Each year at least 1.2 million women and 784,000 men experience domestic violence and abuse in England and Wales, with 1 in 3 women and nearly 1 in 5 men experiencing it at some point in their lives (NICE 2014).
In an attempt to offer support to those experiencing abuse, the Citizens Advice Bureau launched a new campaign last month focusing on the support that can be offered by informal networks such as friends, family, neighbours and colleagues.
The Talk About Abuse campaign encourages people to:
1. Pay Attention To Changes In Behaviour
In many instances spotting the signs of domestic abuse is not easy. Many abusive relationships do not have any physical violence and in those that do, the abuser will often ensure that the signs that someone is being abused are hidden. With no physical signs of abuse to identify that someone is being abused it is important to take notice of small changes in their behaviour. Changes could be that someone who used to be the life and soul of the party is no longer interested in going out, or someone who was incredibly confident now seems frightened.
2. Start A Conversation
If someone is experiencing domestic abuse, telling people about it can be more difficult than you might think. Often those experiencing abuse will confide in a close friend or family member and if they confide in you, don’t assume that there is someone better placed to listen. To ensure that you approach the conversation safely and sensitively you should:
If you are unsure how to approach the topic, there are many specialist helplines you can contact for advice.
3. Listen, Support And Believe
Should someone choose to confide in you regarding domestic abuse, the best thing you can do is listen, support and believe. You want to show them that they are not alone, that you believe what they are saying and to raise their confidence to a point where they are comfortable seeking specialist help.
Do not judge them or make them feel like the abuse is their fault – this includes asking why they haven’t left yet or telling them that they shouldn’t put up with it - encouraging them to leave could in fact put them in further danger.
4. Suggest Further Help
Seeking help is never an easy decision. There are however many specialist charities and organisations that they can direct them to when they are ready to do so. Remember, if you believe that someone experiencing abuse may be in danger, you can anonymously report it to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
If you are experiencing domestic abuse, or have concerns about a friend or loved one, you can get help and advice by calling our helpline – 0300 561 0077. Alternatively, in England, you can call the 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline is 0808 2000 247. In Wales contact the Live Fear Free Helpline on 0808 80 10 800.
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