Staffordshire Police have launched a campaign to raise awareness of coercive and abusive behaviour in order to encourage victims to come forward.
The ‘We are on your side’ campaign comes as new figures show more than 500 cases have been dealt with by police in just two years.
Officers worked with national expert Dr Jane Monckton-Smith, Staffordshire Women’s Aid and West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), to create the campaign.
Coercive behaviour is a form of domestic abuse with intentions to isolate, manipulate and terrorise someone.
Signs can include trying to take control over aspects of someone’s life, such as, what they can wear, who they can see, or monitoring someone’s time.
Det Chief Insp Simon Brownsword said: “Often abuse goes on over long periods of time.
“While not all of this abuse is violent the result is often that the victim will live in fear.
“We know this as research shows victims will often endure abuse on many occasions before asking for help and we are recognising and recording this more often.
“We recognise the effect, not only on the victim, but the wider families of those involved, such as children who grow up within violent or controlling environments.”
As part of the campaign police created a video which shares a victim’s story.
In 2015, a new law was introduced giving the ability for charges to be brought where there is evidence of controlling or coercive behaviour on at least two occasions.
A successful case can result in a maximum of five years imprisonment and a fine for the offence.
Sarah Hammond, Senior District Crown Prosecutor, CPS West Midlands, said: “The police and CPS now work together to gather evidence and build robust cases which focus on the wider pattern of behaviour.”
Since the law was introduced, 21 cases have resulted in criminal charges.
And 71% of those led to convictions after trial, according to the West Midlands Crown Prosecution Services.
Dr Monckton-Smith said: “It is strongly linked to the most serious harm and homicide.
“In fact, controlling behaviours and stalking are better predictors of serious harm than any other single factor, including violence.
“We need to re-think what we believe about domestic abuse and understand that patterns of control not only create a toxic and traumatic environment for victims and children, they are dangerous.”
The force also worked with Women’s Aid, an organisation which offers support and advice to victims.
Dixie James, from Women’s Aid, said victims live in “fear and anxiety”.
She added: “We understand the damage this can cause and we work to help increase safety and rebuild confidence, as well as helping victims to understand their rights within the criminal justice system.”
For more information visit www.staffordshire.police.uk/coercivecontrol