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16 Days of Activism - Pioneers speak to Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service

On Friday 26 November, our Pioneers participated in a webinar for Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) sharing their experience of engaging with HMPPS as a victim and survivor of domestic abuse. Sharing what good can look like so that front line professionals can scale what works well and where there is need to change and develop services from their experience of poor practice. 

One Pioneer spoke of her recent visit to a female prison with her CIC, and how powerful the session with black and brown women was, with many women disclosing their own experiences of domestic abuse.  

There were some clear takeaways from the webinar for HMPPS. Firstly, we received such positive feedback after hearing the voices of those who have experienced abuse. Victims become survivors and it is important to acknowledge that early in the process and to think about language.  

Communication is always key, as are equitable relationships built on trust with clear understanding of roles and responsibilities as survivors are likely to be involved with the services provided for a long time. Professionals might know the terminology and process people will go through, but this is new to survivors. 

The need for a culturally competent response to domestic abuse by all within the prison and probation services was really clear – there are absolutely additional barriers faced by black and minoritised women that are not always well understood by those working in HMPPS (or other sectors). Those who have experienced domestic abuse should be heard when they request protective conditions and give their thoughts on day release.  

Ultimately, HMPPS need to hear the voices of those who experience domestic abuse and communicate effectively in a way that meets their needs.  

That is the mark of a truly domestic abuse informed prison and probation service. 

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16 Days of Activism – Chief Inspector Sharon Baker’s story

Sharon Baker is a Chief Inspector who has spoken out powerfully about her own experience of domestic abuse whilst a police officer, explaining that her body armour and rank, which normally offer an element of ‘strength’, did nothing to protect her from controlling and coercive behaviour.  

Abuse is clever, it slowly takes away any self-confidence you may have had and leaves you doubting everything you think. 

Sharon also talks about a colleague she visited who had been assaulted by her partner, and how important a moment it was to share her experience with her. In her own words:  

She was left shocked that someone who in her eyes was so strong could also be a victim. It gave her strength and it began to wash away the thick layers of shame we both felt. We were not alone. 

Sharon was selected as our Star of the Month for May. 

More information on how to Reach In to someone you know who may be experiencing domestic abuse is available here. 

If you are experiencing domestic abuse, are worried about a friend/family member, or would like more information about spotting the signs of abuse, immediate help is available. 

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16 Days of Activism - a Pioneer account of the Civil Courts

It took me years to be strong enough to leave.

I thought the worst had passed yet now I’ve spent years dealing with post-separation economic abuse.

I was always financially independent but now I am in debt. I have no control over my money as I face a System which legitimises and perpetuates the ongoing control he has to ruin me financially and any future life chances which our children have. 

I remember he told me “with me you will have everything - without me you will have nothing”. Never did I imagine that our Civil Courts could enable him to try play this out. 

I expected to be free but free we are not. We are trapped in limbo as the Civil Court process enables him to call the shots. Excuse after excuse means delay after delay and a continuing rescheduling of final hearing dates. 

Living in limbo with goal posts continually changing, no support from the System and haemorrhaging more and more cash has broken me emotionally. 

Suffering from Complex PTSD, I wonder when I can be free and when will the Civil Justice System ever change to force full and honest disclosure and implement adequate checks and balances. 

There’s no deterrent for perpetrators being unfair so they can behave as normal and use the court system as a weapon to further control us and our children. 

The delay tactics and lack of full and honest disclosure exponentially increases legal fees creating further anxiety. 

The civil court process enables him to bleed me dry both financially and emotionally. 

 

If you are experiencing domestic abuse, are worried about a friend/family member, or would like more information about spotting the signs of abuse, immediate help is available.

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16 Days of Activism - a guide on how to Reach In for mental health professionals

No questions asked. What about the burn on my hand? The missing hair? The teeth? I waited to be asked. Ask me. Ask me. Ask me. I’d tell her. I’d tell them everything. Look at the burn. Ask me about it. Ask.

Recently I read Roddy Doyle’s book The Woman Who Walked into Doors. I won’t spoil the book for anyone, but this section in particular has stayed with me. It rings true to my work as an Independent Domestic Abuse Advocate (Idaa). The people I worked with often wanted to be asked, and for their answers to be heard.

Think about the people you come into contact with through your work. They might not be presenting with burns, bruises, missing hair… What about the person who is nervous that their appointment is running over, because their partner will be waiting for them? The person who flinches at being touched? The person who has had to walk to their appointments because they struggle to get together the bus fare? The person who misses appointments, then shows up with heavy makeup and clothes to cover their skin? The person who is increasingly using substances? The person you find it difficult to keep in contact with because their phone number keeps changing?

Do you suspect they may be experiencing domestic abuse? There may be other reasons for these things, but it is important not to assume, and to ask about whether they are experiencing domestic abuse. Do you feel like you can ask about it?

Often we feel nervous about asking; worried we’ll offend someone, or damage the relationships we’re trying to build to work with someone. Some professionals have disclosed to me that they don’t know what to do if someone does disclose abuse.

But if there’s something that the above quote illustrates, it’s that victim/survivors want to be asked. Domestic abuse can have a significant impact on someone’s mental health. In our “We Only Do Bones Here” report, 98% of respondents said domestic abuse had affected their mental health.

At SafeLives, we have been working to help people feel able to Reach In to those who may be experiencing Domestic Abuse. As a professional, these are some pointers for how you can Reach In:

In an emergency

If you believe someone is in immediate danger please call 999 and ask for the police. It is helpful to know that if you are not safe to speak you can dial 999 and when you connect to the operator dial ‘55’. This lets them know that you cannot speak, but you do need help.

