Women friendly Leeds blog

West Yorkshire Police Respond to VAWG Community Questions

Following on from the Women Friendly Leeds Police Q&A and art exhibition, where we gave Women the platform to speak to power, Detective Superintendent Vanessa Rolfe (WYP) has now responded to the community questions we gave her. Take a look below at the questions and answers.

  1. What makes you not pay attention to women reporting? How do you disseminate or discern between women who present in different ways e.g. under the influence of alcohol or drugs? How do you respond to that? Also, how do the police respond to women who have had alcohol? 

We would never not respond to women who were under the influence of a substance. They would be supported in the same way as any other victim/survivor, ensuring additional safeguarding if required

2. What are you doing to train or support officers who respond to incidents so they are trauma informed? Who is trained? Certain teams or the whole force?

300 officers and staff have received training from Victim Focus – a programme that looked at trauma informed. We are now looking at further work with Victim Focus so that we can reach a wider audience. Its important that all staff have the training so that anyone who works on the “Victim Journey” from call taker to liaison with CPS, understands the effect trauma can have on victims/survivors.


We are also working with an academic through health, with the ambition that every officer and staff member will have trauma-informed training to make West Yorkshire one of the first trauma-informed counties. 


In April 2023, we will start the DA Matters training programme which will be provided by SafeLives.  This will see 3,450 officers and staff receive update training on DA to better understand victim and perpetrator behaviours, behavioural crimes like coerce and control and stalking and harassment and use better language.

3. How do you ensure the inclusion in the process of those with lived experience?

We often have victims/survivors who would like to work with us to share their lived experience and ensure learning to officers and staff.  The DA Matters programme includes this and we have several victims/survivors who are going to be trained to be trainers to help deliver the programme.

Also see the IAG process (Q5)

4. What is the process. How do the police respond in the moment of the report being made?

There are many answers to this question because it depends on the nature of the call, the urgency and priority grading to attend, availability of specialist staff and most importantly the needs and voice of the victim/survivor – what do they want?

5. How do you address the issue of women feeling they do not have the power and confidence generally, let alone when making a report, and therefore not making reports? What can police do early on to build confidence?

From the VAWG Strategy we have introduced a separate women’s and men’s IAG (Independent Advisory Group) where women can share their lived experience creating an action plan for the Police to share learning and improve processes

6. How do you address/challenge victim blaming language, either by officers to each other as professionals or directly to victims, and if so, how?

WYP is working with other Forces to create a document called DA Language Matters” to ensure better use of language when dealing with DA crimes.

7. How do you address the issue of the police making promises such as “This is rape/sexual assault – you will be believed” when it might not even get to court or achieve a conviction?

“You will be believed,” is correct. This does not mean that there will be a charge or conviction.

Is there enough evidence against the defendant?

When deciding whether there is enough evidence to charge, Crown Prosecutors must consider whether evidence can be used in court and is reliable and credible, and there is no other material that might affect the sufficiency of evidence. Crown Prosecutors must be satisfied there is enough evidence to provide a “realistic prospect of conviction” against each defendant.[i]

8. All too often the onus is put on women – “it’s your responsibility to report to ensure it doesn’t happen again”. Would you acknowledge there is a training need here?

Absolutely our officers need to understand more, especially for adult victims/survivors of exploitation. On 9th March WYP will be hosting an Adult Exploitation Symposium to share learning with Police and partners

  1. How much recognition is there for women who have added factors contributing to them not being believed, experiencing victim blaming, or not reporting such as sex workers, women with learning disability or asylum seekers?


See answers to 2 and 8

10. Can we create information around the process of reporting?


I don’t understand this question? 

11. Can we collect the experiences of women around the process of reporting to be shared?


Is this something being offered or something you would like me to do?

12. What is the experience of women and reporting?


This will be addressed through the IAG

We are also looking at some academic research with Leeds Trinity University to better understand this

13. How do you identify victims of trafficking?


14. How do you monitor success and level of justice?


Success is difficult to measure as it is different for everyone.  Success for one person might be that we have dealt with the matter by for example arresting the partner who came home drunk and was damaging the house, but they might not want to pursue anything further.


We do have crime data results which can be see nationally or Force wide


Click on the link below: 

Home – CJS Dashboard (justice.gov.uk)

15. How do you overcome issues within diverse communities? What are the results?


We need to do more with diverse communities. We are currently involved in some academic research to understand why:

Domestic Violence and Abuse against women and girls: Understanding the impact of Outcome 16 on racially minoritised women and girls’ participation in Domestic Violence investigations


Any advice to help us be better would be greatly received

16. Will the police take accountability for past mistakes?


I would need to know more detail

17. Is there an education initiative? Working with the community

The VRU (Violence Reduction Unit) has comissioned training in primary and secondary schools in the 5 Districts of WYP to discuss issues such as safe relationships, consent:


Wakefield – Squaring up
Weekly sessions, working directly with the Year 5/6 cohort in a targeted way and providing a universal offer to the whole school. The intervention will also deliver professionals networking sessions focussed on VAWG for Pyramid Primary and Secondary Schools and Parent Information Workshops, once per half term.

