Social media sites used to highlight domestic abuse

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Facebook and Twitter will be used by Northamptonshire Police in a campaign to raise awareness about domestic abuse, teenage relationship abuse and stalking.

Thought-provoking images, videos and questions will be posted to encourage online debate and conversation and useful links and numbers made available for those seeking help and advice.

Detective Chief Inspector Julia Potts, from the Protecting Vulnerable People unit, said: “We’ve got around 27,000 fans on Facebook and around 13,000 followers of our main Twitter account, which doesn’t include those following individual officers and departments.

“That’s a lot of people with whom we can communicate and the potential number of people we can reach is phenomenal if Facebook fans ‘share’ posts with their friends and Twitter followers re-tweet.

“Domestic abuse can, and does, happen to anyone, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity and social status. It’s insidious in nature and many victims don’t even realise that they are in an abusive relationship and accept it as normal.

“We want to make those people - and their friends and family - aware of what constitutes abusive behaviour so that they can take action before it escalates any further.

“Our aim is also to reassure those victims who are frightened and unsure how to leave the situation they are in that help is out there.”

The campaign, part of Operation Challenge, starts on Thursday (April 18) and will use a new series of images depicting fictitious profiles of people on online dating sites and social sites. Rather than the attractive qualities people usually use about themselves, the profiles describe various types of behaviour commonly shown by domestic abuse offenders.

Video clips from the Home Office Teenage Relationship Abuse campaign will be posted as well, along with links to the National Stalking Helpline and to organisations such as Women’s Aid, Victim Support and the Sunflower Centre.

Chief Inspector Potts added: “The Home Office definition of domestic abuse changed in March of this year – from abuse between adults to encompassing those of 16 years and over. We will be raising awareness of this change in legislation and we will also be sharing links to the hard-hitting videos seen on TV.

“It’s important that young people don’t fall into the trap of either being abused, or being an abuser, and the key to stopping this happening is by making people aware of the issues and offering the necessary help and support.

“This campaign aims to bring these issues to the forefront of people’s minds - to get them thinking and talking about them – and to be confident to report concerns or ask for advice.”

Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commissioner Adam Simmonds is backing the campaign. He said: “I am dedicated to reducing violence and ensuring that victims of crime are put first. It is essential that we address domestic abuse effectively and we need people to feel confident in reporting it to do that.”