Rising Above Shadows Of Abuse, hosted and produced by Grace Ovba, is a podcast series which covers the topical issue of abuse, which is prevalent in our society and culture. It highlights the impact of abuse on people’s lives and provides practical advice to help those suffering abuse to cope and recover. In this episode our Head of External Relations, Rosie Watson, speaks to Grace about the work of the DA Alliance to help end violence against women and girls.
Click here to listen to the podcast.
Call handler and caseworker James provides an insight into his role at the DA Alliance.
“My day usually starts with making calls to anyone that has been referred to our service overnight. I help guide people through their legal options and, where required, begin the process of preparing an application for a protection order. This involves making an assessment for legal aid and taking a witness statement from the person, detailing the abuse that has been perpetrated against them.
“Then I will talk them through the next stages of their application, before handing the case over to one of our trusted legal partners for completion. If someone is not eligible for a protection order, we will look to offer them another support mechanism to help their situation. This could involve issuing a warning letter to their perpetrator or signposting the person to other emotional and practical support.
“Working at the DA Alliance has been the perfect platform for me as I work towards being a qualified solicitor. It has provided me with first-hand experience of family law and how the legal system operates. Working in a role where I can make a positive difference to people who really need support is important to me and, here at the DA Alliance, I have that opportunity every day. Even simply informing someone about the legal options that are available can provide them with an element of hope during a difficult time.
“The biggest challenge can be supporting clients to proceed with orders. Often, where a relationship or marriage is long-standing, the abuse has, sadly, become the norm. This can lead some clients to blame themselves for the abusive behaviour and they may feel like they owe it to their perpetrator not to report them. The way I try to overcome this is by reassuring clients that the abuse is not their fault and that there is a way out.
“Working for the DA Alliance has really opened my eyes to the prevalence of domestic abuse, and the lack of awareness about it and where to get help. Many of the people referred to our service are completely unaware of the legal options available to them when we first make contact. I also think more support should be provided once an emergency order is reaching the end of its time period, to ensure victims don’t return to their perpetrator.
“When you’re working in a challenging role like this, you have to remember that what you are doing has such an important purpose; for some people our call really is a lifeline.”
When author Eva Jean wrote “Breaking Free: Recognising and Surviving Controlling Behaviours” her aim was simple; she wanted the book to save lives and to help readers recognise themselves in controlling and abusive situations. In this post, written exclusive for the DA Alliance, Eva shares her own story of abuse and how it led her to produce this catalogue of controlling behaviours to help those feeling trapped by them to escape.
“I myself am a survivor of several abusive relationships, beginning with my father and finally breaking the cycle for good nearly five years ago.
“I had been left traumatised by controlling behaviour, but because I had never been beaten or slapped, I didn’t think I was a victim of domestic violence. Also, because my controllers all looked so ‘different on the outside,’ with completely different styles and ages, I hadn’t connected up the dots with how very different people can exert control in very different ways.
“While one person may shout, another is very softly spoken and calm. One may use shaming, or sulking, whilst another may use religious convictions to get you to toe the line. One will dominate you sexually, while the other withholds affection to control you. But very rarely will the controlling person ever accept that they are controlling.
“I started noting down memories and random examples of things that had happened in my relationships (not just romantic relationships but with family members, and even a friend). As the list grew it became numerous, and more shocking, even to me, and I started linking together different ‘types’ of controlling behaviours, which made it easier for me to access further memories and group them.
“I haven’t been hit, but I have been manipulated, shouted at, domineered, blackmailed, humiliated, threatened, stalked, threatened with rape, coerced into marriage, lied to about money, body-blocked, growled at, with ongoing attempts to isolate me from work, hobbies, friends and family.
“I have been guilt-tripped about why I would need to leave the house twice a week to volunteer following severe postnatal depression and a traumatic birth. Whilst the following day I was told how wonderful and respected I was. By the same person. Talk about a head-trip.
“I have been lied to about my own baby’s weight and statistics, merely to derail me mentally. I have been lied to about my own shoe size, been told I had made a mistake about the time my baby was born (12.43am) – this is the ultimate in ‘crazy-making’ in my eyes.
“I have been stonewalled, ignored, had my feelings trivialised, and been persuaded to make adult content in order to feel ‘worthy’ of a man who had a porn addiction. And I was still told by him that I was only as good as my ‘best’ photo. Often, control and harassment have ramped up once a relationship has ended. And in several cases, I didn’t realise how abusive somebody was until years later when I began to compare notes. And I fully understand how hard it is to walk away when you think you love someone, think you can help them, and genuinely feel that the problems are your own fault.
