Essex Police used a modest budget and took a brave approach to addressing a long-standing, sensitive issue. Making the best use of research, they actively worked with partners, building trust and developing relationships along the way. Their innovative approach in switching the issue, and the focus, towards potential perpetrators and encouraging self-reflection on behaviour broke down barriers with a hard to reach audience. With already impressive results, the true benefits will be felt for many years to come, and beyond Essex, with the sharing of the Reflect campaign to other forces, for no cost. Encouraging front line officers to spread the message themselves via social media was not only a savvy use of channels, but will ensure this campaign lives on.


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Brief and objectives:

‘Reflect’ was aimed at encouraging perpetrators of domestic abuse to reflect on and then change their physical, emotional or/and psychological abusive behaviours by getting help at Essex charity ‘The Change Project’.

The objectives of the campaign were to increase awareness of The Change Project and the services they provide to perpetrators of domestic abuse, and increase self-referrals from abusers, which in turn would have an impact on the amount of domestic abuse incidents reported on New Year’s Day and festive period.


Rationale behind campaign, including research and planning:

Every year Essex Police see a rise in the number of incidents of domestic abuse over the festive period. In each of the last two years the force has recorded its highest daily number of reported domestic abuse incidents on New Year’s Day, with 168 incidents reported on January 1st 2016 and 130 the previous year.

The force has launched 2,984 investigations into allegations of domestic abuse between December 1st 2015 and January 1st 2016. During the same period the previous year – December 1st 2014 to January 1st 2015 – Essex Police began 2,510 domestic abuse investigations.

This Christmas, a campaign was needed to help reduce domestic abuse incidents and the serious harm caused to victims. Its aim would be to target perpetrators to reflect on their behaviour and seek help at Essex charity The Change Project, which proactively works to change the behaviours and attitudes of men and women who want to stop abusing partners or ex-partners.

Essex Police worked with The Change Project alongside Essex council partners and women’s refuges to design the concept, which had to be subtle in its messaging yet powerful enough to resonate with the target audience.

Perpetrator workshops showed that abusers don’t often see themselves as ‘abusers’ until they have a ‘penny-drops’ moment and realise the issue lies with them. It is at this point when they ‘reflect’ on their behaviour that they are able to accept they need to change. The campaign content aimed to encourage the ‘penny-drops’ moment and intercept at this point.

Research from women’s refuges showed that emotional abuse can be just as harmful as physical abuse and can also escalate into violence further down the line. Therefore the campaign would need to reach those engaging in both emotional and physical abuse.


Strategy and tactics, including creativity and innovation, and stakeholder engagement:

The campaign targeted perpetrators asking them to reflect on their abusive behaviour and seek the help available to enable them to change. To highlight this, the concept of reflection was developed.

We worked closely with domestic abuse groups, The Change project, Galop (LGBT National domestic abuse helpline) and Essex women’s refuge groups to help shape messages and the tone of campaign.

A short film for social media was created to portray different forms of abuse reflected in the mirror showing 5 couples of different gender, age, ethnicity and sexuality. The film used the famous Motown song, Reflections. To accompany the film a series of downloadable posters and social media posts showing different forms of abuse reflected in the mirror were used online. Social media posts used the hashtag #Reflect, and each image targeted a different form of abuse.

To reach members of the public not engaged on social media, mirror stickers were designed to be displayed in restroom mirrors and were distributed to GP surgeries, hospitals, universities, colleges and pubs across Essex. The word #Reflect was innovatively transparent and reflective so those looking at the sticker would see their reflection within the word. As an alternative, partners were sent adhesive wall stickers with a back-to-front ‘REFLECT’, to be displayed on restroom walls to read correctly in a mirror view.

To further engage with and encourage perpetrators to seek help two interview-style web films with the charity and a former perpetrator and participant of The Change Project were promoted online. To accompany these, a range of real life quotes and case studies were used.

To encourage an Essex approach to the campaign, Essex partners got involved alongside Essex Police officers and staff by taking selfies of their reflections in the mirror alongside a message to those engaging in abusive behaviour.

On the last day of the campaign a 24 hour ‘Tweetathon’ from the 999/101 control room took place and The Change Project was further promoted alongside domestic abuse incident calls.


Implementation of tactics:

The campaign launched on December 12th and was promoted until Friday the 16th.

However, as the awareness of the campaign was important over the festive period the campaign film was pinned to the top of the force social media pages, and campaign imagery and a news article remained on the front page of the website. Reflect imagery was also used for the headers of Facebook and Twitter for the whole festive duration. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and the force website were the main channels of communication and messages were altered and boosted to reach our target audiences. Local media picked up on the campaign including radio and TV.


Measurement and evaluation:

In the first week of the campaign The Change Project had 17 abusers, 2 victims and 4 professionals contact them for help as a direct result of seeing our campaign, and a further 12 abusers in the following month. Since the campaign launched more people are visiting the charity as a direct result of seeing the campaign than those who find out about it via other means. The project has seen more people view its website in the first two days of the campaign (5441 visits) than would normally visit in 5 weeks. Their Facebook page saw a 5350% increase in views and their engagement went up by 2444%. The campaign film reached more than 700,000 people and was viewed over 300,000 times, and alongside our other campaign activity we reached more than 1.2 million people and engaged with more than 420,000 people. This doesn’t include the potential reach from celebrity endorsements, which combined total a following of over 1.8m.

This year the force saw the lowest amount of incidents reported on New Year’s Day for the last 5 years with a total of 120 incidents. There was also a drop in incidents over the whole festive period. Last year there was a 19% increase from the previous year and an 8% increase the year before. This year saw a 9% drop.


Budget and cost effectiveness:

  • Photos/location – £6,845
  • Film – £2,400
  • Social media – £1,700
  • Music – £1,000
  • Stickers – £988.

Total cost: £12,933.

There is already evidence of the value, impact and effectiveness of the campaign with people coming forward to seek help to change abusive behaviour. The messages will continue to be promoted and evaluated throughout the year to see the wider impact on perpetrators, victims and overall domestic abuse incident figures.