26 May 2015

Don't suffer in silence

Guest Blog by Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird.

Tackling any form of violence against women and girls and giving victims support and the confidence to come forward have always been major priorities of mine.

When I was elected as Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria, I was able to work with my fellow PCCs in Durham and Cleveland to introduce the Violence Against Women and Girls strategy.

Part of this focuses specifically on FGM and raising awareness of the illegality of this practice across all our communities. We have pledged to integrate it into all UK child safeguarding procedures and for our officers to work with partner agencies, including the Crown Prosecution Service, to bring an end to FGM.

FGM can have enormous consequences for women and girls, physically, emotionally and psychologically. These consequences are likely to continue throughout a victim's life. In some cases the procedure can result in death. It is not a religious practice and the leaders of all major religions have condemned the practice as unnecessary and harmful.

I want victims to know that police and prosecutors understand how difficult it is for a victim to come forward, especially when she has been told the procedure has been performed on her for her own benefit. 

I also understand it's very difficult for a victim to talk about what has happened to her and the cultural pressures some can be put under not to make reports.

My role as Police and Crime Commissioner, together with the role of the police, is essential in ensuring victims receive the correct support and those people who commit this crime are dealt with appropriately.

With this in mind I want to say to those victims please, don't suffer in silence. Please reach out and get the help, support and information which is out there not only from police, but other agencies.

I will ensure Northumbria Police continues to tackle FGM, linking in with our minority communities to uncover where the illegal practice is happening so it can be stopped. Our work will also continue with our partner agencies to stop this barbaric practice.

As Chair of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioner's Supporting Victims and Preventing Harm strategic group, I will drive this into our agenda across colleagues nationally.

All Police and Crime Commissioners have an obligation to provide services and support to victims. In my area, Victims First Northumbria has been set up to put victims at the heart of its service. This includes those affected by FGM to which the service will give an understanding approach and much needed help and support.

If you suspect a person may have been or will be subjected to FGM please let someone know so the police can be informed.

People can contact their local police force by calling 101.



You can learn more about 28 Too Many's work to end FGM and how you can help at www.28toomany.org. You can donate to support our research and campaigns and follow us on Facebook or Twitter for updates on the global movement to end FGM.