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Victims urged to speak out

HYNDBURN is winning the fight against domestic violence - but the fear caused by the biggest evil in modern society continues to haunt the borough.

HYNDBURN is winning the fight against domestic violence - but the fear caused by the biggest evil in modern society continues to haunt the borough.

New research shows more and more victims are coming forward to inform the police and support groups which is leading to an increased number of arrests.

Now Accrington solicitor Rachel Horman is pleading for all victims to speak out.

Rachel, a specialist in domestic violence, said: "Help is at hand but it can only be made available when victims come forward. Reported cases are only the tip of the iceberg, but more victims going public indicates an increase in confidence in the support services on offer and clearly provides opportunities to tackle the menace."

Latest statistics show the number of cases of domestic violence in Hyndburn reported to the police for the year ending 31 March 2003 stood at 1,255 as against 1,297 in the previous 12-month period.

But the Hyndburn and Ribble Valley Domestic Vio-lence Project, an initiative set up to help victims and combat the spread, has dealt with an increased number of cases during the past year.

There has also been a significant rise in the number of repeat victims, increasing from 93 in 2002 to 160 this year.

Rachel, who heads a specialist domestic violence unit at Ramsbottom and Co Solicitors, with offices in Great Harwood and Blackburn, says: "This region is badly affected by what is a massive problem but we do seem to be making some progress. There are encouraging signs, not least that more victims are speaking out, particularly among the ethnic minority population, but this is only the start and there is much to be done.

"The statistics can be confusing as well as alarming, but amid the despair there are some positives. One in four women will suffer domestic violence at some point in their lives but this isn't just about women. Men are affected, as are children.

"Victims can be very nervous about coming to see a solicitor to talk about issues they have tried to bury at the back of their minds for years as their only way of coping. In some cases a victim will suffer more than 30 separate assaults before asking for help. They live in fear and we need to be able to offer emotional support as well as legal assistance.''

A former pupil of St Christopher's High School in Accrington, Rachel added: "It's often a 'drop everything and run' scenario and we are now able to see a victim at 1pm and have a court injunction in place within two hours. Our unit means we can offer complete protection and advice almost instantly, and can see the client at our offices or at home.

"In most cases time is of the essence and with our new systems we can move quickly to provide protection, help and, where necessary, refuge and accommodation.

"It's not simply the legal provisions which concern us. With our contacts, we are able to offer a much wider package, with the requisite emotional support and counselling through Women's Aid and other agencies. I am in regular contact with support groups throughout East Lancashire.''


Stuart Pike
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