In 2015/16 nationally 26% of female offenders reported having experienced some form of domestic abuse at some point in their adult life, compared with 14% of men. Women were also twice as likely to have experienced non-sexual partner abuse, family abuse and stalking. Women were considerably more likely to have experienced sexual assault or an attempted sexual assault than men, with 20% of women saying they had experienced this since ages 16 compared with only 1 in 25 men (4%) 24.
Complex trauma histories and chaotic lifestyles keep female offenders in the revolving door of offending. It can exacerbate substance misuse, leading to extended sexual exploitation and poor mental health. Tackling the root cause of female offending requires gender specific approaches. WaDE offers a trauma informed intervention by providing opportunities for women to share their experiences of domestic and sexual abuse and to receive appropriate support.
In partnership with Hampshire Police and Crime Commissioner and Hampshire Constabulary, WaDE is offered as part of a conditional caution. Currently being piloted in East Hampshire, post arrest an eligibility criterion triages women to WaDE, providing opportunities for diversion to tailored women’s services. Delivered by trauma informed practitioners the workshops are designed to enable women to learn coping strategies and gain support to manage the effects of previous trauma.
The WaDE pilot has provided opportunities to engage women in what type of support they need to move forward in their lives to desist from crime. We have heard stories of both historic and existing abuse, resulting in cross agency working to implement real time safeguarding measures. The majority of women have asked for additional support. This has been provided via an additional 9 week rolling programme, where we are grateful for the expertise of local organisations who have delivered specialist sessions such as debt management.
Unless we are able to assist female offenders to manage their complex trauma histories and associated vulnerabilities their chances of reoffending will remain high. WaDE is currently a 12-month pilot being evaluated by Southampton University and early indications would suggest there is merit in extending the pilot across Hampshire