Living or working in a refuge can often feel like quite an insular experience. By the very nature of them, they are at secret locations and visitors are kept to an absolute minimum. Usually however, we all have the sounds of the world going on outside our windows, all the families chattering in the courtyard & kitchens, children fussing about putting on their uniforms….all the sounds of life in general.
In the best interests of our residents and staff we are trying to have as little face to face contact as is possible, but ours is not a service that can simply stop. We are continuing to provide our families with support around housing, schools, benefits, police and courts because their lives, like many others, cannot be on hold – many have had their lives on hold for years already.
Emotional support is always critical for the families we work with and has become even more vital during this time. When they are hundreds of miles away from friends and family there can be no visit to the bottom of mum’s garden path nor Grandma’s coming to check on her grandchildren through the window. This is a struggle for our residents at the best of times, now however, in a strange place, unfamiliar surroundings, with little other human contact and limited encouragement from their fellow residents, our role in keeping spirits up and positive thinking alive is essential.
Whilst the staff continue to do this, the staff’s support network has reduced. Social distancing measures mean that where we are used to being part of a large team across both refuges and The Wish Centre, now there are only two of us working at each refuge at any one time. The Wish Centre is silent as all the staff are working from home. As are many key workers across the country, we are missing our peers – they are our sounding boards, our agony aunts and our friends.
One great positive this week has been the assistance one of our most vulnerable residents has received from Blackburn’s COVID-19 Hub. The referral process was easy and the staff and volunteers there have been wonderful, delivering the family food and hot meals. Some of our residents don’t yet have their incomes in place since moving here, therefore one of the aims this week will be sourcing some food items for those who can’t purchase it…..have you noticed how quickly children are getting through snacks at the moment!
To end on a bright note – we have Easter Eggs! Donated by the wonderful St Mary’s Catholic Church, Brownedge, Bamber Bridge. The Easter Bunny, being a key worker himself, will of course be delivering, and leaving them on doorsteps this year.
As a service, we made the decision not to share or make comment on a recent video made by boxer, Billy Joe Saunders, on our social media. Not because we wanted to hide it, but because we didn’t want to give him the publicity, nor give anyone else an opportunity to use it as a twisted instruction manual. Now however, his license has been suspended by the British Boxing Board and there have been consequences to his frankly appalling and dangerous actions, we feel we want to address it.
Safety Planning and COVID-19
During this worrying time, we need to remember that staying at home is not the safest place to be for everybody. An increase in domestic abuse incidents is sadly inevitable due to increased time with a person causing harm, more emotional and financial stress, less support from friends & family and an increased risk of debilitating illness. Where families have already separated and the perpetrator is homeless, there is an increased likelihood that they will use the situation to attempt to regain access to the family home. We have produced some basic safety advice for anyone living in an abusive household and having to spend increased time with their perpetrator (see below).
There are two mobile phone apps that may help to provide some reassurance and advice during this time:-
Hollie Guard App is a free app - https://hollieguard.com/
Brightsky App – is available in English, Urdu, Punjabi & Polish and is a free app - https://www.hestia.org/brightsky
Support and advice from The Wish Centre continues to be available as normal via telephone and email – 01254 260465 or firstname.lastname@example.org . If you have your IDVA or Case Worker’s mobile phone number please continue to use it as normal. All your normal contacts are still available via their email. Our refuge provisions are operating as normal.
Groups are no longer taking place and we ask you not to attend at the Centre without a pre-booked appointment.
On the #metoo campaign and #victimblamingNovember 8, 2017November 10, 2017 ~ janeycolbourne
Trigger warning: content discusses sexual violence
I’d like to thank the Guardian for the detailed and clearly written article ‘Harvey Weinstein: a list of the women who have accused him’ by Caroline Davies and Nadia Khomami on 21 October 2017. This article conveys how the women felt they were manipulated and intimidated, and in some cases physically attacked by Weinstein and I think it’s important to hear those voices as a counter to the victim blaming that I have been seeing on social media— in some cases, most alarmingly, from other women survivors of sexual assault. Not only are perpetrators dominating, controlling and destroying lives, they also have the satisfaction of seeing the women blame each other for it. This demonstrates the level of their manipulative powers and that misogyny is deeply endemic in our culture.
