A harrowing childhood memory of a murder near her home inspired Jane Lewis to tackle domestic abuse and sexual violence for almost all of her working life.
Jane was only a youngster when a man murdered his daughter in the rural village she lived in, before he also killed his wife and himself, in a crime which stunned the area in the 1970s.
Now almost 50 years since the ordeal, Jane continues to pioneer the prevention of domestic abuse in her role as Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse Lead for Nottingham City Council.
As a mark of her efforts, Jane recently received a special Preventing Award in Police and Crime Commissioner Caroline Henry’s dedicated section of the Nottinghamshire Police Force Awards.
Five decades on from what she now knows to have been a classic domestic abuse case, she feels huge strides have been made.
“To be honest, I was taken aback when presented the award by Commissioner Henry,” she said.
“I’ve worked for the city council for more than 20 years, and prior to that I worked in the sector for 10 years so it’s been pretty much my entire working life.
“I have seen huge change in that time from having to argue that domestic abuse was a thing which was worth targeting and why it was important.
“In the early days I had to explain why the statutory sector should take it seriously right across from the police, social care and in health.
“We’re in a position now where even recently there has been a national violence against women and girls audit done by the Police, recognising that there is more work to be done in the area.
“During my working life it has been incredible to see the changes, and organisations like Equation, Juno Women’s Aid and Nottinghamshire Sexual Violence Support Services (NSVSS), as well as the refuges who have people like me that have worked for so long in campaigning for improvements.”
In Jane’s 30-year career, she has worked in a variety of different settings. From volunteering for Women’s Aid, to answering calls on a domestic abuse helpline in the year 2000, she has seen and heard it all.
Now working closely with the PCC in her current role, she believes the future is bright with more people taking domestic abuse crimes seriously.
As part of Commissioner Henry’s Violence Against Women and Girls project, £3.5 million was invested in initiatives to tackle the subject in 2022-23, with this funding set to increase to around £4 million in 2023-24.
Almost every day, Jane is given a reminder as to how important the role she does is, as well as the impact she can have on people.
That in itself acts as its own motivation, in a job which can be as challenging as it is rewarding.
“As soon as you start hearing survivors' stories and seeing the impact it has on children, it’s hugely motivating because you hear such horrible things and you want it to be different”, she says.
“The situations I deal with keep things real. You hear about the impact it has and it reminds you of why you’re doing what you do which makes me massively motivated to succeed.
“When you talk to adults who grew up with it as children, there is a clear effect now they are living their own lives.
“I’ve been working on a project for the past five years which focuses on survivors with mental ill health, drugs and alcohol problems and it shows a clear relationship between that and domestic abuse.
“People can’t cope with their experience, or the perpetrator is encouraging their victim to use drugs and alcohol because it makes them more vulnerable.
“In my working life I’m exposed to those stories all the time, and that is motivating because you just want to help where you can.”
It was announced recently that the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Nottinghamshire will receive more than £650,000 from the Home Office for a new early awareness initiative aimed at first time domestic abuse offenders.
It will also pay for a range of voluntary perpetrator initiatives for men and women who are concerned about the controlling or violent behaviour within their relationships and want help to change. Jane admits she was thrilled to hear of the extra funding, and believes it will make a big difference in helping to educate and prevent the number of cases rising.
“Prevention works at all levels. There is work we do in schools with young people to help them understand what a healthy relationship looks like,” she adds.
“The new funding to work with perpetrators provides a big injection of resource into an area which we’ve struggled to fund over the years.
“We’ve known we’ve needed that work but we’ve not been able to put much money in because it’s a balance between using funds wisely but then not taking it away from survivors.
Commissioner Henry presented Jane with a trophy at the ceremony at Sherwood Lodge Joint Force Headquarters in Arnold, which was held in April.
She said: “It is no exaggeration to say that Jane is a legend in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire’s violence against women and girls sector. Countless women and their children have been protected from harm thanks to Jane’s hard work and I’m delighted to be able to recognise that by presenting her with this award.
“She has been a tireless force in tackling violence against women and is a major architect of our nationally respected joined up local domestic abuse system.
“It is thanks to Jane that we have a strategic programme of healthy relationship programmes rolled out in city schools, a subject close to my heart and one which I am expanding into the county.”
The PCC Awards were rounded off with the Mitie Care and Custody Team winning the Excellent Team award. That was a result of their outstanding work as healthcare professionals covering the police custody suites 24 hours a day, with enhanced cover on Friday and Saturday nights.
They make up a key part of the custody team, in assessing detainees and ensuring the appropriate medical care is given.
Posted on Wednesday 24th May 2023