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'Clumsy' police force suggests battered wives could stay with their abusive husbands

Telegraph Reporters
Essex Police force has apologised for the

A police force has been criticised after a social media post appeared to suggest domestic abuse victims could stay with their partners.

Essex Police posted a case study on Facebook about "Sheila", a 65-year-old woman in an abusive relationship. "She knew that the abuse in her relationship was wrong but also knew that she wouldn't leave," it said.

"With help and support from specialist organisations and agencies, Sheila and her husband stayed together, but safely."

The post is part of the 55+ Safety Net campaign, which aims to help older victims of domestic abuse.

However, it came in for criticism and Essex Police apologised for the "clumsy language" of the post.

One Facebook user wrote "first time I've heard people being helped to stay in an abusive relationship", another said "such a load of rubbish, if it is abusive there is only one answer, get out now".

An Essex Police spokesman said: "We have used clumsy language in a Facebook post that has clearly caused offence and we are sorry for that.

"However the stories featured in the campaign are real stories. We heard from victims who wanted help to leave relationships and we heard from victims who would never have called police but have been able to have counselling, family therapy and other interventions that have made them feel safe

 "Our message in this campaign isn't 'stay in any relationship no matter how abusive'.

"It's 'if something is happening in your relationship even if you've been with someone for decades there is help you can get'."

The campaign was launched with the Southend, Essex and Thurrock Domestic Abuse Board.

Its chairman, Dick Madden, said: "The campaign was developed directly with domestic abuse specialists, domestic abuse refuges, partners and most importantly, survivors of abuse.

"The message is clear - domestic abuse is never acceptable."

He said the campaign includes seven scenarios, based on real life experiences, which aim to help victims reach out to support.

He said they "thought very carefully" about including Sheila's story.

"Not all domestic abuse cases are the same, and not all victims will want to leave or consider reporting to the police," said Mr Madden.

"Through this particular scenario, we are aiming to reach out to this audience and give them information about the support available, whatever their circumstances.

"We want to make sure victims know where to turn to for support." He noted there were supportive comments on the post as well as criticism.

"We think it is positive that the campaign has sparked a debate on a very important issue," he said.