Helping council staff learn how to recognise signs of domestic abuse
AS Valentine's Day approaches, many people will be planning something special to celebrate their relationship.
But others will be experiencing very mixed feelings about what is traditionally the most romantic day of the year and what it means to them.
To help staff in Torbay Council and other organisations learn how to recognise signs of domestic abuse and support victims, Safer Communities Torbay has created an interactive on-line domestic abuse awareness training course.
Community safety manager Kirsty Mooney said: "It may seem a bit strange to be talking about domestic abuse in the same breath as Valentine's Day, but we have to face up to reality.
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"Most relationships will have their ups and downs, but there is a huge difference between a healthy relationship and an abusive one.
"In a healthy relationship people may disagree and argue but ultimately they respect each other and try to find some common ground.
"Abusive relationships are not equal and one person will seek control over their victim. That control doesn't always have to take the form of physical violence, either.
"Abuse can take many forms like controlling someone's finances, not letting them work, and belittling someone's confidence until they feel worthless. An abuser will also want the abuse to stay a secret so they will try to isolate their victim from friends and family.
"The course is aimed at staff who work with children and families and highlights different forms of abuse, how to identify if someone they are working with a victim and how they can support that person to get help.
"The course also tackles myths associated with domestic abuse. It highlights the fact that abuse can happen in any type of intimate relationship and that victims are often, but not always, women.
"At the moment the course is only available to council staff but during the week of Valentine's Day, the training is being offered to other agencies such as the police, fire and rescue service and health professionals."
Det Sgt James Stock, from Devon and Cornwall police, manages the police domestic abuse unit in Torquay.
He said: "We are very pleased the police have been offered access to this new training package.
"Our dedicated domestic abuse officers are highly trained in dealing with victims of domestic abuse, but it is useful to be able to offer all front line officers relevant training to keep their skills up to date.
"The training will help them identify whether a person they are in contact with may be a victim of abuse, and as a result will assist in a better understanding of the position that person has found themselves in.
"Ultimately we would like to see the number of domestic abuse-related incidents reduce significantly, so general awareness raising for staff from any organisation working within the community can only help towards achieving this goal."
Cllr Robert Excell, Torbay Council's executive lead for safer communities and transport, said: "In no way should the excitement, expectation and happiness of Valentine's Day be glossed over or forgotten — it is after all a centuries old tradition that celebrates all that is good about being in a healthy relationship.
"On the other hand, raising awareness is about being in a position to recognise when a relationship is not healthy and about keeping people safe, and ultimately we all share that responsibility."
For information about domestic abuse, including 'honour' abuse or same sex abuse, visit the Safer Communities Torbay website www.safercommunitiestorbay.org.uk/domesticabuse or contact Women's Aid on 0808 2000 247 (freephone 24-hour national helpline).
If you feel you are in immediate danger always dial 999.
To find out about the Devon and Cornwall police's 'Is it Love?' campaign, log on to www.devon-cornwall.police.uk