THE BLOG

Domestic Violence: Women Need Psychological Support Not Just Protection

22/12/2015 11:30 GMT | Updated 21/12/2016 10:12 GMT

Earlier in December BBC2 showed a documentary called Love You To Death about domestic violence. It was difficult, powerful and essential viewing, telling the tragic stories of the 86 women who were killed by their male partner or ex-partner in 2013.

Interviews with friends and family brought these women to life - instead of grim statistics, they were shown as mothers, sisters and best friends. Showing a week after the annual 16 Days of Activism on Violence Against Women campaign, it was a chilling reminder of the consequences of domestic violence and how women from all backgrounds can be affected.

I hope that one outcome of the programme was for people to think about the many women experiencing domestic violence today and the support that they need. As the programme told their stories you were often left wondering why these women were unable to seek support and leave their situations. The answer to that is complex but there are usually two key factors involved.

Firstly, women may not always recognise what is happening to them - domestic violence can often be something that builds slowly over years - or, even if they do, not feel confident or safe to seek help. Secondly, even when women are in a position to seek help, that help may not be there. There has always been a need to increase support services for women affected by domestic violence and cuts to government funding over recent years has exacerbated this problem.

In terms of the support women need, there are very practical and vital services women need to escape from domestic violence and to protect themselves. Women need safe refuge for both themselves and, where necessary, their children. They also need an understanding and effective police force. One thing that was particularly striking in the BBC documentary was the fact that some of these women were known to the police, they had sought protection but this had fallen short.

However, it is important to remember that that it's not just about escaping physical abuse. Women in these situations also need to recover from the psychological trauma of domestic violence - trauma that can prevent them from regaining the confidence to take back control over their lives.

That's why the Woman's Trust provides free counselling for women affected by domestic violence in London. We know just how essential psychological therapy can be for women who have often been subject to years of controlling, undermining and violent behaviour. Evidence from our work shows that access to counselling for such women can help improve their resilience and wellbeing. Children in families experiencing domestic violence will also have improved safety and wellbeing through their mothers accessing such support. This is crucial because, as the documentary showed so strikingly, domestic violence affects everyone in the home.

However, although counselling can play such a positive and necessary role in women rebuilding their lives, organisations like ours have found it difficult to access long-term funding over recent years. That's why we are so delighted to announce that the Big Lottery Fund will be funding our five year East London project that will start in January 2016. This project will aim to reach at least 300 women each year through one-to-one counselling and workshops. In addition, we will be starting a new crisis counselling service for women on the waiting list - something our clients told us would be a lifeline.

Love You To Death showed the horror women can be trapped in at the hands of their partner. Thanks to the Big Lottery Fund, I'm happy to know that the Woman's Trust will be able to offer support to such women in East London for at least five more years.

For more information about Woman's Trust's work and how to support please visit our website.