“The examples of control I documented fall into these sections: Physical, Social, Financial, Sexual, Emotional, Self-Esteem and Children (co-parenting with an abuser).
“These sections became my book, ‘Breaking Free: Recognising & Surviving Controlling Behaviours’ which is available in both e-book and paperback on Amazon. The book also has chapters on how to safely escape, with official advice from women’s charities, as well as examples of how other survivors have stayed sane and escaped, plus advice on dealing with difficult people.
“The book was not an easy write, but it is a necessary read. Just when I think that attitudes towards women are changing enough so that we are not in as much danger just by being women, we read in the news about more violent murders, about how domestic violence is on the rise and how most women who are killed are killed in their own homes; even the accounts of Britney Spears’ terrifying conservatorship at the hands of her controlling father make for sobering reading.
“I know it is not easy to change a whole culture. But we can each do our bit. We can educate ourselves, our children and our loved ones, about the many and varied types of abuse that mostly go hidden because they don’t leave bruises, and because of the shame and blame heaped upon victims by gaslighters. I want my book to be in every person’s hands; in particular every woman’s hands. We need to all look out for each other; we need to break the silence around domestic abuse. More than ever, we need agencies to recognise that there are many hundreds of types of abuse, not just physical violence.
“We also need to sometimes remind ourselves and our children what a loving, healthy relationship looks like. Because many of us never experience that joy. We need to make healthy love the norm, and expose abuse always, and quickly, so that survivors can walk away faster and easier, and with more help.”
St Albans Clock Tower will light up on Thursday 25 November to mark the UK’s White Ribbon Day and the start of a global campaign; the United Nations 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women.
St Albans Business Improvement District (BID), St Albans Museums, and the Domestic Abuse (DA) Alliance have joined forces to demonstrate their shared commitment to tackling domestic abuse in the city.
A White Ribbon will be projected onto St Albans’ Clock Tower between 16:30 and 22:00 to send a clear message that violence against women and girls must end.
“We are proud to be an accredited supporter of White Ribbon UK and we are asking people in their communities, organisations and workplaces to come together and say ‘no’ to violence against women, on 25 November and every day”, said Razi Hassan, Director of Communication and Partnerships, DA Alliance.
“As well as displaying a White Ribbon on the Clock Tower, which is a focal point in the city, we are projecting a series of very poignant portraits drawn by artist Holly Ringrose”, Hassan continued.
“Holly has created unfinished portraits of women who have been killed by their partners, drawing each woman for one minute for every year of their life. The unfinished portraits represent the lives that were tragically cut short by abuse. A permanent display of Holly’s portraits will be installed in our office to remind colleagues how vital the support we provide is to those experiencing domestic abuse”, added Hassan.
“I was inspired by the work of U.S. artist Adrian Brandon, who created a series of unfinished portraits of Black people killed by police in a project called “Stolen” that attracted global attention last year following the death of George Floyd”, said artist Holly Ringrose.
“I want to show that it can happen to anyone – it doesn’t matter how old you are, where you come from, your race, ethnicity or economic background. Domestic abuse is still quite taboo. People think it’s none of their business, but girls and women are losing their lives. We need to speak about it. People forget that domestic abuse is also a pandemic. The first lockdown was catastrophic for so many women. I hope the drawings will make people more aware of what goes on behind closed doors and encourage them to help those who may be experiencing abuse.”
A spokesperson for White Ribbon UK said: “In March 2021, the murder of Sarah Everard brought women’s experience of men’s violence to the forefront of everyone’s minds. #AllMenCan is our leading message this year. It has opened up so many conversations about men taking action and making a stand. As we move towards the end of the year we want as many men as possible to think carefully and make the White Ribbon Promise to never commit, excuse or remain silent about male violence against women.”
Please join the conversation and say “no” to violence against women using the hashtags #WhiteRibbon, #AllMenCan, #MakeThePromise and #SayNoToDomesticSilence
Pictured: This is Giselle Marmon-Herrera (age 37) and her daughter Allison (age 15). Giselle was strangled to death by her partner who then raped and strangled Allison to death, before committing a final act of control and killing himself. Giselle’s sister had said that Giselle wanted to end the relationship due to being controlled. Giselle and Allison’s family describe their loss as devastating and they appeal to anyone at risk of domestic abuse to seek help.
