A registered social worker has published the first instalment in a series of child-friendly books ‘It’s ok to talk’, dedicated to capturing the voice of the child in matters of child protection and public health issues.
In the first book, Joey is a young boy who lives at home with his mother and her boyfriend. He experiences domestic abuse in his home. He is torn between telling the truth and keeping secrets, a common theme in many lives of children in similar households. This book is not written as an independent read for children, it is designed purposefully for use between the child and professionals who may hold concerns about this topic. It encourages the child to explore their own narrative based on Joey’s thoughts, experiences and feelings. The aim is to support children to be more open with professionals about what is happening or has happened in their own homes so that they can find the right support for them and their families.
Author, Emily Hill, said: “I know how hard it is to encourage a child placed outside of the family to open up. I also know that the most vulnerable children are often silenced by their families and therefore go unheard and unsupported during times which place their welfare at significant risk. This book is designed to be a practical tool to aid conversation and disclosures.”
In 2021 we co-created Sharon’s Policy – a domestic abuse policy for SMEs informed by business woman Sharon Livermore’s lived-experience of abuse. It aims to help employers to take action on domestic abuse; to spot the signs, encourage disclosures, and to support employees who may be experiencing it.
Sharon’s Policy has recently been updated, and undergone legal review, to ensure that employees’ experiences are more widely understood in line with new domestic abuse legislation (2021 Domestic Abuse Act). Sharon’s Policy is available free of charge to all EIDA members, as part of their toolkit for Employers. To find out more visit eida.org.uk.
Pictured: Sharon Livermore – Cambridgeshire Businesswoman, DA Survivor, and Ambassador for the DA Alliance and EIDA.
The Domestic Abuse (DA) Alliance has been presented with a Mayor’s Pride Award 2022 held to celebrate extraordinary people and outstanding organisations that make a positive contribution to the local community.
On White Ribbon Day 2021 we projected a series of unfinished portraits onto St Albans Clock Tower to commemorate the women whose lives were cut short by abuse. Digital artist Holly Ringrose drew each woman for one minute for every year of their life. The incomplete portraits represent that these women were never allowed to live their full lives.
This event left a lasting impression on St Albans Mayor Edgar Hill who presented a Special Recognition Award to members of the DA Alliance team at a ceremony held at St Michael’s Manor on Tuesday 29th March.
DA Alliance Director of Partnership and Communication Razi Hassan said: “We are incredibly proud to receive the Mayor’s Pride Award in recognition of the vital legal lifeline we provide to victims of domestic abuse. In the last year we have received over 3,000 referrals from Hertfordshire Police and other local services on behalf of victims who require legal support. We have also helped to secure court orders for almost 250 Hertfordshire victims in the past two years – that’s two people per week who may otherwise have become a fatal statistic. We remain committed to providing legal assistance to anyone in St Albans, and across Hertfordshire and beyond, who is experiencing abuse, so they can feel safe again.”
Domestic Abuse during COVID19: response of police and criminal justice agencies to the Shadow Pandemic
The Domestic Abuse Alliance is pleased to have supported the research team at Liverpool University, which has completed an 18-month UKRI funded project investigating police and criminal justice responses to domestic abuse during the COVID pandemic.
This project was designed to investigate how the police responded to the anticipated rise in domestic abuse during the lockdown period and how the courts would deliver justice to victims once they reopened.
Key findings include:
- The role of digital technology in providing the best service for victims;
- Connecting with victims to understand what worked and needs now to become embedded as normal practice;
- The importance of preparing Evidence Led Prosecution (ELP) files in all domestic abuse cases; and
- Investment to reduce court capacity and address the significant backlog in the courts.
The research team found the pandemic and its effects in responding to domestic abuse have been more notable for some parts of the criminal justice system than other. Changes in patterns of offending and the subsequent demand on police forces provided the resources to respond to domestic abuse in different ways, including the introduction of innovative digital practices.
However, the courts system remains challenged in its capacity to move forward from the COVID pandemic.
Further information about the study can be found on the project website.
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.