This Sunday is Mother's Day, a time to appreciate the women in our lives and the family unit. Sadly one in four women, many of whom will be mothers, will experience domestic abuse in their lives and will wake up feeling scared, apprehensive or isolated.
I'm Camden's lead Councillor for Community Safety and last week I helped launch the new phase of our Domestic Violence campaign 'Know it's not too late', the first awareness raising campaign by a local authority to directly tackle the issues of domestic violence and abuse amongst the over 50s.
The campaign launches against the backdrop of increasing reports (UK-wide) of domestic violence and abuse towards older people. In Camden, recent homicide cases involving the murder of women over 50, by either their son or their husband, have also highlighted the seriousness of the problem. The figures nationally are depressing with 2012 / 13 figures from the Government suggesting that around 1.2 million women suffered domestic abuse and over 330,000 women were sexually assaulted in England and Wales. Domestic violence accounts for 16% of all violent crime (Source: Crime in England and Wales 04/05 report), but can take up to 35 violent attacks for a woman to seek help.
Often, domestic violence and abuse takes place behind closed doors with friends and family not realising what's happening or knowing what to do. There are lots of ways in which we can help a person who is suffering from physical, psychological, financial abuse or controlling behaviour. Whilst the majority of cases reported happen to women, we know it happens to men too.
It could be happening to your mum, sister, aunt or friend. We have worked with Camden Safety net and members of the health and community services in Camden who have provided this advice to help you spot the signs:
• Controlling behaviour: they are told what they are allowed to do, what to wear and who they can see
• Psychological abuse: they are often insulted by their partner, put down or embarrassed in front of people, made to feel worthless
• Physical abuse: they are physically hurt, have bruises, or are made to feel scared and jumpy
• Isolation: they are becoming increasingly withdrawn from their family and friends, or are prevented from contact with family and friends
• Financial abuse: they have little or no control over their finances or a family member is taking money from them without consent.
We know that there are people who have been in abusive situations for many years and have never been able to speak out, but you can take steps to help. Each of us has the power to reach out to someone we love and tell them that abuse is not their fault.
If you suspect someone might be suffering from any type of domestic violence or abuse, it may be difficult to know what to do but here are some ways you can help:
• Talk to them and help them to open up
• Do not judge them and be patient
• Listen to and believe what they tell you
• Reassure them that the abuse is not their fault and that you are there for them
• Don't tell them to leave or criticise them for staying - they have to make that decision in their own time
• Focus on supporting them and building their self-confidence
• An abused person is often very isolated and has no support - help them to develop or to keep up outside contacts.
You can also encourage them to speak to someone. Although this campaign is Camden focussed, I hope the messages from it will be useful to everyone and that it will help people all over the country to spot the signs of Domestic Abuse and help someone reach out and get the help they need.
Camden Safety Net is the safe place to find independent advice and support for anyone who is experiencing domestic violence or abuse in Camden.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing domestic abuse we can help.
Call our confidential advice service, Camden Safety Net, on 020 7974 2526. For more information on the campaign see: www.camden.gov.uk/know