In a week when several women shared with us their issues with public sector responses to their domestic abuse, an article published by The Guardian highlights some of the challenges the sector faces in resourcing services. Our CEO Deb shares how much determination and commitment there is for supporting women, but the significant and very real resourcing issues faced.
We often think that it’s only women and children that can be affected by domestic abuse, but all to often it extends to more than just people. Pets can become a prime means to coerce and control, using the emotional ties the victims feels towards their dog to ensure they don’t leave. New stats released by Oasis and Dogs Trust show the scale of abuse against pets in domestic abuse cases in Kent
Power and Control on the Pitch
This week’s match (England V Columbia) was a masterclass in boundary management, and a great insight into the types of behaviours, born of fear and insecurity, that some will use in order to try to dominate others.
Colombia used harassment, tension building, violence, threatening behaviour, sabotage and intimidation throughout the match, and fair play to England, they did a good job of not letting that get under their skin. We all know that we should form our networks from sound people who help us progress our lives, but the reality is that sometimes you just get trapped on a pitch with people who want to win by bringing you down. It is a truth that some people function by sucking power from those around them with behaviours that drain. The England team modelled handling that with dignity.
Let’s transpose that to getting trapped in your home with that behaviour. To having to fend off the above tactics of domination each and every day, of having children in the mix, financial pressures, loss of your support network and let’s imagine how hard it is to defend those boundaries.
England players train in sports psychology and Gareth Southgate has learnt the power of the mind on the pitch the hard way. But most people don’t, most people don’t fall in love with an attitude that they are playing a game. Most people fall in love and love the fact that they can become vulnerable, because being vulnerable with the person closest to us should be possible, it should be liberating and that other should be someone to whom we can entrust that vulnerability.
But when you love and the other person has issues with power and domination, when they need your power to feel powerful themselves – your vulnerability becomes their leverage. The digging away at you becomes the way in which your space to breathe, to think, to function, to make decisions becomes eroded.
Football players know that the game can only last so long, that there is always an ending. But what about in the home environment – can the person who wants to control you, to take your power, deal with endings? No, they can’t, not unless it is on their terms. They don’t get to the end of the game and have a cry with frustration. They think ‘how dare you?’ and they up the ante. After sometimes years of ‘partnership’, of being lifted up and shoved down, of trying to make do and make the best of, of becoming more and more trapped by insidious and harmful behaviours the ending can be the worst part and the most unpredictable.
Oasis helps thousands of people affected by abuse in the home each year, and around 60 of those travel through our refuge services, places of safety, places where women and children who are too unsafe, who have found the courage and opportunity to leave and find respite. Every year we are touched by their courage, their determination to say ’No more’, but we never underestimate how hard it has been to make that change, and we honour all of those who aren’t able to yet. Because, if we can see the psychology of this behaviour and how it is used to try to affect outcome in a 90 minute game, then we know that leaving after years of it is a tremendously difficult thing to do.
Unfortunately, abuse in the home goes up 25% when England play, 36% when England lose and 11% the day after. During this match we saw so many mini-incidents that remind us why we do the work we do, and every single one of them has the potential to be understood by people all around the country as representative of what has to be endured by some on a daily basis. Thinking about these behaviours through the lens of this game might help us to spread the message of compassion for those who have to experience the power and control of the pitch as their daily life.
Tags: UK Says No More, Safe Lives, Women’s Aid, Surviving Economic Abuse
#whydoesnthejuststop? #ENGCOL #domesticabuse #saveourrefuge
Many years ago, when staff from Oasis would speak at men’s community events, usually things like Rotary Club meetings, we might joke and say, ‘You may have heard that we don’t like men, that’s not true, we love men – we just couldn’t eat a whole one’. A corny, well-used number which could well have some feminists sharply drawing air between their lips in disapproving ways; but, we broke the ice in these men’s groups, we used that humour as a route to then explain the awful consequences of violence and abuse upon women and children. And over the years many of those men have become committed supporters of our work because they understand that this is not about men versus women but about society ensuring it supports those who are harmed.
Back then the only major service we provided was a refuge. It was for women and children then, and so it remains today. Now we offer a range of services that are gender-responsive but not always gender specific. That is an important differentiation. Women’s refuges are, for example, places of safe haven. They allow a woman, with or without children to find space to think, breathe and regroup. Women who have been at significant risk of harm, mentally or physically, and for whom having safe space and community is often pivotal in transforming their lives. Many of those women now work and volunteer with the organisation, or go off to do other wonderful things. Lots of whom just get the chance to start again, sometimes when they are already elderly, they have found the courage to take back control of their lives.
