VANDALS who wrecked a tree which was planted as a symbol of hope for victims of domestic abuse have been branded “sickening” by charity and council chiefs.
The sapling was planted at Cornthwaite Park, in Bents Road, Whitburn, as part of a series of global domestic abuse awareness campaign, called White Ribbon, which was held in November.
It had been hoped the tree would provide a place where victims and their families could go to reflect on their lives.
The tree had been planted in conjunction with South Shields-based domestic abuse charity, Options, and South Tyneside Council, but it is now having to be removed after being damaged beyond repair.
It is thought the vandals struck over the weekend severing the tree’s top half.
Options co-ordinator Julie Robinson said: “I am unable to comprehend why someone would do this to something so symbolic.
“This was supposed to be a place where victims and their families could go and reflect on their lives – whether it is someone who has finally found the strength and courage to seek help and support or those looking for empowerment to take the first step.
“This act of vandalism is sickening. It wasn’t just a tree it was what it symbolised. Domestic abuse is still a taboo subject where the victim is still blamed for this on-going issue.”
The charity hopes the tree will be replanted.
Lead member for area management and community safety at South Tyneside Council, Coun Tracey Dixon said: “It is very sad to see the tree in this state as a result of mindless vandalism.
“This tree was planted as a symbol of the council and its partners’ commitment to the ethos behind White Ribbon Day, to mark the importance of the cause, and to provide a lasting legacy to acknowledge victims everywhere as well as remind them that they do not have to suffer in silence.
“While we appreciate people may not know the meaning behind this particular tree and the white ribbon attached, the damage of any tree is an act of criminal damage, and we would urge anyone with information about those responsible to get in touch.”
White Ribbon is a global initiative aimed at tackling domestic abuse, with a day of awareness. In South Tyneside it has grown from one day to a week of events helping to raise awareness of domestic abuse and the detrimental impact it has on victims and children.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Northumbria Police on 101.