Some actual good news.

Amidst the torrent of bad, unsettling, depressing and even ‘fake’ news there has been a glimmer of light: in April a bill was passed to timetable the government to ratify (make official) the Istanbul Convention – the gold standard in legislation for the protection of women and girls from gender-based violence.

This significant victory in the battle to secure the protection of women and girls was some of the best news we’ve had in a while!

IC Change, group who have been leading the campaign have released this statement to explain why this is good news:

The bill’s successful passage through the Commons and Lords marks one of the greatest political achievements for the safety of women in history. The government must now report on its progress to bring other areas of the law in line with the terms of the Istanbul Convention.

 

A Bill to timetable the ratification of the Istanbul Convention, the gold standard in legislation against all forms of gender-based violence including so-called “honour crimes” and FGM, has successfully passed its third reading at the House of Lords. This means it will soon be passed into law and require the Government to provide progress reports on the implementation of the Istanbul Convention.

 

Rachel Nye, co-director of IC Change, said: “We are thrilled at the success of the Bill at third reading. It is a testament to the hard work of Dr Eilidh Whiteford and the team of cross party MPs who have supported it along the way. We look forward to this Bill becoming law and seeing progress towards the end goal – the ratification of the Istanbul Convention.

 

“We do this campaigning in our spare time. We do it because we are acutely aware of the impact violence against women has on our society. Many excellent services exist to support women and to tackle the root causes of these problems, but without a government-led, joined up approach, we are not achieving our full potential and women remain at risk.”

 

Cat*, a survivor who campaigns with IC Change, emphasised just how much this news means to British women: “Having witnessed the impact of abuse on my mother, and finding out my sister endured an abusive relationship I realised that these things don’t happen in isolation. I was also raped, and I experienced everyday sexism and harassment on an almost daily basis from the age of 12. To change this, we need to an approach which joins up the dots and tackles the root causes of abuse.”

 

On 16th December 2016 and again on 24th February, 135 MPs from across all parties voted* in favour of the bill in the House of Commons. This legislation is needed because, on average, two women in England and Wales are killed every week by a current or former male partner and at least one in five women has experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16.[1]

 

The UK Government signed a commitment to seeing it through almost five years ago, but the government have so far failed to honour their promise.

 

SNP MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP originally put forward the bill, preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (ratification of Convention) 2016-17.

 

Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP, who brought forward the Bill, said: “I brought forward this Bill because the Istanbul Convention has the potential to change the lives of women in my own constituency of Banff and Buchan, across the whole of the UK and also globally. The Convention is the gold standard for legislation to prevent and combat violence against women and girls, and domestic violence. 
”Since I started the process of bringing forward this Bill in June 2016, the Government have moved quite significantly – with the PM committing to overseeing new legislation on domestic violence. This could be, if the Government want it to be, the legislative vehicle to bring the UK into full compliance with the convention, paving the way for ratification.
”I’m very pleased to have been able to steer through legislation, but it’s only the beginning. Now we’ll be holding the Government to account on their report and timetable for ratification. I won’t stop this work until the UK ratifies the Istanbul Convention.”

 

This Bill also had backing from women’s organisations across the country including all federations of Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis, and Southall Black Sisters”.

For more information visit http://icchange.co.uk/pmb/


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Look beyond the violence: coercive control

A couple of week ago I was able to experience a lecture by Evan Stark, author of ‘Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life’. I say “experience” as oppose to listened to, because a lecture by Evan Stark is a performance, which touches the part of your brain where inspiration lives. Everything Evan said got me thinking, “Yes! That’s exactly right!” and left me wanting to work even harder for victims and survivors of domestic abuse. I want to share some of those “light bulb” moments with you, so you may also feel inspired to help make a difference and force some change for the better.

Evan asked us to “look beyond the violence”. He explained that in our law system, crimes are punished based upon their seriousness. In terms of violence, the level of harm to the victim determines the level of punishment. He told us that typically, day-to-day domestic abuse incidents do not result in criminal offences that are punishable at a very high level. The persistent and unrelenting day-to-day assaults upon a woman, in her own home, dished out by the person who she should be able to trust, do not reach a level of seriousness which would constitute a heavy prison sentence, unless they are recognised in context. Unless they are recognised as a “course of conduct,” intended to erode any sense of self of the victim, intended to imprison the victim within the relationship, intended to remove any liberties that the rest of society are able to enjoy, and ultimately, intended to coercively control every single aspect of the victim’s life.

This is coercive control and coercive control is now a criminal offence.

