.
"Many people who've experienced domestic abuse say they didn't recognise they were in an abusive relationship until they were out of it. With this campaign, we hope to encourage everyone to recognise the signs of abuse and feel empowered to report it.
"When police receive information about domestic abuse it's always treated extremely seriously. We'll do everything we can to ensure victims of domestic abuse get the support they need and we have a whole range of tools at our disposal to help us do this."
The campaign is supported by Nick Gazzard, father of Hollie Gazzard who was tragically murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 2014. Nick set up the Hollie Gazzard Trust last year to raise awareness about the issue and leave a positive, lasting legacy for Hollie.
Nick said: "Domestic abuse is not a private matter, but often victims will suffer in silence. I've met a lot of survivors of domestic violence who are just trying to make things work. It's important that people know how to support a friend or family member who might be a victim of domestic violence. Controlling or harassing behaviour is a form of domestic abuse, and shouldn't be accepted as the norm."
The help guides, support services and more information about the campaign can be found atwww.thisisnotanexcuse.org. To report suspected domestic abuse anonymously, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.