Saturday the 25th November was the United Nation’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, a day in which domestic and sexual violence services up and down the country participated. This day allows us to raise awareness of the issues faced by women and girls in this country. The weekend prior to that saw International Men’s Day, which was supported by Kent’s PCC, Matthew Scott, with a conference. Again, an opportunity to raise awareness of issues which affect men. Being aware of issues, celebrating positive outcomes and coming together to think are all incredibly important things, and we were proud to contribute our learning to this event.
I feel struck by the way in which these two dates sit at opposite ends of the week this year. Marking a space between them which we feel it is important to bridge. Part of the ethos of the feminist movement was the drive to have gender as an equal matter, and today we see that, in law at least, it is. These days serve as a visual representation of the importance and value of not allowing binary divisions between man and woman to become something which separates us in our shared humanity. Binary divisions can carry the prospect of arguing about good & bad or right & wrong and this type of black and white thinking is unlikely to feed progress. Domestic abuse is an issue for humankind, it affects girl and boy children equally, and those girl and boy children grow up to be men and women. I do not mean they will grow up to live lives with domestic abuse as a feature, but rather that as a society we must be able to see the dynamics of the issues within which they have grown and will live.
Domestic abuse is a gendered issue, because the likelihood of being victimised in a dangerous relationship is significantly higher for women, and I think that as a sector and within communities we have to be able to deal with that knowledge. This week, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released its triennial data report on domestic abuse which shows a small decrease in the prevalence of domestic abuse since 2012 and, the proportion of those willing to contact the police having gone up – both of these bode positively for the future. We hope to see reporting increase, especially from hidden victims. But, it still tells us that women are more likely to be killed. Of 454 domestic homicides in the U.K. between 2013-16 70% were the deaths of women. So, we know that women are at a higher risk of death in their intimate relationships. Womanhood becomes a high-risk indicator. It also tells us clearly that men are killed in their intimate relationships. The data also verifies what we know through research into coercion and control. Because it shows us that of the 454 homicides 394 (86.78%) were perpetrated by male suspects (there were 135 male victims, with 40 of these being killed by women).
This data correlates very clearly with the respected work of Evan Stark who defines it thus, ‘The coercive control model was developed to encompass the ongoing and multifaceted nature of the abuse which research shows is experienced by 60% to 80% of victimized women who seek outside assistance….’’ Coercive control is an ongoing pattern of domination in a relationship. The remaining 20-40% of women in the research he cites would have been found to have been experiencing different typologies of abuse. Coercive control is the main concern in our work, it is that type which most often leads to serious harm or death. Evan Stark also finds in his research that in 90% of cases the perpetrator of this specific type of abuse are male, which correlates with the ONS data.
The data also shows us that self-reports of abuse have nearly doubled for teens which I hope means that teenage young people are feeling less inclined to tolerate these behaviours. Just so you kNOw, a programme run by Oasis, tells us that many young women and men feel unhealthy pressure to have sexual relationships or to behave unacceptably within them. We can see how this is informed by the culture in which they live, and by the more toxic types of femininity and masculinity our culture perpetuates. This for us really evidences the need to work fully, and across society, with all young people to challenge the culture, the thinking and the behaviours which inform and create these problems. In this way perhaps, we will avoid or avert some of the adult issues, which in turn avoids some of the harms to children. Perhaps this is a simplification, but there are multiple opportunities to chip away at such a vast and complex problem.
We aim for a virtuous rather than a vicious circle, and as an organisation, we aim for services that are tailored to those who need them, because it would be wrong to only help the majority. We believe at Oasis that this should be okay to say, that men and women should be happy to acknowledge the stark reality of the data. Because, it is also okay to say that women can harm too, and by no stretch of the imagination are all men harmful. Remember, we don’t want to pursue binary divisions, every man was once a little boy, and every woman was once a little girl. Domestic abuse is a problem for a diverse range of people, predominantly women, but also men, and men and women from a range of backgrounds, who have different types of relationships. We would like to know of and support as many of them as possible, for all women and men in our community who find themselves victimised to know that there is no shame, it is not your fault. Because minority or not, the act of abuse in an intimate relationship is wrong.
Our CEO, Deb Cartwright, was on Channel 4 news discussing funding cuts to women's refuges. She spoke up for the pressure which local authorities face.
Alcohol, Families and Domestic Abuse
The 13th to 17th of November is Alcohol Awareness Week. This year’s campaign is being spearheaded by Alcohol Concern whose focus is ‘Alcohol and Families’. The aim is to start an honest conversation about the impact of alcohol misuse on individuals and their families, challenge stigma and to signpost anyone who needs support towards the help they need.
