Domestic abuse 'Open Our Eyes' campaign in south Wales

Charmaine Lewis Charmaine Lewis was left with broken ribs and lost teeth after being attacked in 2011

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Friends, relatives and neighbours are being challenged to "open their eyes" to tackle domestic violence.

Earlier in June, South Wales Police was criticised over a claw hammer attack by a woman's partner.

It happened moments after officers dropped Charmaine Lewis off at her Cardiff home.

Deputy Police Commissioner Sophie Howe said: "Undoubtedly this lady was failed, we are trying to ensure that we absolutely put this right."

Ms Lewis had reported Christopher Veal for a previous attack, but officers did not realise he was a convicted rapist because they mis-spelt his name.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission said last week that Ms Lewis had been repeatedly let down, the force had put her and her children "at serious risk" and "did not give this case any urgency or priority".

South Wales Police was told it needed to make "major cultural change".

Graph The domestic abuse rate is higher in South Wales than England and Wales overall - Home Office figures

Its action plan also wants health professionals and voluntary agencies to spot tell-tale signs to help the estimated 5,000 domestic violence victims in south Wales.

On average victims suffer abuse 35 times before reporting it to police.

"Friends, relatives and neighbours are particularly key here," said Ms Howe.

"They are more likely to be suspicious of something. We're not asking them to call the police on a whim but just keep their eyes open.

"If you're a neighbour, people do have rows but if something is going on frequently and there is a suspicion something horrendous is happening, then report it."

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Report The report aims to give people confidence in reporting crimes
DOMESTIC ABUSE FACTFILE
  • South Wales Police handled 27,537 incidents of domestic abuse in 2012/13, accounting for around a third of all violent crimes in the force area
  • There were 6,588 domestic abuse crimes
  • There were 5,091 victims of domestic violence
  • Of these, 2,242 people were thought to be at high risk of serious harm or even murder
  • South Wales Police is the third best performing force for detecting adult rape
  • It has higher than average arrest rates for domestic abuse
  • The plan aims to help those affected by domestic abuse, sexual violence, stalking, female genital mutilation, trafficking, and so-called "honour" crimes

Source: South Wales Police/Home Office #openoureyes

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Ms Howe said it was difficult for women to break from the cycle of violence because of emotional and economic attachments.

"It's about power and control before you bring in issues like children and finance," she said.

"That first intervention is so important - it might be the police, a GP who might be able to probe a little more, a midwife, or a teacher who notices something unusual with a child. That's why we're calling this campaign Open Our Eyes."

Chief Constable Peter Vaughan said: "I want every victim to be able to report any attack."

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