Women saved from domestic violence as 260 Hull men join programme to end abuse
MORE than 260 violent men from Hull have taken part in a year-long programme to stop them battering their partners.
The Strength To Change project, aimed at tackling the scourge of domestic abuse in homes throughout Hull, has been credited with saving lives and preventing children from being taken into care.
The men have admitted psychological, physical, financial and sexual abuse of their partners, ranging from name-calling and intimidation to choking, stabbing and even rape.
Officials estimate the programme has saved £7m in police, prison and social services costs since it was launched three years ago.
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Police say they receive about 70 per cent fewer calls relating to each man successfully completing the programme.
Mark Coulter, manager of Strength To Change and domestic violence prevention manager at Hull City Council, said: "This scheme is life- changing and potentially life- saving. I hope we have helped to protect women and children.
"That is the core reason for doing this.
"The most important thing is making the partner feel safer, but it does also provide a saving to the taxpayer.
"Keeping children in care is hugely expensive, as is putting someone in prison, and some of our guys do have an extensive criminal history."
The men taking part in the Strength To Change programme must volunteer, showing a willingness to address their violence.
When men refer themselves to the programme, they are asked to complete an assessment form about their behaviour over the previous two years.
Each man will then have about 15 one-to-one sessions with trained staff before moving on to group work with other men on the course.
Mr Coulter said: "When they come in for the first time, they are pretty depressed, low, not feeling great about themselves.
"They are full of self-loathing, guilt and shame and really embarrassed about the impact on their partner and any children.
"This is not a quick-fix and it is not a soft option. The hardest thing to do is the right thing to do. "But if they are motivated, they can go as far as they want.
"The police are a great supporter. For them, it is no more about locking people up than it is about reducing reoffending, preventing crime and we know this works."
Police are currently running an operation to support victims of domestic violence during Christmas and the new year.
Operation Nightwing involves a dedicated team of detectives to specifically attend reports of domestic violence.
Men who are seen by police will be encouraged to go to Strength To Change.
Detective Sergeant Stuart Fox, leading Operation Nightwing, said: "The work of Strength To Change is invaluable.
"There are a lot of support services out there for victims, but it is the offenders who make the victims' lives a misery.
"If they can stop offending, it prevents the victim from going through becoming a victim again and is beneficial for us too.
"The programme has seen some really good outcomes. We want perpetrators to identify they have a problem and seek help."
Mr Coulter said anyone who believes they may be abusive should contact staff at Strength To Change.
He said: "We know we are just scratching the surface, looking at the number of calls the police get. But even we are getting twice the number of calls we did 12 months ago.
"Not everybody who makes the call makes it through the door, but it shows they are starting the process.
"Physical violence generally doesn't happen without a build up of verbal abuse and arguing. Some- body slamming doors and punching walls definitely has an impact on their partner and children.
"It will only be a matter of time before punching the wall becomes punching your partner and it will only increase in severity.
"I want men to forget that shame and pick up the phone. If you don't, it is only going to get worse."
Visit www.strengthtochange.org or call 01482 613403.