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My Spring 2016 Freedom Programme got off to a good start on the 24th February. These are a couple of pictures I took before everyone arrived.
New Freedom Programme starting on 24th February 2016 in Westminster, London. Fully Booked!!!
In my regular trawl of the internet looking for interesting facts, new legislation etc on domestic abuse, I stumbled across the attached.https://www.ibtimes.co.uk/salon-saviours-wolverhampton-hairdressers-trained-spot-signs-domestic-abuse-customers-1540824
What an ingenious idea! I have tried this before, without success. When developing the IDV service for Westminster, London, in 2004, I visited lots of hairdressers asking them to advertise the new IDVA service in their salons. I met with horror and much anxiety. “We don’t want to put our clients off coming here”, most of them said! I returned to the drawing board with tail between my legs!
Surely, establishments where mainly only women frequent is the ideal place to advertise such services. A safe haven. We all talk to our hairdressers about things that we wouldn’t normally discuss with just anyone – don’t we? I know I do! So I was really pleased to see that this initiative is at work in Wolverhampton and that salons have signed up to it. I will be sure to keep an eye out to see how they get on.
Today, it took me two and a half hours to get into London to work. It was freezing. I wondered, as I have done so many times in the past, why I do this?!. I spend a minimum of 4 hours daily, travelling. The work of a domestic abuse specialist is not always easy. Most of the time you wonder if you really are making any difference – in fighting the constant stigma, myths and stereotypes of Violence against Women and Girls. I was thinking just this, this morning. And then this happened………………..
One of my clients gave me these beautiful flowers and card. And I remembered why I do all the travelling. Why I do the job. Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t feel I have done anything really to deserve this thank you gift. She has done it all. She has turned her life around for herself and her children. I have just been there to encourage her, to remind her she is strong and to hug her when she has felt it is all too much to deal with. But to know that she has appreciated that, makes me proud to be a Domestic Abuse Consultant. And I remember, that I do make a difference, no matter how small. We all do.
Here are some testimonials from the Autumn Freedom Programme in Westminster, London.
“The Freedom Programme is a fantastic programme to be on. The co-ordinator of the sessions, Sharon Bryan, has been brilliant in supporting us women on the group and always had our sessions planned so we could make the most of our time. All of the women on the group were very open and honest about their own experiences which made me feel not alone in my situation. I would recommend other women who experience domestic abuse attend this group. Thank you Sharon Bryan“.
“I loved the programme. It helped me to see things clearer. I am able to identify abusive behaviour and I don’t think the chances are very high that I will end up in another relationship with an abusive man. Overall, the impact has been very positive and I would recommend it to all women”.
“I constantly have in mind all of the ‘trigger’ traits of an abuser/controlling man. I feel that having completed the Freedom Programme, my knowledge of domestic abuse will remain with me forever”.
“It was a massive transformation. It helped me to turn my ways of thinking. The negative things my husband made me believe about myself have turned to positive things. The Freedom Programme has given me confidence. I am stronger and happier.”
“I learnt to recognise the warning signs and tactics of an abuser. Also a very important aspect for me was to stop blaming myself for getting involved in an abusive relationship.”
With the news this afternoon that the man wanted for the murder of Sian Blake and her two small children, has been arrested in Ghana, we can hope that Sian’s family will see justice done and that Sian and the children will be able to rest in peace. Right from the start, I knew this was a domestic homicide. I always know, as I am sure anyone who work s in the field also always knows. But the words ‘domestic abuse’ are very rarely used in media reports. Why? Why in this day and age are these two words still a ‘taboo’ subject? I have always felt that if these two words were used more often in media reports, then the scale of domestic abuse would be more widely recognised and understood by the general public. Not a week goes past where we don’t hear on the television news, radio and newspapers, of women and/or their children being killed by their partners or ex partners. I made a point this week of keeping count of how many I read about in the newspaper. The tally is so far 6!! I am sure there are more that I have missed. But only 1 of those reports mentioned the words ‘domestic abuse/violence’. And that was Sian Blake’s case. Don’t get me wrong. I was relieved that the words were used but there was still a ‘feel’ to the article that made it read as though this was not common. Sadly Sian Blake’s case is all too common.