We thought this would be the perfect time to talk about the ways in which drugs and alcohol use can impact on families who experience domestic violence and to highlight this resource produced by DrugRehab about the links between abuse and substance misuse.
Here are four ways we encounter substance misuse in our work:
1. Numbing the pain of abuse
People who experience abuse often deal with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, sleep deprivation and physical pain. Abuse is also linked to the increased likelihood of miscarriage and stillbirth, and of victims developing lasting health problems, such as mental health disorders, eating disorders and physical health problems such as chronic pain or gastrointestinal disorders.
People have different strategies for coping with the trauma of their experiences. Self-medicating with drugs or alcohol as a coping strategy is a route to feel the pain less keenly. This use can create addiction, that often then increases a person’s vulnerability to further abuse.
Services must be aware of these links and remain open and non-judgmental in order to create the best outcomes for our clients, fear of stigma from services can be a major barrier to engagement.
2. Abuse using drugs or alcohol
Domestic abuse is the habitual use of power and control exerted over someone with whom the perpetrator has a relationship. The abuse can be physical, emotional, financial or sexual. Drugs and alcohol can be an implement of abuse, used to keep the victim vulnerable and dependent.
Substance-involved domestic abuse can include:
- Introducing partners to substances of abuse
- Forcing partners to carry, sell or buy drugs
- Encouraging substance use as a form of control over partners
- Prostituting partners in exchange for drugs or money
- Preventing partners from seeking and receiving substance abuse treatment
- Enabling use and consequently disabling recovery
3. Association with violent incidents
Research from the University of Bedfordshire found that within intimate relationships where one partner has a problem with alcohol or other drugs, domestic abuse is more likely than not to occur. Research from the American Society of Addiction Medicine also shows that both victims and abusers are 11 times more likely to be involved in domestic violence incidents on days of heavy substance use.
Abusing drugs or alcohol may exacerbate an abuser’s pre-existing violent tendencies and is therefore a major risk factor for domestic violence. However, it is important to note that substance use is not the cause of domestic abuse but that substance use increases the likelihood of a violent incident.
4. Using the alcohol as an excuse for violence
An abusive person will use excuses and apologies to manipulate the person they are abusing. These excuses will seek to minimise the abuse and lay the blame for their actions elsewhere. Common examples might be to blame childhood experiences, mental illness or the use of substances before an incident.
These excuses claim a lack of control over the abusive tactics used, but abuse is always a choice. Perpetrators are able to control themselves in public, are able to control the way they present themselves and to hide evidence of their abuse.
Those who engage in domestic violence are responsible for their actions despite any reasoning they use to rationalise their behaviour. Those who perpetrate domestic violence choose to wilfully engage in abusive behaviour, and therefore they are the sole cause of domestic violence.
Drug and Alcohol Support
If you are living in East Kent (Ashford, Canterbury, Dover, Shepway, Swale and Thanet) you can contact East Kent Community Drug and Alcohol Service.
They support anyone who has problems with drugs or alcohol. If you are worried about anyone, including yourself, and want to get help, please call 0300 123 1186 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Domestic Abuse Services
Oasis provides services in Thanet and Dover. You can find out how to make a referral here.
Anyone living in Kent can call Victim Support on 0808 168 9276 to access your local services.
 Galvani, S. (May 2010), ‘Supporting Families affected by substance use and domestic violence’, The Tilda Goldberg Centre for Social Work and Social Care, University of Bedfordshire, ADFAM,p.5
Adolescent to Parent Violence (APV) is a concerning form of interpersonal abuse characterised by a young person using abusive behaviours to gain control over their parent or carer. It is beyond normal rebellious teenage behaviour in that it usually involves the adult being in fear of the young person, and having to order their life around the wishes of the adolescent.
The prevalence of this issue has become increasingly apparent in recent years as more and more practitioners are coming across APV in the families they're working with. A quarter of young people exposed to domestic violence go on to demonstrate harmful behaviour within their own relationships. In 61% of cases the abuse is directed at their mother.
In order to better equip our partners in recognising, understanding and combating this form of abuse, Oasis have teamed up with other domestic abuse charities around Kent to help Kent Safeguarding Children Board develop a training session for professionals which we will be delivering on Kent Children Safeguarding Board's behalf. This half-day session will be available to book through the Kent CPD Online soon.
Project Synergy, a 12 week programme, involves both the parent and child in support aims to tackle this violence. Find out more about it, our other programmes and how to refer here.
Margaret had been in Leytonstone House, the large, imposing institution at the top of Leytonstone High Rd for most of her life.
A million children in Britain are affected by domestic violence, either as victims or witnesses; we believe that education is the only way of stopping the cycle.