Coercive control is the reality of day-to-day life for many women.

Imagine not having a choice about any aspect of your life: what to wear, what to eat, what time to get up, what time to go to bed. Imagine waking every-day, making a promise to yourself that you will do whatever is needed to stay out of the firing line of your husband/partner. Imagine then finding out that the rules of the game have changed, and that you don’t know what to do to stay out of his firing line because he has moved the goal posts. Everything you do is wrong.

Imagine that you are also trying to protect your children from experiencing this abuse – and it’s not enough to say they are ‘witnessing’ the abuse – they live within this environment, so they too are experiencing the abuse that their mother is subjected to– even if they are not physically harmed or directly targeted.

Imagine that you have professionals telling you that you are failing to protect your children by staying in this relationship, that you are not putting their needs before your own because you are choosing to stay with your abuser. They tell you that if you were a good mother you would be going into a refuge, away from your home, from your friends (if you have any left – chances are your abuser has worked his magic and got rid of them already), away from your community and the only sense of control you feel you have over your life.

Imagine, that you do manage to end the relationship, only to be told by the family courts that your husband has rights of contact with your children, and if you don’t uphold the court order for contact you will be punished. They say in court that you are the problem, he is only violent to you, so if you aren’t there the children will be fine. They take into account the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder you have been left with following the years of beatings and mind games and they wonder if the children might be better off with their dad, who has a good job and no mental health problems….

This is the reality for the women SATEDA supports.

This is not about violence alone, this is about the systematic erosion of a person’s sense of self. This is “intimate terrorism,” a human rights crime of liberty, which every single agency, and every single professional who works with victims of abuse and their families needs to “get”. Whether your focus is the children, the crime, the housing situation, the mother, the family law, YOU have a duty to understand the complexities and the nuances of what women who are coercively controlled are living with. Otherwise the victim will be re-victimised by the system that is meant to be in place to support her.

Spare four minutes and watch Evan Stark explain this himself.

Please share this with others.

Take care of yourself and each other

Liza

CEO, SATEDA

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If you would like further training to help you understand the complexities of coercive control and domestic abuse, then get in touch with SATEDA by emailing admin@sateda.org

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“Why doesn’t she just leave?”

Before working for SATEDA this would have been my response to hearing the stories of many victims of domestic abuse. Maybe you’ve thought exactly the same thing? In most other circumstances, leaving a situation where someone else is making your life a misery is a no-brainer. But it’s not quite that simple where domestic abuse is concerned. Here are a few reasons why victims can’t always ‘just leave’ and some suggestions of how you can help:

Hope for change:A victim can easily hope that change is just around the corner. They have probably invested a lot in the relationship and they naturally really want it to work out. They also probably love their abuser and the occasional moments when they are show affection can be enough to fuel their hope through the next acts of abuse. How to help: Be honest with the victim if you don’t think there is any hope for change. Suggest that the abuse isn’t because of stress at work/financial problems/health concerns/drink problem but because of the abuser’s belief system , which isn’t going to change.

 Nowhere to go: Often victims of abuse will have had access to money taken from them so they cannot pay for anywhere else to stay. They might have become socially isolated so the pool of people they could stay with is fairly small, particularly if they don’t want to be found by their abuser. Refuge spaces could be anywhere in the country and whilst it would remove you from the abusive situation it also removes you from lots of positive things such as support networks, jobs and studies. How to help: Help the victim gather information on their options of where they could go and what help they could access should they decide to leave. The local council will have team of housing officers who can help.

 Leaving can be dangerous. Often abuse escalates once the victim leaves. Abusers want control over their victims and leaving is an act that challenges that control and so the abuse can get worse in order to regain power. How to help: Encourage the victim to work with a specialist support agency to plan a safe exit from the relationship. SATEDA can help if you live in Swale.

 Lack of self-confidence. Abuse works by destroying the confidence and self esteem of the victim. It is quite likely that a victim doesn’t think that they are strong enough to leave or that they will be able to cope without the ‘protection’ or ‘help’ of their abuser. They may also have been made to believe that no one else could ever find them attractive or want to be in a relationship with them, and so staying in an abusive relationship seems better than facing a lifetime alone. How to help: Be encouraging and do what you can to build their confidence.

 What about the children? Victims will be made to feel that if they leave, it will be their fault that their children will not have two parents living under the same roof. They will feel guilty about breaking up a ‘happy home’ and may also fear the stigma attached to being a divorcee/single parent family, for which they will be blamed. How to help: Remind the victim that it is not their actions that are causing family breakdown but the actions of the abuser. The victim wouldn’t need to leave if their partner wasn’t abusive. Remind them that leaving will protect their children from both witnessing and experiencing abuse themselves.

