October was first declared National Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the USA in 1989. Since then, it has been used as a time to acknowledge domestic abuse survivors and be a voice for its victims. Globally, one in three women experiences physical or abusive behaviour, usually by an intimate partner. One in six men also experience physical or emotional abuse.
Women’s Aid defines domestic abuse as:
“Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence, usually by a partner or ex-partner, but also by a family member or carer.”
Domestic abuse is largely a hidden crime, occurring mainly in the home. The Covid-19 pandemic has heightened domestic abuse with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reporting that in mid-May 2020, there was a 12% increase in the number of domestic abuse cases referred to victim support. Between April and June 2020, there was a 65% increase in calls to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, when compared to the first three months of that year.
Domestic abuse occurs in our Jamat and takes many forms. In response to this, the Domestic Abuse Taskforce was established and is committed to recognising and addressing abuse within intimate and family relationships. The Taskforce was set up in 2017 and now features members from all institutions to provide a multi-disciplinary approach to:
1. Help the Jamat affected by domestic abuse
2. Raise awareness within the Jamat and undertake activities in prevention
3. Train institutional volunteers to recognise, support and manage cases
4. Identify and develop resources to support activities and case work
Controlling behaviour in relationships – abuse isn’t always physical
Domestic abuse does not always involve physical violence. It can be sexual, financial and emotional abuse and can happen to anyone. Sustained controlling behaviour such as regularly intimidating, bullying, criticising or threatening someone in a personal relationship, are all forms of what is called ‘coercive control’. This is a form of domestic abuse and is a criminal offence.
As well as bullying and criticism, common traits of coercive control can include checking the other’s phone, making them dress or look a certain way, wanting to know where they are and who they are seeing, restricting their money or cutting them off from friends and family.
The impact of domestic abuse on children has also been well documented. Children can experience both short and long term cognitive, behavioural and emotional effects as a result of witnessing domestic abuse. These include becoming anxious and depressed, difficulty sleeping, having nightmares or flashbacks, they may become aggressive, or they may internalise their distress and withdraw from other people (Royal College of Psychiatrists, 2004). Children may feel angry, guilty, insecure, alone, frightened, powerless or confused.
While domestic violence and abuse are sometimes hidden, if we know the signs of an abusive relationship, we may be able to recognise it better and seek or offer help.
We are here to help…you are not alone.
If you think you are being abused, seek help. Please reach out and begin the journey to end an abusive situation. Call your GP, a trusted relative or friend.
If you are concerned about a friend who may be experiencing domestic violence or abuse or feels unsafe around someone, review these tips on how to help them find safety and support.
- Be supportive and believe them. Reassure them that they are not alone and that help, and support are available. Recognise that it may be difficult for them to talk about the abuse. If they want to talk, listen carefully and be empathetic.
- Respect their right to consent. Unless you strongly believe that your friend’s life is in danger, avoid taking actions without their consent. They know the safety risks best, and, therefore, they should be driving any decisions related to the abuse they are experiencing.
- Respect their privacy. Because of safety issues, stigma, feelings of shame and victim-blaming that survivors often face, it is critical that their experiences and identity remain confidential, unless they give explicit consent to reveal them.
- Offer practical assistance and share resources. Let your friend know that you want to help. If you are able, offer them a safe place to stay, transportation, or other forms of support that may increase their safety.
If you feel unsafe or have experienced physical abuse, contact the police.
Alternatively, contact a domestic abuse helpline or our Jamati institutions on the numbers below.
999 press 55 when prompted if you can't speak
National Domestic Abuse Helpline
Telephone 0808 2000 247
Men’s Advice Line
Telephone 0808 8010 327
Social Welfare Board
Email [email protected]
National Conciliation and Arbitration Board
Telephone 07714 330698
Email [email protected]
Ask for Ani
Anyone of any gender can now go into a participating pharmacy and ask for 'Ani', pronounced Annie, an acronym for 'action needed immediately'. They will then be taken by a staff member into a private room where they will be helped and put in touch with the relevant support services
Bright Sky app
Bright Sky is a mobile app and website for anyone experiencing domestic abuse, or who is worried about someone else. The app can be downloaded for free from the app stores. Only download the app if it is safe for you to do so and if you are sure that your phone isn’t being monitored.