A WOMAN who suffered the daily “torture” of domestic violence for 18 years won a standing ovation after telling her harrowing story at a conference.
The woman from the Conwy area, whose identity must be protected, was addressing around 100 representatives of police, social services, the court service and crown prosecutors at the second Victims’ Conference arranged by North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Winston Roddick CB QC.
The woman, now in her thirties, faced a “daily battle for survival” and sustained a catalogue of injuries including a broken jaw, arms and knuckles and extensive scarring to almost every part of her body.
Another keynote speaker was Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, Baroness Helen Newlove, who herself became a victim of serious crime when her husband Garry was murdered outside their Warrington family home in 2007 following a period anti-social behaviour in the area.
Her main message to the event at the Conwy Business Centre was that those who suffer from crime must be given the same support to aid their rehabilitation as offenders receive.
She also gave her blessing to a new Victim Help Centre being established to serve North Wales by Commissioner Roddick.
The centre will create a one stop shop for victims by bringing together the support services of North Wales Police, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the former Victim Support organisation.
The integrated service will start in July and will cover the whole of North Wales, providing a service tailored to the needs of individual victims.
Conference delegates rose to their feet to applaud the domestic violence victim as she ended her grim 30-minute account of the way she was physically and mentally abused over the course of 18 years by her ex-husband, who is currently serving a prison sentence for the crimes he committed against her.
Apart from fists, she was also assaulted with weapons such as a baseball bat, dog choke-chain and hammer.
She said that although he had been arrested on a number of occasions no charges were brought against her ex-husband for most of the time the abuse continued.
The woman also admitted that she would often lie to police and social services to protect him, simply to prevent further violence once they were alone.
Eventually, her long nightmare came to an end when she plucked up enough courage to give a detailed report to police about her years of hell.
The woman said she is now gradually re-building her life, along with her children who at one stage had to be placed on the at-risk register.
Fighting back tears, she told the conference that the turning point in her abusive relationship only came when she began to receive the right kind of support from various agencies including North Wales Police, some of whose officers she said had gone “above and beyond the call of duty” to help her.
She said: “A relationship such as mine can only be brought to end when you have the courage to speak out, but that is based on trust.
“Officers of North Wales Police eventually made me believe that mine and my children’s lives were in safe hands.
“At some stages I received absolutely no help at all from certain agencies and on a number of occasions when I went to A&E I was asked no questions about my injuries.
“But it’s vital that all agencies work in unison to act on the smallest report or referral, no matter how unimportant it may seem.”
The woman now helps North Wales Police and other agencies by delivering training sessions based on her experiences.
Baroness Newlove, who was made a peer in 2010, was appointed Victims’ Commissioner in 2012 and now works to promote to the interests of victims and witnesses across England and Wales.
She told the conference: “I have personal knowledge of what it’s like to be a victim of crime, which is something which stays with you for the rest of your life.
“When I lost Garry my life and my daughters’ lives were ripped apart.
“We hear a lot about the rehabilitation of offenders but what about rehabilitation for victims?
“Being a victim can be a really frightening and confusing time, especially having to go to court because that is where you come face to face with offenders and is therefore the place where you need lots of support.
“It’s also important to have someone to go to when you need something in the criminal justice process explained.
“While some people go the extra mile to help, the thing that often lets victims down is that various agencies don’t work together enough.
“People from these agencies should put themselves in the position of the victim and see things from their perspective.
“Victims should be treated as individuals with unique and changing needs.
“There should be a greater focus on rehabilitation of victims to help them recover and rebuild their lives.”
Baroness Newlove added: “I’m really pleased to hear about the Victim Help Centre to be set up in North Wales and I wish it well.
“This is a positive step for victims but there is still a long way to go.”
Police and Crime Commissioner Winston Roddick told the conference the new Victim Help Centre, to be located in St Asaph, was a direct result of a needs study done by academics at Glyndwr University in Wrexham.
And he explained: “We have come a long way in getting to this point and the over-riding objective has been to keep victims at the heart of everything we do.
“The message I continue to receive is that their needs must be paramount and central to all our work.
“I would like to see fewer victims, of course, and that is why I support North Wales Police in their objective to reduce crime.”
Speaking of the conference as whole, Mr Roddick said: “I think that what we have learned, especially from the victim of abuse who spoke so powerfully, is that all victims have their own particular needs and that it would be wrong to have a `one size fits all’ approach to the way we support them.”