Believes it’s normal. If a victim has only ever been in a relationship with their abuser, or seen other abusive relationships, they may just think that it’s normal and what all relationships are like. How to help: Show the victim examples of positive relationships.

Manipulation. A key feature of domestic abuse is emotional manipulation and coercion. The victim’s way of thinking and viewing their situation may have become so influenced by their abuser that they won’t consider thinking about leaving as an option or something that they need to do. Read Crystal’s story about this hereHow to help: Try and consistently but gently present truth to the victim, such as why things aren’t all their fault or why they didn’t deserve that piece of abuse, why they deserve better etc.

There are many more reasons why a victim doesn’t ‘just leave’ the relationship and each situation is very complex. HOWEVER, it is important to remind victims that leaving an abusive relationship and building a life free from abuse IS possible for them and a life of freedom is a human right. It is also important that the victim is empowered to do this in their own timing and isn’t pressured or rushed into it. In the mean time, helping the person stay safe whilst they remain in the relationship is important. SATEDA are of course here to help anyone in Swale who needs help to stay safe and become free from abuse. Find out how we can help here. For those further afield, here is where you can find out about domestic abuse services in Kent, or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

For more suggestions on how you can support someone who is a victim of domestic abuse, you can read our previous blog post. You can also read about more barriers to leaving on the Refuge website here.

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Your donation could make the difference to someone’s life today. 

No amount is too small and there is no such thing as an amount that’s too big! We appreciate every penny and every pound that comes our way-and so do our clients who directly benefit from your generous giving.

One-off Donation:

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Whether its £5 per month to help us pay our volunteer expenses or £20 per month to pay for someone to receive counselling support, a regular donation could really help us. You can set up your regular donations here.

 

Thank you.

Thank you!

A collection of Thank Yous to all the wonderful people who have fundraised for us:

THANK YOU to all of you who sponsored our Abseil!

On a blustery June Sunday a number of SATEDA team members and supporters abseiled down a block of flats to raise some valuable cash for the charity. Thanks to them and you we raised a whopping £1645!! Which is 164% of our target! THANK YOU!

Thank you Sittingbourne Community College!

Massive thank you to  students from Sittingbourne Community College who organised and put on a music show in order to raise money for SATEDA. They raised a whopping £142.42 and we are very very grateful-thank you so much!

SCC

Thank You Asda!

Thank you very much to the lovely people of Sittingbourne Asda who have raised £50 for us as part of their work in the community.  We will use the money towards an event for young people in Swale to raise awareness of healthy relationships.

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Children, domestic violence and the future

Recent political events both at home and oversees have shown us that there are few constants in life. But two things we can rely upon are the passage of time and the ageing process. Peter Pan is a work of fiction – childhood inevitably becomes adulthood and even Donald Trump was a child once. I wonder if his mother, as she gazed lovingly down on Donald the new-born, ever imagined that one day he would be the leader of the free world? If she had, would she have done anything different in her parenting?

The well-known philosopher Whitney Houston has often been heard expressing  her belief that “children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way”. This statement is easily dismissed, either because it scores 10/10 on the cliché-Richter scale, or because Whitney isn’t everyone’s musical cup of tea. But it does make us consider our stance on the nature/nurture debate, particularly when it comes to domestic abuse.

Is a child’s future determined solely on their DNA or do their experiences and environment also impact on the adult they will become? The jury’s still out from an academic point of view, but our experience has shown us that it’s a bit of both and that nurture has just as much, if not more, of an influence than nature on who a child becomes.

Then NSPCC say that 1 in 5 children are exposed to some form of domestic abuse and that there currently130,000 children living in households with high risk domestic abuse. A report by Safe Lives in 2014 (In Plain Sight) found that exposure to domestic abuse causes serious physical and psychological harm to children. Of the children involved in the study 52% had behavioural problems, 60% felt responsible for the negative events, 52% had problems with social development and relationships, and 39% had difficulties adjusting at school. In addition, only around half knew how to keep themselves safe (56%) or get help (62%), a quarter (24%) did dangerous or harmful things, around half were often unhappy (46%), worried (52%) and/or angry (43%), and half (55%) found it difficult to sleep.