Many years ago the word ‘Aids’ was taboo aswell. No one spoke of it or mentioned the word. Now, Aids is not taboo at all. People speak of it every day and no one is shocked anymore by it. There is now great understanding of the illness and that is because people talk about it openly. Why is it then, that this does not apply to domestic abuse? To help people understand more about domestic abuse, we have to stop treating it as a ‘taboo’ subject. We need to name it, say it, and not be wary of doing so. Who will join me?!
Happy New Year to everyone who reads this. As a new year starts, most of us are looking forward to going back to work tomorrow, as am I. But the 4th January has always been a very busy but not so enjoyable day for me in my profession. I don’t know how many of my fellow colleagues up and down the country would agree, but in my 20 years experience of working in the field of domestic abuse, the 4th of January has always been a date that many, many women finally find the courage to escape their abusive partner. I do have a theory for this. I feel that maybe it is because Christmas and New Year are times when they want their children/families to be happy. Being that most women in abusive relationships feel a sense of responsibility, and also, although they shouldn’t, shame about what they have experienced, they do not want to upset anyone. No time is a good time to leave an abusive relationship! but the festive year is definitely out of bounds! The first ‘normal’ day after the festive period is usually the 4th of January and so I believe this is when women make the decision to leave. All that has happened during the festive period, they suffer quietly for fear that their children and families happiness will be spoilt. I’ve always found it very ironic that I, myself left my abusive relationship on the 4th of January – 28 years ago tomorrow! For exactly the same reasons I have spoken of. So I will return to work tomorrow with a heavy heart for what the day will bring but also with the knowledge that these women will be making the very important step of living without fear and I shall salute them, one and all.
With the latest news that Harrow Council are funding ‘couples work’ for cases where there has been domestic abuse, let us hope that they embark on this work with the utmost care. I feel that this is something a lot of local authorities will be doing in the pursuit of cutting down on their already limited resources.
It has long been the opinion of every trained domestic abuse practitioner, that this type of intervention is at best ill advised and at worst, extremely dangerous. If you ask any woman that has experienced domestic abuse whether this is what they would have wanted to do, they will react with horror!! Domestic abuse is not about couples disagreeing. It is about one person’s power and control over the other. This means that effectively, if you put these two people in a room with a therapist or similar, the person that is or has been abused will not feel able to say what they really want to say, for fear of repercussions later. And if that person does say what they want to say, they risk severe repercussions later! That takes away the purpose of couple intervention completely because the sessions are one sided.
I would really hope that this is taken into consideration and that as a bare minimum, both parties are fully risk assessed before a decision is made whether they are suitable for this work.
This month saw the coming into force of new legislation around coercive control. Coercive control has now been criminalised as an offence under The Serious Crime Act 2015.
Under section 76 (1) of the Act ‘a person (A) commits an offence if: (a) A repeatedly or continuously engages in behaviour towards another person (B) that is controlling or coercive, (b) at the time of the behaviour, A and B are personally connected, (c) the behaviour has a serious effect on B, and (d) A knows or ought to know that the behaviour will have a serious effect on B.’
This criminalisation of psychologically abusive behaviour provides an important legal protection to domestic abuse victim/survivors, who have previously been left vulnerable when experiencing non-physical abuse. The legislation is an important step in ensuring that domestic abuse is more readily recognised and it will provide support to criminal justice agencies such as the police, which have often struggled to respond adequately to non-violent abuse.
Traditionally, domestic violence has been understood to be isolated incidents of physical violence perpetrated by a partner or ex-partner. The term coercive control emphasises that it is not about fights, that abuse is on-going and that it comprises much more than physical violence. This is not to say that verbal and/or physical fights do not take place between partners, but it is important to distinguish between these and the social concern that is domestic abuse.
Even when we acknowledge the emotional, psychological, financial and sexual elements of domestic abuse, as practitioners we still focus primarily on acts of physical violence in our discussions and responses to domestic abuse. Talking about coercive control helps us to rethink what constitutes domestic abuse.