White Ribbon Day 2020: Shining a spotlight on domestic abuse
More than 40,000 calls were made to the National Domestic Abuse helpline (www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk) during the first three months of Covid-19 restrictions this year - and call numbers have risen sharply during the current lockdown.
Every year thousands of people speak out about domestic abuse on White Ribbon Day (www.whiteribbon.org.uk/day) and promise never to remain silent about it.This year, on Wednesday 25 November, it's never been more important to shine a light on this issue – and how to get help.
Here are anonymous stories from two Worcester women who sought help after becoming the victims of domestic abuse – and have now moved forward with their lives.
"My mum left dad and I just after I was born, and my dad brought me up. Everything was fine until he met my step mum. We didn't get on and we fought all the time.By the time I was 16 my father had had enough.He didn't get on with the older male friend I had and chose his wife over me. I was thrown out on the streets at that point.
"My male friend became my boyfriend and I lived with him. He became my world and at first treated me like a princess. But six months into the relationship the abuse started. At first calling me ugly, fat, useless, then a slap or a kick. This progressed to punches, not being allowed out or being made to sleep on a rug because I'd done something to upset him.
"We had a dog (his dog) and when he had drunk too much and fallen asleep on the sofa, I would walk the dog at night. I didn't want anyone to see meh the bruises. One night I bumped into a friend. I couldn't hide; she and others had heard who I was with and had tried to make contact. She reached out to me and I ran, too scared. But she contacted a youth worker at Worcester City Council who we all knew. I remember her coming in to school, meeting us on the streets, listening and talking to us.
"I didn't go out in the dark again for a while, but one night I had the chance to escape again! I bumped into my friend and the youth worker was with her.They had been regularly visiting the same area in the hope of finding me.
"It was amazing to feel that someone cared.Eventually after regular secret meetings, the youth worker helped me to see that the relationship was wrong and it was destroying me.I started to see light at the end of a very dark tunnel. She went at my pace and we had so many conversations. What to do if, how to protect myself.She never pushed me and went through coping techniques.
"I started to question it all myself; was this love? did he love me? I started to understand the explanation my youth worker gave about power and control. I wasn't sure what the alternative was.I was still very scared – but one day I kept on walking, never went back and got the help that I needed.
"I'm 18 now; I don't trust men and I don't want a relationship. I'm still attend counselling.But I have started to trust and believe in myself.I've started College and now share a house with two other students."
Amy was a high-risk victim of domestic abuse.Her husband had a Domestic Violence Protection Order issued against him by the Police.This meant that he was not allowed to return to their home for 28 days.
She has three children who were subject to a child protection plan, due to the domestic violence they had witnessed.
"Amy's social worker referred her to the DAWN project. Run by Worcester Community Trust, it offers a free, confidential, non-judgemental local service for any individual who is experiencing or has experienced domestic abuse. Individual face to face support and group work sessions are offered, aimed at rebuilding victims' confidence and self-esteem.
Jo Jefferson, who runs the DAWN project and got to know Amy, tells her story.
"Initially I arranged to meet with Amy face to face to discuss what support she might need. When I first met Amy, she was scared and withdrawn, lacking in self-confidence and did not trust professionals to help.
"First of all we looked at additional security for the property as her husband had continuously breached the Order.I worked with Worcester City Council's Community Safety team to ensure that a risk management plan was in place in order to keep Amy and her children safe.
"Amy then found out that her husband had not been paying the mortgage and other bills. At this time she lacked the confidence to talk to professionals as her self-esteem was so low; her husband had told her no one would believe her. I referred Amy to a debt adviser at Citizen's Advice and spoke to her landlord about the arrears to prevent court action.
"As I worked with Amy, I began to see her trust and confidence grow. We looked at some of the material from DAWN's Freedom Programme and Amy began to understand that her husband had used tactics in order to control her. By recognising these tactics, she could move towards recovery and break free from his control.Amy began to believe that the police and other agencies would protect and support her.This empowered her to take back control of the family finances.
"Amy's husband also decided to apply to Court for contact with the children. I supported Amy through the family Court process and eventually a decision was made that her abusive ex-husband should have no contact with the children. Amy also completed our Freedom programme.
"Amy's progress means that her children no longer have social care intervention. She has learned to drive and went to college to gain more employable skills.She is now working part time, living confidently and safely, and is free from abuse."
Domestic Abuse:get help now
West Mercia Women's Aid 24-hour helpline – 0800 980 3331
The National Domestic Abuse 24-hour helpline - 0808 2000 247
DAWN - a free, confidential, non-judgemental local service for any individual who is experiencing or has experienced domestic abuse.
In an emergency, always call 999.