My name is Lila Begum and I am a survivor of child and forced marriage, as well as a survivor of domestic abuse.
I have been supporting Bedfordshire Police as a volunteer for nearly ten years, initially as member of the Independent Advisory Group and now on the Chief Constable panel.
I have worked both professionally and voluntarily for over 20 years, supporting victims of domestic abuse, forced marriage and honour-based violence.
I am always ready to support anyone who seeks my help, even if it is in the middle of the night or early hours of the morning.
Having my rights to live as a child, access education and live life without fear, were all deprived from me.
I also faced many discriminations because of my faith and ethnicity, including discrimination from my own community because of being bought up by a single parent.
I was very fortunate to have met many amazing women who gave me the inspiration and strength to live life and my mother was one of these amazing women. During her own personal hardship, she never ceased to help others and stood by those who faced injustice. She spoke for those during a time where women were not to be seen or heard.
My friend Carol who mentored me to ensure I reach my potential professionally, Glenis who looked after my children when I needed medical care after a horrific incident.
Debra from Nine Red, who I never met in person but helped at a time in my life where I needed practical help to keep me safe.
Delphi, Rehena and Clare who helped me be heard.
My manager Joella, who believed in me and made my workspace safe.
My best friends Nasima, Jay, Shamela and Fsella who wiped my tears and picked up the broken pieces, without them all life would’ve been hard.
At Bedfordshire Police everybody matters; every person in the chain matters and we all add value to the objective, which is to keep people safe.
We are a small cardre of Superintendents and Chief Superintendents and the expectation is that you can do lots of different things and that you’re omnicompetent across different areas. There’s responsibility of the entire force sitting on your shoulders at times and relationships with other people are important to get the job done. But there’s lots of room for ideas, innovation and for thinking of how we can do things better and differently.
My ambition is to help this force achieve excellence and I think everybody who works here wants the force to be excellent.
There are pockets of excellence everywhere I look and some really superb people, working against the odds at times, to achieve some fantastic outcomes.
When I joined Bedfordshire Police I was put into a role that suited my skills, which is something that is nice to have happen to you. Often in policing you’re just put in a job and not much account is taken of your skill set and your experience, nothing could be further from the truth at Bedfordshire Police. The Detective Chief Superintendent at the time, sat down with me and found out about me, what I’m good at, what skills I have and gave me, in my opinion, the best job in the force.
It was good to feel valued, to have someone look at what I’ve done in the past and think you can add real value for us in this role.
I transferred to Bedfordshire Police after spending 18 years in the Met. Moving out of the Met was a big decision for me but it was fuelled by wanting to work for my home force and help make the county I live in be the safest place for my family. Another driver was the opportunities available by being a part of a tri-force collaboration and working with teams in Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire, as well as the potential for secondment this gives.
Bedfordshire has metropolitan problems but with county level, rural funding and it felt most closely aligned with my experiences in the Met. Luton feels very much like a London borough; the problems and the challenges are very similar.
I felt it was like something I know and can bring value to.
Julie Henderson, Detective Superintendent.
Our Superintendent and Chief Superintendent recruitment process is currently open, applications close on Sunday 4 October. If you would like to join Bedfordshire police please visit www.bedfordshire.police.uk/superintendents
A victim of repeated domestic abuse and violence has expressed her thanks for helping her to escape her abusive partner, and giving her the strength to start a new life; the life she says she dreamed of, but thought she could never have.
Zoe Davis is a Victim Engagement Officer. Here she tells Aisha’s* story.
At 9.40pm one evening in November last year, the ambulance service reported they were treating a woman with injuries, including a suspected broken nose, for which she refused hospital treatment.
The assault had occurred inside her home, and when the offender – her partner – left the scene, the victim – Aisha – had gone into the street to seek help, and asked to use a passer-by’s mobile phone to call the emergency services, as she had no phone of her own.
Checks showed the couple were known to police for a dozen domestic incidents, over the past two years, but on each occasion she did not wish to press charges.
This time however, she disclosed she had been raped a week earlier, but was still reluctant to support any action against her partner who had controlled and abused her for the entirety of their almost six-year relationship, where he denied her access to money, frequently badly assaulted her and had not allowed her to work.
Initially, support was provided to Aisha by an independent domestic violence advisor (IDVA), who helped start her positive journey of recovery and then I began talking to her on the phone weekly, listening to her, giving her support and reassuring her that, should she wish to take things further, we would believe her and we could help.
I had to let her make the decisions and go at her own pace, but if she needed extra help or reassurance, then we would speak.
At Luton Crown Court on Thursday (23 July), her abuser pleaded guilty to two counts of common assault, and one count of witness intimidation, because he wrote to her from prison to try to get her to drop the charges.
He was sentenced to 14 months imprisonment, and was made the subject of an indefinite restraining order, but was released from the court due to time served on remand.
DI Lorraine Coombes, the force’s lead on domestic abuse, said: “This is one of the most satisfying outcomes we have ever had on a case.
“How can I say that, seeing as he walked free from court? Because it’s not just about the conviction, but the work that’s been done to enable this survivor of domestic abuse to feel that she can now move on with her life.
“I am certain that without Zoe and her constant contact and reassurance to Aisha, we wouldn’t have got the conviction and the restraining order.”
After court, Aisha told me she feels she has a life now, one that she dreamed of having but never thought she’d have again because she never believed she’d have the strength to move on from her abuser, and she expressed her thanks to me, and to the team of detectives, for helping her escape the cycle of abuse and restore her confidence.
Aisha has taken on board the support offered, and has been able to work on her own wellbeing to rebuild the relationships with her family and friends that were lost due to her partner’s controlling behaviour. She even felt confident enough to seek employment and three weeks ago, got her first job in six years.
I’ll never forget her thanks, or the difference that we can make to a victim’s life.
* Aisha is not her real name.
Abuse in any form is never acceptable. If you have concerns about a person’s behaviour towards another, or you fear for your own, or someone else’s safety, please get in touch.
Call police on 101, always call 999 in an emergency.
Alternatively you can call independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously and in complete confidence, on 0800 555 111, or report via its website at www.crimestoppers-uk.org
Victims of domestic abuse can also contact the Signpost Hub for free and confidential support, whether the abuse has been reported or not.
The Signpost Hub’s experienced staff and volunteers understand the emotions and challenges victims may be going through. They are specially trained to listen and give help and advice. Often just talking to someone, especially one who is not family or a friend, can help victims, or those affected, make sense of what has happened and find a way to help cope and recover.
They can provide a safe, neutral place for victims to voice their fears, worries and emotions, and the support is confidential and non-judgmental.
They also work with a range of specialist organisations and community support groups, and can make referrals to help victims. For further information or to get in contact visit www.signpostforbedfordshire.com/hub