Wednesday, 10 March 2010

How to be a lifeline

In the UK, one in four women is suffering in an abusive relationship. Domestic abuse can be violent or psychological, and anyone, in any type of relationship may become a victim.
There is no obvious way to spot whether someone is experiencing domestic violence, but a pattern of abuse could include:
  • Changes in personality (e.g. an outgoing woman becomes withdrawn)
  • Absence from work, othr commitments or social occasions
  • References to their partner's temper or anger
  • Repeated unexplained (or unconvincingly explained) injuries
Sometimes we feel awkward about taking sides, or we feel we should we stay neutral. Maybe we think we don't know the whole picture or try to stay out of it, saying "it's not really any of my business". We might want to help but not really know what to do. But ignoring it is no help at all.

Being a lifeline for a friend experiecing domestic violence may be one of the most important things you'll ever do. You could literally be saving her life, and that of her children. So what can we do to support ourselves and other women?
  • Stay in contact with friends and family, and talk about your relationships. Discussion and feedback from others can help you get perspective on what is happening, and feel clearer that it's not "all in your head".
  • Talk to children and young people about negative attitudes to women and girls, and help them to identify positive images and role models. See Object for inspiration.
  • Keep yourself and other women informed about support groups and agencies that can help. Things like International Women's Day or Women's World Day of Prayer can be good starting points.
  • It is important to maintain and develop your confidence and self-esteem in ways that don't rely on your relationship. Try to make time for your own development, e.g. courses, hobbies, reading, activities, exercise.
  • If you think a friend or loved on is being abused, try telling her that your concerned. Say what's worrying you and ask if she wants to talk to you about it. Let her know you want to help. You don't have to have all the answers. Breaking the isolation is the important thing.
  • Find out information about her rights and the services available, such as Refuge and Women's Aid, who can provide practical and emotional support.
  • For more information, try Citizens' Advice or The Home Office

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