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Friends and family urged to stand up to domestic abuse

1st June 2020

Friends and family members are being urged to make domestic abuse everyone’s business in a new campaign designed to set out how they can help those at risk.

A series of posters and leaflets aim to dispel a range excuses and myths around the causes of domestic abuse, such as blaming it on the stress or increased alcohol consumption.

The poster then goes onto encourage people not to make excuses for abuse, but instead take action by following a series of safe steps. Advice ranges from making suggestions to the victim, not demands, and sharing support information, if safe to do so.

The campaign comes after a survey of specialist Violence Against Women and Girls service providers revealed widespread concern over the impact of the pandemic.

Across the region, help groups said they are braced for a big demand on services, both during the different phases of the lockdown and in the recovery phase.

While some services reported an immediate increase in demand, many noticed a fall in calls and pleas for help as people trapped at home with their abuser struggled to reach out.

As well as the increased risk of violence and coercive control, service providers have also warned of increased demand around welfare issues, with access to food and food banks and fear of poverty and economic hardship a constant pressure.

Many charities and community groups have told the Police Commissioner that they are particularly concerned that during the first period of the pandemic lockdown they experienced a “calm before the storm” as many of those suffering try to weather the current crisis either unable to seek help or too afraid to leave their homes.

Now, the new campaign is setting out how friends and family of those suffering domestic abuse can support loved ones and help them escape the abuse.

New posters and leaflets are setting out starkly that there is no excuse for abuse, and make clear that “domestic abuse is everyone’s business”.

The campaign provides advice and contact information that can be passed on to those at risk by concerned friends and colleagues.

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, said: “This campaign is the result of lots of discussions about our local response to the domestic abuse emergency which took hold at the start of the pandemic. We all wanted a campaign to speak directly to the neighbour who can hear the intimidating voice hurling abuse on the other side of the fence, or the mother worried why her daughter’s stopped texting or messaging on the family thread. It’s these people who have suspicions and concerns that we are reaching out to. If you have a feeling that something isn’t right, the chances are it isn’t.”

She continued: “With this campaign we’re saying ‘look, you can support the person you are worried about and here’s how’. There is no excuse to abuse another person, none whatsoever, so anyone who thinks that might be happening behind closed doors, needs to do their bit to help – it could make a huge difference to someone’s life.”

Becky Rogerson MBE, Director at Wearside Women in Need, said: “We know that many people suffering abuse make that first disclosure to a close family member, a good friend, a work colleague or a trusted neighbour. We want to ensure that those trusted with that sensitive information know what to do about it, how to help, and how to make a difference. Don’t wait until something tragic happens, early intervention is key as domestic abuse escalates over time. Lets make the ‘new normal’ abuse free.”

The VAWG survey, produced by WWIN outlines many of the ways in which the pandemic reinforces inequality and increases the incidence and impact on victims. The report notes that we are in a rapidly developing situation and the impacts on survivors and services are changing day by day.

The biggest challenge right now is ensuring that victims are provided with information, support and messaging that helps keep them socially connected and able to access help when they can. It is hoped that this Northumbria wide campaign will strike resonance with communities and lead to an increase take up of services.