27th October 2015
One quality an effective independent domestic violence advisor (Idva) needs is the ability to think creatively about the support they offer their clients. They need to offer victims a range of opportunities to take that crucial first step towards help, and towards building a safer future that’s both sustainable and full of hope.
There have been a number of news stories recently about different initiatives to encourage victims to speak out – some more successful than others. It got us thinking about the best examples we’ve seen and we’ve listed them below, in no particular order. Whether big or small, these are all inspiring.
But first, a disclaimer. What might be the ideal way to reach out to one client could be totally unsuitable for another. A responsibility comes with identifying victims and, as the expert, it’s up to you to determine which approach is best. The victim’s safety is paramount and any potential risks should be considered at all times.
The Red Light app
A member of the SafeLives team here described this as “the best I’ve seen”. Vodaphone has developed an app for smartphones in Turkey which, when shaken, sends an SOS to three trusted contacts. But the app only works if kept secret, so the app’s developers hid information about it in the most ingenious ways. They chose places where the average man would never look – in female toilets, lingerie labels and deep inside video tutorials for hair and make-up.
While ideal for young people, clearly this is an app that plays on gender stereotypes and wouldn’t be suitable for those in LGBT relationships, nor those who don’t own a smartphone. But the ingenious methods the developers used to communicate the app – even changing their approach after 10 months to prevent it becoming too widely known – are truly inspiring and we think earns the app a place on the list.
Having an inconspicuous way of giving people your service’s contact details is essential. Something as innocuous as a (fake) business card is less likely to raise the suspicions of the perpetrator.
This works best when services think carefully about the client group they support. The cards need to be believable – what type of organisation is a perpetrator least likely to call? This might be different for older clients, for those who identify as LGBT, or for men in abusive relationships. The benefit of business cards is that they’re relatively inexpensive to print, but you could also provide contact details on pens, membership cards, or even lip balm. A member of the team (who shall remain anonymous) said they used to print Avon calling cards! Not sure how Avon would feel about this though…
Similarly, we’ve seen lots of examples of services creating ‘barcode’ stickers. These replace the usual jumble of numbers with the phone number for their helpline. Clients can then stick the barcode to any item they might normally keep in their handbag – make up, a book, hairbrush, a bottle of water – and discreetly retrieve it whenever they need to get in touch. Unlike a business card, this would also be accessible to clients for who don’t speak English as their first language.
If a picture’s worth a thousand words, it’s no wonder the world’s gone mad for emoji. In a recent survey by TalkTalk Mobile, 72% of 18-25 year olds said they found it easier to express their feelings in emoji symbols than text.
Earlier this year, a Swedish children’s charity launched a set of ‘abused emoji’ to help children and young people living with domestic abuse to seek help. With emoji being such a huge part of the way young people communicate, the app’s creators believe the icons could offer a first step to talking about their problems.
So that’s our top 4 examples of innovative ways of reaching out to victims and encouraging them to take their first brave step towards help. Perhaps you know of others? We’d love to hear about them.