16 days against domestic violence

Let's talk about Domestic Violence

November 25 to December 10 marks 16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence, an annual international campaign to mark the commitment and determination to take action against domestic abuse and violence.

To mark this campaign, two colleagues from the NHS Business Services Authority who have chosen to remain anonymous, take to the blog to talk through their personal experiences in supporting people through domestic violence, and the resources available that can help you support someone to get help.  

One in four women. One in six men. This is how many people will be affected by domestic abuse in their lifetime in the UK. This leads to two women being murdered each week and thirty men per year.

So, what does this mean? To some, these statistics may come as a shock, as it shows that we’re all highly likely to know someone who’s a survivor of domestic abuse or a perpetrator. They’re our family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances - the list goes on. It means that this issue is everyone’s. We all have a collective responsibility to talk about this, recognise the signs, and make it so we can’t look away and pretend it doesn’t exist.

My colleague and I both have experience of being the outsider of domestic violence situations and trying to find the best way to support someone we cared about that needed help. For my colleague, it was a mother at her children’s school who was being physically and emotionally abused by her partner. Trust, friendship, and encouragement were key when offering help, she talked to her about her children, arranged playdates, invited her to join coffee mornings with other mothers to make sure she was around a good support network. Fortunately, through this collective support, she was able to leave her abusive husband and move into a women’s refuge.

For me, it was my sister being abused. I was in my mid-teens at the time and felt helpless in knowing what to do. The worst I remember was her partner threatening to burn down our family home. No one could get my sister to leave the relationship at that point and ultimately, she had to make the incredibly brave decision to get out. As young as I was, I learned that patience and reminding her that she wasn’t alone worked best for us. Although at times it can be difficult to understand why someone would remain in an abusive relationship, it’s important to remember when it comes to domestic abuse, it’s never as easy to “just leave.”

Types of Abuse + Spotting the Signs

Domestic abuse takes many forms, and some signs might not be as obvious as you think. Here are just some of the examples:

PHYSICAL (slapping, beating, burning, kicking, biting)

EMOTIONAL (bullying, intimidation, isolation of victims, constant criticism)

SEXUAL (degradation, rape, forced sexual acts)

ECONOMIC (removing access to money, taking money, prevention from gaining employment)

This all sounds a lot, but we need to be aware of how perpetrators operate if we’re going to recognise it.

Physical abuse can be slightly easier to identify – physical injuries such as bruising and marks consistent with those listed above. Emotional abuse can be harder to identify as symptoms we see may be caused by other factors, but they are typical in domestic violence – anxiety, depression, agitation, constant apprehension, low self-esteem, and seeming fearful/meek.

Behavioural changes can be another tell-tale sign. Are they isolating themselves from you/others? Have they become distant or reserved where they weren’t previously? Maybe they talk about their partner’s behaviour as having a bad temper or being bad-tempered in some situations. They may refer to their partner as being jealous/possessive.

If you think someone is affected by domestic abuse, it might feel difficult to know what to do. A small conversation can make a big difference, even if it’s just to let the person know you’re always there to talk and listen.

Support is available to not only those experiencing domestic abuse, but also to people supporting those who may be affected.  The most important thing to do is reach out and speak to someone.

  • Women’s Aid Chat Service (available Monday-Friday 10am-12pm)
  • Men’s Advice Line (0808 801 0327)
  • GALOP LGBT+ Helpline (0800 999 5428)
  • Ask for Ani – where you can discreetly ask for help in participating pharmacies.
  • Gov.uk -- also has lots of resources available with external support.

The most important thing to take away from this is that every situation is different, with varying levels of support needed. At the heart of it, is that we all need to be aware, not shut ourselves off from conversations like these, because we are all impacted. Please, talk to each other about this.

All together, we can make a difference. Let’s talk about domestic violence.