These statistics are concerning. However, if nurturing has a part to play, then we can counteract the impact of domestic abuse. We want to nurture children and young people so that they grow up as empowered individuals who know the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships. We want to nurture children and young people who have been affected by domestic abuse so that any negative impact stops here and doesn’t continue throughout their childhood and into adulthood. We want to see a decline in the number of adult victims and perpetrators of domestic abuse in the future by positively impacting children today.

The things we invest in today will have an impact tomorrow, so why not partner with us and help us to positively impact more children and young people? We run a range of support and preventative programmes , including supporting children who have witnessed domestic abuse at home, supporting young people in abusive relationships and supporting families where children are abusing their parents.

You can partner with us simply by advocating for good support for young people, or by making a donation, fundraising or volunteering to help us reach more people.

 

 

 

 

Spread the Love: Valerie

David and I were together for six years. He beat me up for four of them. He didn’t touch me to start with, but he used to call me a ‘slag’ and much worse. He made me feel useless, like I couldn’t do anything properly on my own. It was worst when we were with friends – it was like he enjoyed making me feel small in front of them.

It wasn’t all the time though and that’s why it was so hard to work out what was going on. I talked myself into believing it wasn’t a serious problem and that no relationship was perfect.

The first time he ever slapped me we’d been out to a bar. We’d had a really good night because lots of our friends were there too. It was a laugh. But when we got back home he said I’d been flirting with his best mate, Darren. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t even fancy Darren – it was Matt I was in love with. Matt looked at me with this coldness in his eyes and said really quietly, “You tart”. Then he slapped me.

After that it got worse but I stuck with him because every time he kicked or punched me he said he was sorry. And he always told me how much he loved me. Then I got pregnant and it got ten times worse. In the end he kicked me so badly that I lost the baby.

This Valentines Day, Valerie will be getting slaps instead of kisses and abuse instead of love. You can #Spreadthelove this Valentines Day and help someone like Alice by donating just £5 today.

*Names have been changed to protect the people involved. This story was taken from the Refuge website.

 

Spread the Love: Alice

Alice and Ben got together when she was 17 and he was 19. He was her first boyfriend and was completely charming. He bought her presents, made her friends laugh and he noticed her. A few months into the relationship he started getting a bit jealous when she spent time with her family or friends. He said he felt left out and that her family didn’t like him because he was struggling to get a job. He started checking her phone, getting angry when there were messages from other men on there-even if it was a colleague at work texting about a work matter. Once he got so angry he smashed the phone down on the kitchen side. Alice’s social circle quickly got very small, but when Alice said anything about this to Ben, he would get upset, asking why he wasn’t enough for her.

Then Alice got pregnant. At first they were really happy, and decided to move in together as it would be best for the baby Ben said. But then Ben lost his job and he got depressed. He would call her names, make her feel ugly and said it was just as well she got pregnant as she wouldn’t have been clever enough for college anyway.

One night, Alice tried to talk back. She said he couldn’t keep speaking to her like that and taking her phone from her and always coming with her, even when she went to the shops. Ben got angry and pushed heavily pregnant Alice against the wall. Luckily the baby was ok. Alice didn’t talk back again.

Fast forward to two years ago. After years of emotional and physical abuse, Alice split up with Ben. She got a new partner. She did the freedom programme and felt well supported to ignore his constant messages and abuse. However once the freedom programme ended and that support had to come to an end, she stopped feeling strong. Eventually, after death threats to both her and her new partner from Ben, Alice relented. She split up with the new partner and let Ben move back into the flat.

Today, Alice is experiencing the same abuse as before. Two weeks ago he threatened to cut her clothes up in front of the children. That was after he poured crushed crisps onto her wet hair after she had got out of the shower. That night she broke up with him. He left the flat to stay at his mums. Since then he has sent her up to 50 messages a day, starting with apologies and ending in threats to her life or claiming he will commit suicide if she doesn’t get back together with him.

He lets himself into the flat whenever he wants as he still has a key and doesn’t think twice about pushing her around. He has hospitalised her before after trying to suffocate her with a pillow, so what’s a little pushing and shoving to him?

When he last had the children, at 6am he threatened to send them (age 3 and 6) back to her house in a taxi at 6am if she wont come and pick them up herself. They had arranged he would drop them home at 10am.

Alice is afraid. She is afraid of what he might do to her if he doesn’t get his way. She is afraid of how it will affect the children. She is afraid of getting back together with him because she wont feel safe or strong enough to not.

This Valentines Day, Alice will be getting bruises instead of bunches of flowers and abuse instead of love. You can #Spreadthelove and help someone like Alice by donating just £5 today.

*Names have been changed to protect the people involved.