How to help

1. Prepare

Think of safety first and don’t put yourself or the person you are working with at risk.

  • Think about safe ways to meet or contact them when they’re alone – if you have phone contact it can be helpful to arrange code words in advance to know if it is safe to talk
  • Be led by what they think is safe – victim/survivors have developed lots of ways to keep themselves safe over time
  • Know what help is available locally – try searching your local council website for ‘domestic abuse’
  • Have the numbers for the relevant national helplines to hand

2. Ask

Start conversations gently, conveying your concern. In some areas this may be a question you routinely ask, but don’t dismiss it by saying “We have to ask this” or “This wouldn’t apply to you” – what you are saying is that you don’t want to hear the answer.

  • “I’ve noticed your partner has been coming along to appointments and waiting for you. How do you feel about that?”
  • “Sometimes things happening at home can have an impact on our mental health. Is there anything you want to talk about?”
  • “Is there anything happening that’s affecting you at the moment? I’ve noticed some injuries when you’ve come in, what happened there?”

3. Listen

A common concern is feeling like you don’t know enough about domestic abuse to respond well. But simply listening can help someone to break the silence around their situation.

  • “Go on…”
  • “What do you want to happen with your situation?”

4. Reassure

If someone tells you they are being abused, the important thing to convey is that you believe the person, and to let them know what is happening is wrong.

  • “I believe you.”
  • “It’s not your fault.”
  • “Thank you for telling me.”

5. Offer help

Make suggestions, not demands. It’s important not to pressure the person who is experiencing abuse. They need to make their own decisions in their own time.

  • Ask if they are involved with a specialist service already. If they are not, you can offer to make a referral to the local service.
  • Offer to ring a local support service, or a helpline, to find out about support. Lots of people experiencing abuse find it helpful to talk to a specialist about their partner’s behaviour to ask if this is abusive.
  • Safety plan – this should be led by the person experiencing abuse. If they tell you they want to leave it is best to contact a specialist service to ensure this is done safely.
  • If the person tells you they want to remain in the home talk through what they might do in an emergency, for example carrying their mobile phone with them (or hiding a phone somewhere in the home), knowing about the silent solution (where if they are in a situation where they have to call 999 and cannot speak they can let the operator know that they do need help by pressing 55 once connected), and places to avoid in the home like kitchens, bathrooms and balconies. This is a helpful resource.
  • Think about how to safely work with the person – this can include using safe words and a plan for what you will do if they don’t turn up to scheduled meetings with you
  • Ask about any triggers there may be for them in the work you are doing
  • Seek Domestic Abuse training

 

More information on how to Reach In to someone you know who may be experiencing domestic abuse is available here. 

If you are experiencing domestic abuse, are worried about a friend/family member, or would like more information about spotting the signs of abuse, immediate help is available.

Interested in becoming an Independent Domestic Abuse Advocate? Find out about our training.

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Interested in becoming a SafeLives associate trainer?

Interested in becoming a SafeLives associate trainer? Luke Kendall talks about his experiences.

Can you tell us a bit about your work outside of being a SafeLives associate? 

I am a domestic abuse consultant and trainer, specialising in working with those who use abusive behaviours in intimate relationships. I have a portfolio of experience that includes advising on the DRIVE project, an intervention for high-risk perpetrators of domestic abuse. In addition to this, I author and deliver psychoeducational domestic and sexual abuse programmes for SafeLives, Respect, Rock Pool, numerous police forces and domestic abuse specialist services.  

As a practitioner, I have worked with both high risk victims and perpetrators as an Independent Domestic Violence Advisor, Independent Sexual Violence Advisor and as an Intervention Facilitator in group settings and on a 1-2-1 basis.  

Outside of work, I am a member of the board of trustees for a Sussex-based charity for offenders and volunteers as a post-sentence restorative justice facilitator. I am also studying part-time for an MSc in Forensic Psychology.  

Why did you want to become a SafeLives associate?  

SafeLives are leaders and at the forefront of advancing and disseminating cutting edge knowledge

For me, it was simple. The beginning of my journey in the sector started with SafeLives on the IDVA accreditation. Owed to having a background in training and assessing, I was a delegate with a critical eye. At every stage of that initial journey, I was deeply impressed by the experience. From that moment, I worked on developing myself in order to be in the running to be employed by SafeLives. 

It is also incredibly important for me to be associated with organisations that share my same values, beliefs, and passions; SafeLives being synonymous with each of these. A central passion of mine is advancing the conversation regarding domestic abuse perpetration and SafeLives hold this fidelity too. SafeLives are leaders and at the forefront of advancing and disseminating cutting edge knowledge - this I am both very keen and proud to be a part of.   

What is being a SafeLives associate like?  

For me, this is very exciting as I get not only to train on cutting edge material, but also get the privilege of constructing it.

Busy! I am fortunate enough to be well utilised by SafeLives, across numerous workstreams, as an author of training, a trainer and an assessor.  The work is also varied. I have authored training on domestic abuse perpetrators, counter allegations and engagement techniques with perpetrators of DA for workforces such as NPS, Children's Services and Police. For me, this is very exciting as I get not only to train on cutting edge material, but also get the privilege of constructing it. 

 

Interested in becoming a SafeLives associate trainer? 

SafeLives associate trainers work with us to deliver exciting projects across the country. We're currently on the lookout for new associates to join our team. 

You can find more information in our Associate Recruitment Pack.

Deadline for applications is Sunday 7 November 2021. 

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