Violence against women and girls – the facts
- In the year ending March 2019, 1.6 million women experienced domestic abuse
Office for National Statistics (2019) Domestic abuse victim characteristics, England and Wales: year ending March 2019
- Almost one in three women aged 16-59 will experience domestic abuse in her lifetime
Office for National Statistics (2019) Domestic abuse in England and Wales overview: November 2019
- Two women a week are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales alone
Office for National Statistics (2019) Homicide in England and Wales: year ending March 2018 (average taken over 10 years)
- 20% of children in the UK have lived with an adult perpetrating domestic abuse
NSPCC (2011) Child abuse and neglect in the UK today; Research into the prevalence of child maltreatment in the United Kingdom
- 41% of UK girls aged 14 to 17 in an intimate relationship experienced some form of sexual violence from their partner
University of Central Lancashire (2015) Written submission from the Connect Centre for International Research on Interpersonal Violence and Harm
- 41% of men aged 18–24 say a woman is totally or partly to blame for her sexual assault if she goes out late at night, wears a short skirt and gets drunk
The Fawcett Society (2017), Sounds Familiar?
- In the year ending March 2018, nine times more women than men were killed by their partner or ex-partner
Office for National Statistics (2019) Homicide in England and Wales: year ending March 2018
- Tackling domestic abuse is not just a moral imperative. £1.3 billion was spent on dealing with domestic abuse in England and Wales in 2016/17. Lost economic output and reduced productivity resulting from domestic abuse cost the country £14 billion. This is in addition to the nearly £50 billion the Home Office estimated as the cost of physical and emotional harm.
The economic and social costs of domestic abuse research report, The Home Office, January 2019
- UK business loses £316m in economic output each year as result of absences related to domestic abuse. In addition, due to the impact on career progression, the potential loss of earnings per female victim of abuse is £5,800 each year.
The workplace impacts of domestic violence and abuse – report by KPMG for Vodafone, July 2019
Caseworker Charlotte shares a typical day at the DA Alliance and what attracted her to the role.
“Every morning I start by calling our clients [victims of domestic abuse] to take witness statements and complete their court documents. This paperwork is then passed to our legal partners (solicitors) for ongoing case management. I also provide support to victims who are representing themselves – they may have questions court papers and the court process, which we can help to answer. My day also includes coffee breaks and laughter with my colleagues. It’s so important to support each other, particularly when you’re in this area of work, so we can all perform to the best of our abilities.
“I was attracted to this role as I have a professional interest in Family Law and wish to pursue a career as a solicitor in this sector. The dissertation I completed for my law degree was about the remedies for domestic abuse so working at the DA Alliance has been ideal in terms of developing my interest and experience in this field.
“I bring a broad range of experience within the legal industry to my role. I have completed an LLB law degree and am currently carrying out my LPC. I have worked for St Alban’s Citizen’s Advice Bureau as an online web advisor and as an advisor for the Hertfordshire Law Clinic. I have also worked as a legal assistant for Reigate and Banstead Borough Council. While I was there I visited a refuge for domestic abuse victims, which first sparked my interest in this area of law.
“The most rewarding aspect of my role is knowing I’ve done my best to provide support to those who need it the most. Receiving that acknowledgment from my clients makes it all worthwhile, and is testament to the invaluable service we provide here.
“The greatest challenge I have faced is telling clients that their case does not have strong enough ‘merits’ to proceed with an application for a court order. However, we can suggest alternative protective measures, which will provide some support.
“I would advise anyone with an interest in the law and domestic abuse support to consider applying for a role at the DA Alliance. Above all, be confident, be yourself, and be prepared to deal with difficult scenarios. Take every day as it comes.”
As the darker, colder nights draw in most people spend more time indoors.
The run up to Christmas can also bring financial strains, and more time spent with family and at social events may lead to increased stress.
For those experiencing domestic abuse these factors can mean more time trapped at home, and an increased risk of abuse occurring.
In England and Wales, there are approximately 2.3 million victims of domestic abuse a year (two-thirds of whom are women).
The actual number of people affected by this often-hidden crime, is likely to be much higher.
As Halloween approaches we are sharing these dramatic images to raise awareness that domestic abuse is happening all around us and it must stop.
Show your support and #SayNoToDomesticSilence by sharing, liking, and commenting on social media.
6 October 2021
Strengthening partnerships, engaging survivors and adopting technology, have led to falling victim attrition rates and increased take up of support by those experiencing domestic abuse in Hertfordshire. In this exclusive case study for Policing Insight, DA Alliance Director of Partnership and Communication, Razi Hassan, shares the success of our WEPROTECT app, which is in use by Hertfordshire Constabulary and the locally-commissioned IDVA service, run by Herts-Refuge.
Click here to read the full article (you may need to register for free to access this content).
