By Karen Dickinson
Valentine’s Day is celebrated all over the world on February the 14th, usually with flowers, chocolates, hearts, cards and other tokens of love and affection. However, for many women and children, ‘love’ is experienced through gender-based violence at the hands of a husband or partner; every 30 seconds the UK police receive a domestic assistance call and that won’t stop just because it’s Valentine’s Day. Statistics show that 1 in 4 women in England and Wales will experience domestic abuse in their lifetimes and 8% will suffer domestic violence in any given year. However, despite its prevalence, domestic abuse is largely a hidden crime and, on average, a woman is assaulted 35 times before her first call to the police. How can we all help to tackle domestic violence and abuse in our communities? Here are five ways to start:
2. Know the signs
Violence and abuse can happen to anyone: old, young, rich, poor, educated, uneducated and regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation. There are many red flags to look out for, in your own relationships as well as in other peoples, and they may not be what you expect. Most people recognise that physical abuse as domestic violence, but don’t think that more subtle methods of control, such as jealousy or possessiveness can indicate that something is wrong. This list of warning signs from domestic violence charity Refuge will tell you what to look out for.
2. Don’t ignore it
Many people see the word ‘domestic’ as being synonymous with ‘private’, but just because something takes place behind closed doors, it doesn’t mean you should ignore it. If you suspect a friend, relative or neighbour is experiencing domestic abuse don’t ignore it as taking action could save a life. The National Domestic Abuse Helpline has a list of actions you can take if you are concerned about someone you know.
If someone chooses to tell you that they are experiencing abuse it’s important that you listen without judgement and offer ways to help, without presuming that you know better than they do about what they should do. Supporting someone to leave a violent or abusive situation is about more than simply calling the police: this article from Everyday Feminism will help you to navigate a conversation with someone who has reached out to you.
4. Know the number for a local service provider
If someone you know is experiencing violence and abuse, they may not be in a position to research organisations that can help or plan possible exit strategies, but you can be a useful resource for when the time comes. Check out our Signposting Guide for information on local and national services addressing gender-based violence and there is also more information on organisations in Bristol here.
5. Help within your community
Even if you don’t know someone who is experiencing abuse, you can still help to support your wider community by donating time or money to charities that address gender-based violence and abuse. In order to eradicate gender-based violence, we need to have a shared understanding, approach and commitment. There are many charities operating in the UK, as well as on a local level, such as those listed in the Signposting Guide, who would be grateful of your support.
You can also get involved in Bristol Zero Tolerance to help to raise awareness of gender-based violence issues and to address gender-based violence, abuse, harassment and exploitation in the city. You can support the initiative as an individual or get your organisation or business involved. Employers and organisations across the city can sign the Bristol Zero Tolerance Pledge to commit to taking at least one action to promote Zero Tolerance and as an individual you can spread the word about the initiative and encourage your workplace, educational institution or other organisations to sign up to the pledge and take action. Find out more here. You can also keep up to date with action happening in Bristol and elsewhere by following us on Twitter @BristolZT or at www.facebook.com/BristolZeroTolerance