More than 100 businesses back new training scheme to protect women and girls from violence in Peterborough and Fenland
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Police and Crime Commissioner Darryl Preston has welcomed the success of a new accreditation scheme that has seen more than 100 businesses pledging support to combat violence against women and girls (VAWG).
Since the Business Against Abuse (BAA) scheme launched earlier this year, 113 businesses across Peterborough and Fenland have achieved or are in the process of achieving accreditation to deliver support and help protect women and girls who find themselves in a vulnerable situation while out and about.
Their employees have now received specialist training backed by Rape Crisis to identify predatory behaviour, learn how to prevent it from escalating into a possible sexual offence and to understand how to make their premises a safe place for everyone, especially women and girls.
The accreditation scheme and training has been funded by the Home Office’s Safer Streets 4 Fund which empowered PCCs to bring partners together to further tackle neighbourhood crime, ASB and VAWG.
It builds on successful work by Cambridgeshire Constabulary funded through the third round of the Safer Streets 3 project which saw the launch of a behavioural change campaign encouraging men to call out misogynistic, harassing and sexually violent behaviour and training for CCTV operators, SIA door staff and bar staff on how to deal with predatory behaviour.
Queensgate Shopping Centre, The College Arms and Putt stars mini golf among others are already fully accredited businesses, receiving a staff training video, window stickers, lanyards and wristbands to demonstrate their commitment to tackling predatory behaviour.
In one recent case, a member of the public who was upset and distressed approached shopping centre staff. Using training they had received, they identified that the woman was a victim of coercive behaviour and of rape. Her partner had taken her bank card, and she was unable to get home. Although the woman lived outside of Cambridgeshire, they were about to signpost the victim to support and contacted the police who ensured her safety.
Darryl said: “I am proud of the success of the BAA scheme which is still in its infancy. We must do everything possible to protect the right of women, girls and men to enjoy our public spaces safely without the threat or risk of violence and I take my hat off to every business which has made this commitment.
“The force has made significant progress in delivering a more perpetrator-focused approach to VAWG crimes. The BAA scheme supports this strategy perfectly, ensuring victims and potential victims of VAWG feel listened to, supported and above all receive the help and understanding they need to stay safe.
“A series of recent test purchasing operations have demonstrated that accredited businesses are applying their new knowledge and skills successfully and taking prompt and effective action to prevent VAWG offences. We are currently exploring the potential for rolling out the scheme more widely and I look forward to monitoring its development over the coming months.”
Chief Inspector Ian Lombardo said: “We are hugely grateful to the businesses in Peterborough and Fenland who have already signed up. They have welcomed the scheme with open arms and fully embraced everything we’re trying to achieve. Making our communities safer and more resilient is a partnership effort and we could not make the impact on women and girls’ safety that we are striving for without the support of local businesses.
“During the training, we tell businesses never to underestimate what they could potentially prevent through intervention. We also tell them that one of the most powerful things they can say to someone following a crime of sexual violence is ‘I believe you, I’m going to help you, what do you need? Saying those simple words ‘I believe you’ can have a massive impact on someone who has been subjected to one of the most degrading and horrific experiences that can ever happen to a woman.
“We also give them a good understanding of forensics and make sure any help they provide supports the investigation. This is essential for a successful prosecution.
“By accreditation, businesses are identifying themselves as a safe space for everyone – for someone whose phone battery has died, for someone who needs someone to call the police or a parent or partner. Their staff are trained to understand the link between predatory behaviour and the risk of a crime being committed. We’re helping people to see predatory behaviour through the correct lens and understanding the context and the risk of escalation.”
Alongside the BAA scheme, the force also worked with Cambridgeshire County Council’s safeguarding team and Rape Crisis to design an educational package for young people aged 16+ around predatory behaviour. So far, at least 17 schools have received the presentation reaching an average audience of 100 students, and the team are in talks to deliver the package to a further nine schools.