Domestic Abuse Alliance joins Retail Trust and Dunelm to urge retail industry to take action on domestic abuse
7 July 2021
Dunelm and the retail industry charity Retail Trust are calling on retail employers to join forces in tackling a shocking rise in domestic abuse.
Together they have partnered with the Domestic Abuse Alliance to launch the retail industry against domestic abuse (RIADA) campaign which will raise awareness of how the retail sector and other businesses can better support employees facing domestic abuse, as calls for help rapidly increase.
The police and domestic abuse helplines have reported soaring rates of calls throughout the pandemic* and the Retail Trust is now providing more counselling services for retail workers experiencing domestic abuse than ever before. Statistics from the World Health Organization show that a quarter of women and one in six men will be affected by domestic abuse in their lives.
And with Euro 2020 underway, research by Lancaster University during three World Cup tournaments found domestic cases reported to police grew by 38% on the days when England lost a football match, and 26% when the team won or drew.
Retailers can sign up for the campaign and download supporting resources including template policies and guidance for managers and employees by going to the Retail Trust’s website. It urges employers to take three key measures:
- Create a domestic abuse policy that will raise awareness among colleagues and make it easier for employees to speak out.
- Educate managers to recognise the signs of abuse and understand how to approach colleague and offer practical support.
- Join the Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse (EIDA) which provides free reports and resources to aid employers.
Retail workers can also access counselling, financial aid and referrals to the Domestic Abuse Alliance for specialist legal advice by contacting the Retail Trust’s wellbeing helpline.
Chris Brook-Carter, chief executive of the Retail Trust, says: “By working together as a collective voice, retail has an unrivalled ability to build hope, health and happiness across the sector and the communities we work in and real power to make a change, both in and outside of the workplace.
“That is why we are now urging businesses to join us, Dunelm and the Domestic Abuse Alliance as we launch the retail industry against domestic abuse campaign to raise awareness of domestic abuse and the actions employers can take to help colleagues when they most need it.
“From displaying helpline numbers in your staffroom and making sure everyone understands the signs of abuse to arranging an employee’s transfer to another shop branch, we in the industry can all do something to help tackle this terrible issue. And by signing up for this campaign, retailers can download a range of resources, including template domestic abuse policies and guides for managers and employees that outline the key signs of abuse and the most appropriate ways to offer help.”
Josie Dickinson, inclusion, diversity and wellbeing senior manager at Dunelm, says: “The home should be a place where you feel comfortable and safe, but we know this isn’t always the case. We’ve worked alongside the Retail Trust to create a manager’s guide and policy as a starting point, and are going to be training all our managers on domestic abuse awareness and signposting, too.
“As a member of RIADA, we feel a real sense of responsibility to educate and support our colleagues.”
Razi Hassan, director of communication and partnership at the Domestic Abuse Alliance, says: “Only five per cent of companies have specific domestic abuse policies or guidelines in place, but all will have some staff who are affected by it. When employers open up the conversation around domestic abuse, it can help break down barriers and encourage people to seek help. RIADA is about retailers coming together and making a joint commitment to protect victims of domestic abuse.
“Retailers can play a crucial role in helping to tackle domestic abuse, which is why we’ve also established a referral pathway with the Retail Trust, offering access to immediate legal support and protection.”
The campaign is also being backed by Domestic Abuse Alliance ambassador Lorraine Stanley, best known for her role as Karen Taylor in Eastenders. Karen’s eldest daughter Chantelle Atkins (Jessica Plummer) was killed by her abusive partner in a harrowing domestic abuse storyline in September 2020.
Lorraine says: “When I was involved in the storyline last year, we worked closely with real people who had been affected by domestic abuse to ensure we portrayed an accurate picture of what life can be like behind closed doors. We’re actors and we’re trained to switch off when filming stops. But for those experiencing abuse, there’s no switching off from it. They’re living with it 24/7, often with no means of escape.
“Businesses and employers can play a vital role in helping to tackle domestic abuse and protect their workforce, before it’s too late.”
CASE STUDIES –
“Having the support of my employers as I rebuilt my life meant the world to me”
Former bank clerk Fiona Bowman, 64, was only able to leave her violent marriage thanks to the actions of her employer, after her manager was called to the hospital when she was left badly injured.
Her bank’s HR team organised a transfer to another branch 400 miles away, arranged for her to see a solicitor to start divorce proceedings, and gave her the time off she needed to start rebuilding her life.
Fiona says: “Having the support of my employers as I rebuilt my life meant the world to me. At last, I knew I could get help if I just reached out and took it.
