Take action against domestic abuse

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Thames Valley Police is urging anyone who suspects that a friend, relative or colleague is a victim of domestic abuse to take action.

A campaign to raise awareness of domestic abuse was launched last week by Thames Valley Police, Domestic Abuse Co-ordinators and Crimestoppers to increase awareness and promote early intervention in an attempt to break the cycle of abuse.

Thames Valley Police advise anyone who suspects domestic abuse is happening to follow these guidelines:

Don’t wait for the abused person to speak out about their situation, or wait to witness the abuse first hand; bring the subject up yourself when the abusive partner is not around.

Approach them about the abuse in a sensitive way, for example by saying, ‘I’m worried about you because…’

Let them know you are concerned about them and want to help.

Show them you believe what they are telling you.

Take the abuse seriously and do not try to find an explanation for the abuser’s behaviour. Abuse can be damaging both physically and emotionally, and is very destructive to someone’s self-confidence.

The importance of helping to break the silence and end the isolation should never be underestimated. Listen to what they say and let them show you how you can be supportive.

Try not to criticise their partner or the relationship, instead, focus on the abuse and their safety

You need to support the abused person in whatever decision they are currently making about their relationship, while being clear that the abuse is wrong.

DO NOT approach the abuser as this may increase the risk of abuse.

Supporting someone is a challenge especially if they do not recognise they are in an abusive relationship. You do not want to see them get hurt, but may have to watch them carry on with their partner when you think they should leave them, however it is important to remember you are not the person who has to live with the consequences of any decision. They make decisions that are in their best interests.

Leaving is an extremely difficult decision to make, involving both emotional and practical considerations. Most abused people are in the position of making this decision when the abuser is promising to change and begging them to stay.

Often, leaving a violent partner only signifies the end of the relationship - not the end of the violence. Violence may increase when a person leaves or has recently left a partner.

If you are supporting someone who is suffering from domestic abuse, there are practical ways that you can help.

Agree a code word or action they can use to signal they are in danger and cannot access help.

Together or on your own, find out information about local services and help.

Encourage them to talk to a support agency, or talk to the support agency yourself about what you could do to support your friend.

Encourage and help to develop a safety plan. Agree with their concerns for their safety as well as that of the children. Offer your assistance in developing a safety plan that may even include you. Help by looking ahead to a plan of action should the abuser become violent again. Suggest an ‘escape bag’ somewhere which could include an extra set of car keys, ID documents, birth certificates, insurance cards, in case she needs them.

DO NOT ask the abused person judgmental questions that suggest blame such as, ‘What did you do to make them treat you like that?’ or ‘Why don’t you just break up with him/her?’

DO NOT focus on trying to work out the abuser’s reasons for the abuse. Concentrate on supporting the abused person and discussing what he/she can do to protect themselves.

DO NOT be impatient or critical of him/her if they are confused about what to do or if they say that they still love their partner. It is difficult for anyone to break up a relationship, and especially hard if they are being abused.

Most importantly, don’t give up on them. You might be their only lifeline.

Go to www.speakouttoday.co.uk to find out more.