Leeds and Wakefield – Youth Association
Running in parallel with the Youth Association’s StreetSafe and StreetVoice work in Leeds and Wakefield, this programme is delivering ‘Future Man’ – an initiative focusing on violence against women and girls. Workshops in further education colleges at three sites in Leeds, Wakefield and Castleford are focusing on positive vs toxic masculinity, positive mental wellbeing, independent living skills and male role models.

Bradford – James (with Step2 and HALE)
Delivery of four elements to include, targeted sessions with young males, universal sessions within 8 schools, Continuing Professional Development sessions to upskill staff working with young people, online content/messages in secondary schools and Alternative Provision.

Leeds – St Giles Trust
Expect Respect (ER) programme of interventions directly supports young women and girls (YWGs) in identifying healthy relationships, including recognising signs of abusing relationships which can lead to exploitation. The programme empowers YWGs, builds confidence and self-esteem to understand where and how to ask for support.

Leeds – Getaway Girls (with LCC Active Leeds and Positive Futures)
Delivery of targeted group work, with boys, girls and young people from minoritised genders and workshop with staff at an identified school within Leeds. Working with the boys cohort Getaway Girls are using the ‘Being Mankind toolkit’ to support conversations among young men around the meaning of masculinity, humanity and equality, in a creative, engaging way and aiming to inspire young men to grow to be kind, empathetic and confident adults

Tender Communication & Arts
This VAWG intervention will pilot bespoke domestic and sexual violence prevention programmes for children and young people (CYP) in West Yorkshire. Using a newly developed survey to capture diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) data and bespoke information, followed by a Bespoke, Arts-Based Prevention Programme for CYP tailored to the survey responses

 18. Are there safeguarding measures to protect potential offenders?


 Could I have more detail on this question?

19. Do they work with schools/ staff to deal with children?


As per 17

20. How does the police relate to marginalised communities?


As per 15

21. How are the police connecting with the public?


As per 5

We also have lots of media campaigns to update the public and reassure them

6-10th March = VAWG week of action where there will be lots of activities addressing women and girls internally and externally with a big media campaign to support


Again, I would welcome ideas to improve this

22. How are the police tackling spiking issues in the city?


Thankfully spiking is not a huge issue and has been decreasing since September 2021


We do have media campaigns and there are pubs and other businesses that receive training in identifying and reacting to any reports of spiking. We are hoping to increase this training over the next 12 months


Again, I would welcome ideas to improve this

23. Are they re-training themselves on social issues – mental health related?


24. Where is evidence for the police improvement?


25. What are you doing to ensure officers with lived experiences are working within relevant communities?

See 3 and 5

26. Can they feedback good practices to the public & police to inform successes?

27. Can the police create positive education to police and public with positive success stories? Create more models?

28. Can they teach police officers to de escalate situations?

29. Is there education around police powers and citizen rights?

30. How are they challenging stereotypes around the ‘uniform’ of police?

31. The women we work with feel disheartened and disillusioned with the lack of repercussions/consequences the perpetrator receives when they report a /multiple breach/s of Non-Mol or restraining orders. What more can be done to enforce these orders?

This is also a frustration for the police. We work hard and have set up teams to check that perpetrators are checked for compliance of orders and will arrest if breach. The challenge is when they go to court and get a warning or a fine of £1 in one case


Work is going on nationally with the CPS and CJ system to address this

Again, I would welcome ideas to improve this

32. Would the police be interested in commissioning in-house training provided by WHM that has been co-produced and is co-delivered by survivors? 

I will consider this but at the moment we have lots of training ongoing and we need a balance of deployable officers v time to develop and learn

33. We have noticed in some cases women being encouraged to report rapes / sexual assaults, with the officer saying, “this is rape, you will be believed, we have forensics”, but not recognising that they are giving false hope to the victims– as in a lot of cases the investigation is NFA due to lack of evidence, let alone taken to CPS for charging decision. How can responding officers approach victims, and give them accurate info to make an informed choice whilst managing expectations? (Explaining process, what the investigators will need etc, e.g. encouraging to go to SARC but with realistic outcomes.)

See 7

34. In some cases, the police haven’t given accurate information: they have told women they can only visit the SARC if they report it to the police. This results in the woman potentially missing healthcare and the opportunity to have forensics taken in a timely fashion. In some cases, this may even prove a serious threat to health (e.g. not receiving healthcare for a possible STI or not receiving potentially lifesaving treatment to prevent the onset of contracted HIV). Would you agree that ALL police staff have a responsibility to give accurate information on the self-referral system available at the SARC, without pressure from the police to report it?

Last week (6-12th Feb) was Sexual offences Awareness week and WYP did a media campaign on the SARC reassuring victims / survivors that they don’t have to report to the police

35. Victims often feel responsible or pressured to report to ensure it doesn’t happen to others is this something that can be addressed in training so that officers don’t put the responsibility on the victims to keep others safe?

This will be addressed in the DA Matters training that starts in April 2023.  See answer 2

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