According to the allegations in this article, the victims were all terrified of Weinstein. When a man unexpectedly removes his clothing in inappropriate circumstances the first thought of a vulnerable woman (or man) is, how far do his lack of boundaries go? Can I get out of here alive? What do I have to do to get out of here alive? This is not a man who is taking no for an answer. If you’re going to run or fight, you had better be sure you can get away. And you have a split second to think about it before he makes his move.
As a society, we need to have a conversation about what constitutes consent. Acquiescing out of fear is not consent, whether it is fear for our safety, career, or anything else. As it happens, many of the women quoted in the Guardian article said they found some way to escape. Nevertheless, judgement should not be laid on those who did not feel safe to resist his advances. The shame of compliance in the face of sexual intimidation is one of things that keeps victims quiet, that allows the perpetrators to get away with it, to continue getting away with it, committing sexual violence to so many others. Weinstein preyed on the young and naive, allegedly telling them, “This is how Hollywood works”. Power is the keyword here. Sexual violence is all about power— a cycle of using power to maintain power. Abuse of power in order to abuse in order to have power. A powerful cycle. Manipulation. Charm. Lies. Shaming. Gaslighting. Being in a position of power or authority. Physical violence. Threats. Blackmail. Bribery. Do not underestimate the psychological powers of a predator.
Gaslighting is a term to describe a technique of manipulation where a victim is made to doubt their own sanity, memory, judgement and perception, through the use of mind games and deceit. This enables the perpetrator to keep the victim trapped, dependent and compliant. If as victims we are blaming and silencing each other, then we have all been gaslighted.
No victim should be made to feel ashamed for what happened to them, or for how they dealt with it. For some, the #metoo campaign has been profoundly triggering. For those who cannot bear to speak of their pain, I hope that those of us who do may offer some comfort that our voices challenge the acceptance of this violence as a normal and inevitable part of life, in the hope that all our daughters may have a better, safer future.
Janey Colbourne 2017
Let's face it, the UK isn't known for it's sunny weather even during the summer months. With the 6 week school holidays (sometimes closer to 7) now starting, our minds are bound to turn to ways to keep the children busy that are cost effective and not too stressful.
Blackburn's Children's Centres may be the answer. With a whole range of activities for toddlers, pre-schoolers and under 8's - from Mud Kitchen, Around the World and Messy Play - there is generally something for even the most selective children when it comes to entertainment.
Below you'll find a list of activities for all Children's Centres in Blackburn and Darwen, complete with the addresses and phone numbers for each Centre.
There's a whole host of other activities across BwD too - the Library and Museum, amongst others, have arranged special children's activities to help see us through the holidays without hearing the words "I'm bored" too often. Please click on the What's On link below and search between your selected dates.
If you have a smart phone, there's also an app called Hoop which allows you to pick a date, a distance to travel and an age group. You can select free activities and also choose by category eg. Arts & Crafts, Animals & Nature, Learning, Getting Active etc. This app is easy to use and is free.
This is their website where you can search for activities or download the app from Apple or Google Play.
Happy holidays to you all!
On the 29th of December 2015 the government’s new coercive or controlling behaviour offence meant that victims who experience the type of behaviour that stops short of serious physical violence, but amounts to extreme psychological and emotional abuse, can bring their perpetrators to justice. The offence carries a maximum of 5 years imprisonment or a fine and possibly both.
18 months down the line, how are the new measures working?
Research data from Safelives has highlighted that 89% of victims experience either jealous and controlling behaviour or stalking and harassment and the majority of the abuse they suffer is not reported to police. So what is coercive control and what does it look like?
As a specialist Domestic Abuse service we see victims everyday who disclose examples of coercion and control extremely worrying stalking behaviour and the majority of victims we see have not reported this abuse to the police. Often victims will disclose any physical abuse that has occurred but don't realise the significance of the risk that is linked with coercion and stalking behaviour victims may also feel that no one will take what they are saying seriously. Some examples of what victims disclose are that they are asked to give a detailed account of where they have been during the day if they drop children off at school how long it took them to return home if they have been shopping they have to show a receipt for the shopping they have done. They may only have a limited amount of money and every penny needs to be accounted for.