“When I was discharged from hospital, I went back to my husband, because he’d told me that if I ever left him, he’d find me and kill me – and I believed him. But when I returned to work, a woman from the HR team called Angela drove up from London, handed me her business card and said, ‘I know you don’t want to listen right now, but when you’re ready, and you want to leave, we can help you. It was still a few weeks before I found the courage to call Angela, but when I did, she was incredible.
“Whenever my husband was violent towards me, I learned to hide it from my employers and colleagues, and came up with a catalogue of excuses for my injuries. And sadly, I couldn’t turn to my family for help, which can be the case for a lot of women and men who are experiencing domestic abuse. That’s one of the reasons it’s so important for colleagues to understand the signs, and reach out a helping hand if they can. If you think there’s something wrong, saying, ‘I know you might be having a hard time at the moment, but I’m here if you need me. I can try and help you, or just listen,’ is all it takes.”
“It is almost impossible to think that you might be deserving of some help.”
Last year, the Retail Trust was able to support Libby Mata Harii and her children with financial aid to help them pay their bills and keep warm through a difficult winter after she left an abusive relationship.
Libby says: “Not only has it lifted the weight of a big financial burden and meant we can turn our heating on, it has also given me hope. And a feeling of knowing I deserve help, I deserve support and I deserve money. These are all things that years of abuse made me feel I was undeserving of. So, it’s not only helped us practically, it’s helped me heal psychologically as well.
“It is almost impossible, when suffering from the effects of abuse, to think that you might be deserving of some help. But I was desperate and the staff at the Retail Trust were so easy to communicate with and so kind. It was a simple process which was brilliant as my mind is not able to cope with huge amounts of forms or numbers. But I was so grateful to Sue, who made it all feel so easy, and even more importantly, she made me feel like I deserved it.”
Go to retailtrust.org.uk to sign up for the campaign.
Call 0808 801 0808 to access the Retail Trust’s wellbeing helpline.
Since last year, Central Bedfordshire Council has released a number of podcasts around the theme of domestic abuse. The aim of these podcasts is to increase awareness of domestic abuse – and help those experiencing it – by shining a spotlight on the different services that support victims and challenge the behaviours of those who perpetrate it. The council also is reaching professionals working on the frontline of domestic abuse through discussions about the impact of abuse, empowering victims’ voices, and providing knowledge for continued professional development.
So far, the podcast series has delved into topics such as ‘Coercive Control Within A Domestic Abuse Relationship’ and ‘Domestic Abuse: Stalking and Harassment’. Most recently, Shahid Shoeb from the Domestic Abuse Alliance contributed to their latest recording; ‘Domestic Abuse Protection Orders’.
In this episode Shahid explained what protection is available to victims of domestic abuse, such as an occupation order or prohibited steps order. He also stipulated the process to apply for a protective order and the costs that may be involved as well as the length of time an order will last. Shahid also provided practical advice on when a protection order is the correct course of action, and what a victim can do if they feel the order has been breached.
You can listen to the podcast here, and catch up on previous episodes in the series. If you, or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse and needs legal support, call the Domestic Abuse Alliance helpline on 0800 101 7110 or visit our website.
29 April 2021 marked an historic moment when the long-awaited Domestic Abuse Bill finally received Royal Assent and became enshrined in law. The new Act will provide further protections to those experiencing domestic abuse and strengthen measures to tackle perpetrators.
For the first time in law, domestic abuse has a legal definition and parameters including different types of abuse not just restricted to physical violence. The bill now includes coercive control, emotional and economic abuse.
The Act includes increased police powers to provide victims with immediate protection from their abusers, and better support for victims providing evidence in court, such as the option to appear via video link.
In consultation with the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, campaigners and charities, the government has added new measures to the bill to further strengthen the law, including creating a new offence of non- fatal strangulation, extending an offence to cover the threat to disclose intimate images, and clarifying the law to further clamp down on claims of “rough sex gone wrong” in cases involving death or serious injury.
The law will now also explicitly recognise children as victims if they see, hear or experience the effects of abuse.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said, “The Domestic Abuse Act is long overdue. This landmark act will transform the support we offer across society. This includes the support Government provides to victims to ensure they have the protection they rightly need, so that perpetrators of these abhorrent crimes are brought to justice.”
Domestic Abuse Commissioner Nicole Jacobs has published this video welcoming new measures within the Act but cautioned that “legislation won’t change things overnight”.
Razi Hassan, Director of Partnerships and Communications for the Domestic Abuse Alliance said: “We will continue to work with our partners and ambassadors to support further changes to the law that improve outcomes for victims of domestic abuse. Specifically, we would like to see legal aid made available to victims in all domestic abuse cases, removing any barriers to vital legal support and protection.”