We’ve all been there – helplessly watching a friend, relative, colleague or client slowly get deeper and deeper into a relationship that for some reason we don’t quite feel happy about. It’s difficult to put our finger on it but there is something not quite right. Or perhaps all the warning signs are there, but we don’t know what to do or say for the best. Fear of doing the wrong thing stops us from doing anything at all. Know the feeling?
1 in 4 women will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime (http://www.refuge.org.uk/), so there is a high chance of us all knowing someone at some point who is a victim of domestic abuse. We believe that it takes a whole community to support someone to become free from domestic abuse – what if you could be the difference between someone being a victim and survivor this year?
Here are 5 ways that you could make a difference for someone in an unhealthy or abusive relationship this year:
- Stay in contact. Abusers often try to isolate their victims, so it’s time to develop a thick skin. Keep inviting them to spend time with you even if they frequently turn you down. Keep the channels of communication open, even if it’s by sending a fortnightly text that they hardly respond to. One day they might be ready to talk and knowing there is someone who still cares could be the deciding factor.
- Build their confidence. Abusers wear down the confidence of their victims which can lead to feelings of dependency and a perceived lack of the strength needed to escape the relationship. Encourage them, acknowledge their strengths, build them up and remind them of the reasons why they are valuable and worthy of being treated well.
- Gather information. Even if they are not ready to seek help, it’s worth finding out what help is available locally so that you can quickly access it when the time comes. This website tells you all the support services available in Kent. Additionally Childrens’ Centres, Police stations, CAB offices, Housing Associations and Health Visitors often have information on the local services. You can also call the national 24 hour domestic violence helpline on 0808 2000 247.
- Talk Safety. If you are able to have a direct conversation with the person, let them know that you are concerned for their safety and discuss ways they can stay safe. Where will they go if they need to get out of the house? Agree a code word that they can call or text you so that you will know that they need you to get help. Encourage them to prioritise their safety over the happiness of the abuser. Offer to keep copies of important documents such as passports, benefit documents, mortgage statements etc for them so they can be quickly accessed in an emergency.
- Be open minded. Abusers are great at making the world believe that they are great and then being something else entirely behind closed doors. It is important that you both believe what the victim tells you and affirm that it isn’t their fault. It is also important that you don’t judge them or their decisions to stay in the relationship. It takes time for people to feel ready to leave.
Remember: in an emergency call 999; the victim is never to blame for the abuse they suffer; domestic violence is a crime and is dangerous; everyone has the right to live a life free from abuse.
Be part of our 2017 Spread the Love campaign by sharing this post on social media and donating just £5 to #spreadthelove to someone who won’t be receiving any this Valentines day.
For more information and advice see Refuge’s website.
If you are looking for help in Swale, SATEDA have a number of drop-in and One Stop Shop services which you can come along o without an appointment for some free, no-stings attached help. See here for locations and times.