Often I get asked whilst I travel up and down the country about what help is out there regarding Domestic Violence? It seems a simple query, but its response is fragmented at the best of times, in these barbaric time of cuts – it is less than fragmented.
I am pleased to be able to say that wherever you are in the UK if you’re a female or male victim/survivor the Freedom Programme offers a domestic violence helpline call 01942 262 270 between Mon- Friday 9am – 5pm.
Check the Freedom Programme website for more details on that, there is also a safe chatroom for you to make contact with others if that’s your medium. There are other national helplines available but I am told due to the barbaric cuts these more often signpost you back to your local service area. Where there are helplines, but few were 24hr before the cuts, I am told in some areas its merely 3 days a week during office hours. When it is well documented that most crisis situations happen outside of office hours. So its little comfort or use when Local Authorities offer the little that they do, its like buying a pair of shoes 3 sizes too small. You still have shoes, but they are less than fit for purpose.
If the situation is the other way around eg domestic violence against men, regardless of sexuality, there is a hotline for this group too, again available through Freedom Programme website.
If you’re a child living with domestic violence, there is Childline 0800 111. But little or nothing specific in relation to a child living with domestic abuse – regardless of their age. Time and time again I hear professionals on my training telling me how little in-depth knowledge there is across all sectors, to be able to identify when a child is living with domestic violence. Let alone offer them a support service on it.
If you’re a perpetrator, options are even less. Obviously Freedom Programme offers a mens programme via IDAC Men Who Want To Become Nicer Men This is free to attend, the Testimonials are outstanding from the men. But other than mandated courses offered at local levels such as IDAP, there are very few other options available to them.
So the situation we have here is that legislation acknowledges physical abuse, but we don’t have enough professionals trained in dealing with it. Which is why we hear Social Workers saying, “It’s a lifestyle choice” and Police officers stating after a man had headbutted the women, “He did it with love though”. This, is before we even consider the lack of services and capacities within them.
More recently legislation has moved to encompass the huge area regarding coercive and emotional abuse, including expanding the age ranges of 16 and 17 year olds. Which is great, that civil society is moving with the times – all too slowly, but moving none the less – and finally acknowledging that DA isn’t just spousal abuse but also parent on child or child on parent.
We have a legal system that is struggling to identify how it can prosecute against coercive abuse. Statutory services are often ill equipped and definitely under resourced to be able to identify and action appropriately changes that need to take place for the benefit of all – not least the children. Specialist services receiving cut after cut therefore reducing their capacity and visibility on many levels.
We have Freedom Programme female victim support groups running up and down the country – but not enough. I would be delighted when I receive calls from victims or professionals, to be able to say, “Oh yes there’s a course running near you right now” But mostly what I get is service users ie victims being instructed by social workers predominantly, to source and access a Freedom Programme themselves. Sometimes women are waiting for months to be able to access a Freedom Programme. People sometimes ask if I ever feel I can make a difference and draw an end to domestic abuse, the simple answer is written above in black and white. I alone cannot achieve the huge cultural shift we all need to embrace globally to become aware of what our true belief systems are and then to change them. That is the only true way to bring an end to gender based violence in our homes and on our front lines.
Which is why I, along with many others the world over, do what we do. The process would be easier with service provisions in place and reflecting the same message ie CAFCAS and the family courts not constantly accepting that a violent and controlling parent has no negative impact on the children’s growth and development, for government local and national to hold more integrity in making provision of services that actually reflect the enormity of the issue of domestic abuse.
It’s a strange thing with any kind of abuse really, we all know it goes on, we all know its prolific, we all know there is little or no assistance or provision, just a big ol’ heavy load placed at the feet of victims, for them to deal with and sort it out. In what ‘intelligent’ and ‘civil’ society is that thinking effective? Useful? Fair? Workable? Perpetrators are not expected to deal with themselves to stop the cycle of abuse and this is further demonstrated by the lack of provision for them to be able to access support as they need it.
The key to change is as always through self-analysis of our belief systems, whether we’re victim, perpetrator, woman, child, man and of course professionals (who are not excluded from the previous list, obviously) All this is affordable and achievable via the application of the Freedom Programme.