During this national 16 Days of action on domestic abuse, we turn the spotlight on Bedfordshire Police’s Victim Engagement Officers.
“VEOs” aren’t police officers, we are specially trained members of police staff who are there to support the victims of domestic abuse. Quite often we get involved at the point when an offender is in custody, but can also be brought in once a complaint has been made, and the offender has not yet been arrested.
While police officers deal with the criminal aspects and investigation of a case, we are there for the victim; toprovide help and assistance with anything and everything at what will be probably the worst time in someone’s life.
At the root of all this, however, is the safety of the victim. Safeguarding is the core objective and our first priority. And that’s not just for the victim. There may be children involved, or wider family issues to consider in an abusive domestic setting.
Taking the huge step to report a domestic crime can be daunting for an individual, and once it has happened, a victim may suddenly find their world is turned upside down. They may be abruptly homeless, short of money, or in need of help they didn’t even realise they would need. A VEO is someone who can help a lot, or just a little.
Each case is different. We will tailor a strategy to best fit each situation, working with the local authorities and key partner agencies, if required, to offer help with housing issues, with benefits, with schools, or perhaps with parenting skills. Even with a local food bank. We will liaise with everyone involved on behalf of the victim and take on all those “behind the scenes” aspects that police officers don’t have the capacity to undertake as part of a criminal investigation.
We will also keep the victim updated on the progress of a case, and on the whole situation as it unfolds. We are a sole point of contact with the professional agencies that can help you, and we can help make sense of what is needed, and who can provide what you require.
As we aren’t police officers, we can focus on the victim rather than on the evidence, or on building the case.
We like to think that we are friendly and approachable, and we will help the victims get through their situation as far as possible, whether that means taking the case to court, or resolving it by another route.
If victimsbecome discouraged, or appear to have lost faith in the investigation, we can be a shoulder to lean on. A victim may be inclined to share something with us that they don’t feel comfortable disclosing to a police officer. We can help communicate that to the investigator and we are there to encourage the victim to keep going.
Often, a VEO can also be the voice for the victim who may find it difficult to speak up, especially if we’ve been subjected to bullying from their partner, or get overwhelmed by everything that’s happened.
It’s not all about securing a prosecution and putting offenders away. Often, leaving a relationship can be the most volatile part, and if appropriate, we can help someone stay if that’s you want. We can provide the information and tools to keep you safe, perhaps paving the way for leaving at a later date, when it’s easier to do so.
There are different avenues for resolution, and that doesn’t always involve a criminal path. Sometimes what’s best for a particular person, or situation, may mean mediation, or a civil route, such as a non-molestation order.
Carley Webb is a VEO at Bedfordshire Police. Since leaving school, she has worked in roles with children, families, and helping people, including social work.
She spent six years with the police, before joining victim support, and returned to Bedfordshire Police in 2018 to take up the role as VEO.