PC JANET Moss went for a two week secondment on a domestic violence and child protection unit and stayed for six months. The 29-year-old officer is now heading a 12-month pilot scheme which will help and encourage women suffering from domestic violence to seek help from the police and voluntary agencies.

"My main aim is to reduce the incidents of repeat victimisation where a woman is suffering at the hands of violent partner over and over again," she said.

"There is no such thing as an average victim of domestic violence. It crosses all social, ethnic and professional barriers.

"Many women leave again and again before they finally get to the point where they leave for good.

"What I hope to do is identify these repeat victims, and the repeat offenders, so that positive intervention can take place at an early stage," she said.

"I want to make sure that the right sort of help and advice is offered when the police are first called in and that the most rigorous enforcement of the appropriate type of action is taken."

Together with Kathy Shaw, manager of Leeds Women's Aid, Janet has been giving talks to fellow police officers, advising them of what help is available to victims of domestic violence.

Leeds Women's Aid is a registered charity. It provides support and refuge for women who experience violence, usually from men they know.

It is one of the largest refuges in England and has been established for 25 years.

It has eight homes across the Leeds district but often takes women from other parts of the country who need to be re-housed in a new area, away from violent or destructive partners.

From 1990 it has been working with Leeds Inter-Agency to develop good practice, raise awareness and provide training for those involved in working with domestic violence victims.

Kathy believes redefining domestic violence as a criminal offence would be one of the best ways to help women in such situations.

"At present, domestic violence covers anything from criminal damage to assault and it is very difficult to prove, especially if the woman later recants her statement," she said.

"What I would like to see is some sort of review of the different laws relating to domestic violence and a general raising of awareness.

"Here in West Yorkshire we are lucky. Since 1991 the police have had a policy document which includes targets for addressing the needs of women who contact them in relation to domestic violence.

"Similarly, Leeds City Council's social services department also developed good practice guidelines to improve their service provision for domestic violence sufferers," she adds.

"It is about personal responsibility. Domestic violence is a very difficult and complex thing to deal with.

"We must make sure police officers have the right information when they go visit someone who may have been a victim of domestic violence," she said.

Janet is also working with the Otley and District Domestic Violence Support Project, which was set up before Christmas to help women living in Wharfedale, Aireborough and Horsforth.

It is funded by Otley Town Council and offers confidential one-to-one support for women who are experiencing, or have experienced, domestic violence.

The project aims to improve inter-agency co-operation in addressing the issue of domestic violence in Otley and the surrounding areas.

Kathy said: "Women in rural areas may need different kinds of support. They could need out-reach help, where they are able to telephone and speak to someone about their problems.

"Quite often they may not be able to get to drop-in centres or support groups because they live in a rural location and can be prevented from leaving by having no transport or money," she added.

Kathy Shaw of Leeds Women's Aid gives the following as an example of the kind of cases it deals with.

GAIL and Dave were a successful couple with two children. He had his own business and she was a dental technician.

Their relationship had always been volatile and there had been occasions of violence. Gail decided she wanted to end the ordeal but, at the point she was leaving, Dave badly assaulted her.

Gail tried to go through the courts to seek a solution to her problem and Kathy Shaw accompanied her.

"We went to court and because Dave had no police record, as Gail had never reported previous assaults to them, he very much impressed the judges.

"He said he would never do it again, but within a few moments of us returning to the marital home he was on the phone, threatening to kill her and their children," said Kathy.

"In court, he defended himself and was therefore able to cross-examine Gail and accuse her of lying. This was mental torture, complete mental abuse," said Kathy.

Dave was bailed and one of his conditions was that he lived with his family, more than 150 miles away.

However, he continually broke the bail conditions, leaving work and driving the 150 miles to stand outside the marital home.

"He did this for eight months, every day. Gail knew what time he left work and how long it took him to drive the 150 miles," said Kathy.

"On one occasion Gail went to close the curtains in her daughter's first-floor bedroom and found him standing on the window ledge.

"Eventually Gail went into a refuge. She stayed for 12 months and during that time her home was let out to tenants and she had no contact with them at all," she added.

"Within hours of her moving back to the house, Dave was back and he hounded her to such an extent that she eventually ended up leaving her home, possessions, friends and family and moving to another part of the country where she had no connections.

"The stalking laws weren't in place then and there was nothing else Gail could do.

"If the same situation arose now, the offender could be dealt with under that new law," added Kathy.

The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 was introduced to deal with the problem of stalking.

However, it may be applied to a wide range of situations, including domestic violence.

The act came into force on June 16, 1997 and provides the both victims and the police with powers to take action through the civil or criminal courts.

Offences under the act can be committed anywhere and are all arrestable. There is no requirement to prove a specific intent and criminal courts now have the power to control offenders' behaviour after conviction by means of a restraining order.

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