As demand for domestic violence and abuse and sexual violence services increase, provision continues to get smaller and smaller in these times of austerity. More and more people turn to non-specialist services, friends and colleagues for help and support.
In between the annual 16 Days of Action to Eliminate Violence Against Women and Girls, 25th November - 10th December, I will deliver training to professionals on domestic and sexual abuse. About 95% of those putting themselves forward for training are women, which makes me question why aren’t men so keen to talk about these issues?
The Crime Survey England and Wales suggests one in three women and one in six men experience domestic abuse in their lifetime, this is pandemic. Domestic violence and abuse, sexual violence, forced marriage, so-called honour based violence and female genital mutilation are not just women’s issues. It will affect you, your family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. With the statistics that high it is very likely that someone close to you, at this moment in time, is experiencing abuse.
You don’t need specific training to support someone who is experiencing abuse, you need to listen and believe. You need to reinforce the view that no form of violence, abuse or controlling behaviour is ok and that when that person feels ready that there is support available. If someone is making a disclosure to you it is either because they have reached crisis point, or they trust you enough to share this information with you. This might feel overwhelming and your instinct might be to tell them to leave the relationship. There are hundreds of reasons why someone might not be ready or want to leave- we also know that the months following leaving an abusive relationship can be the most dangerous. Help is available to aid someone stay as safe as possible. The National Helpline is available for women on 0808 2000 247 and the Men’s Advice Line is available for men on 0808 801 0327. These helplines will also offer advice to friends and family of victims as well as professionals.
Thinking about your role as a manager or employer, do you have a domestic and sexual abuse and harmful practices policy in place? Where do you stand if an employee needs time off to attend court or counselling? These crime types have a huge impact on productivity in the workplace. By offering a supportive environment and a robust policy for victims of abuse you can continue to maximise productivity.
Being an ally means challenging any abusive behaviour, cat calling and belittling behaviour towards women. This might feel really uncomfortable, but I can promise you, it feels far more uncomfortable for the person experiencing it. How might you feel if it were your daughter or sister who came to you having experienced that? It no longer becomes a joke, a friendly grope or just a little slap. We put it in context of those close to us and it becomes far less comfortable. As a gender we need to use our position of privilege to stand up and say that abuse is never ok.
We also need to encourage those who are violent or abusive to access help and support. The Respect Phoneline is a helpline for men and women who use violence or abuse in their relationships. These helplines are confidential, if you’re hurting the one you love you can contact them on 0808 802 4040.
The White Ribbon Campaign requests a pledge that you will never commit, condone or remain silent about men’s violence against women in all forms. You can make your pledge at www.whiteribboncampaign.co.uk.
Although the 16 Days of Action will be over on 10th December the impact of these behaviours is present all year round. Use this time to think about what you can do that might have an impact for the following year. Ask your employer why you don’t have a domestic and sexual abuse policy, ask that colleague or friend ‘how are things at home?’ And listen and believe them. Encourage that friend that has said they have got a bit angry and lashed out at their partner to talk to a professional. Make a pledge.