Some victims are locked in the house when the perpetrator goes out others have said that they have their phones monitored to check on there whereabouts. The majority of victims we see are isolated from family and friends which has a huge impact on their mental health. Victims have told us that they are under constant criticism, how they parent, what they wear, what they cook, how they clean the list is endless, children are often used to control victims and this is a very common factor in cases of Honour Based abuse.
Perpetrators often make threats of self harm or suicide as a means of control, cause damage to property or inflict suffering on family pets and are often able to manipulate not only the victim but also professionals. Professor Evan Stark in the clip below talks about the damage that occurs to a victims mental health when they are living with this pattern of abusive behaviour. Often victims start to disengage from services either because of a deterioration in their mental health or because when they report the abuse they are suffering they are either not believed or positive action isn't taken against the perpetrator.
Time and time again we have seen victims disengage from services, it takes a lot of courage for a victim to seek help and support talk about the abuse they are suffering and place their trust in professionals to help them. If the right response isn't given why would they disclose further abuse or seek help again?
More training needs to take place so professionals who hear a disclosure act appropriately or seek help from a domestic abuse service, and its equally important to recognise that positive action needs to be taken against the perpetrator without that we are unable to safeguard victims or end domestic abuse.
Meet Ronda! She needed refuge too and luckily we were able to help so she now has a safe and loving home.
Family pets are often the forgotten victims of domestic abuse. They can be on the receiving end of the perpetrators actions often suffering abuse, be left behind when the victim and children have to leave or, more often, a victim won’t leave without being able to secure a foster place or permanent home for their well-loved pet.
Ronda’s previous owner, Laura, had reached the point where her only chance of escaping domestic abuse was to come to refuge. Ronda initially had to be left at her former home because unfortunately pets cannot live in refuge accommodation. Various options were urgently looked at with local animal charities but nobody had space for her. It was at that point a member of staff offered Ronda refuge in the form of foster care and she was safely rescued from her former home.
Due to Laura facing restrictions on pets in the property she moved into after leaving refuge, Ronda is now a permanent part of our staff member’s family where she rules the roost and regularly hijacks her dog brother’s bed.
On the 14th of July 2016 The Duchess of Cornwall held a reception at Clarence House inviting victims, high profile ambassadors and celebrity guests including Sir Patrick Stewart, Julie Walters and Alesha Dixon. At the event The Duchess urged society to challenge the ‘corrosive’ silence that surrounds domestic abuse today.
She said ‘Domestic abuse remains a hidden problem in our society. It is characterised by silence – silence from those who suffer, silence from those around them and silence from those who perpetrate abuse. ‘This silence is corrosive: It leaves women, children – and men – carrying the burden of shame, it prevents them from speaking out about their abuse and it prevents them from getting help. And at its worst, it can be fatal.’
Each year 2.1 million people in the UK suffer some form of domestic abuse – 1.4 million women, the equivalent of 8.5 per cent of the population, and 700,000 men. At the event I asked Sir Patrick Stewart what had inspired him to become a patron of a domestic abuse charity and he said it took him decades to talk about what he had suffered growing up witnessing his mother being abused by his father and he said that he felt ‘ashamed’ to talk about it and that is exactly what so many victims feel, shame. Although they are not responsible for the violence, or the behaviour of another human being they still feel ashamed and embarrassed. When Patrick was young, domestic abuse didn’t get the same response which it garners now and the same services were not available for victims and children. I believe passionately about prevention and education, we need to educate our young people on healthy relationships on consent and to learn to respect each other and we also need to ensure that we offer support to the whole family.
We have been fortunate to get funding from Comic Relief and Children in Need and have been delivering educational programmes in schools, colleges and youth services in BWD for the past 4 years and have reached thousands of young people in doing so, we have also been supporting young people who have witnessed or directly suffered abuse through a whole range of therapeutic programmes and 1:1 work. Young people witnessing abuse often try to intervene to protect the abused parent or try and protect themselves and in every home where abuse is happening they suffer and the effects are long lasting unless support is provided.
Julie Walters who is a patron of Women’s Aid told me that she is asked constantly to support good causes and when she was asked to support victims of abuse how could she refuse, she said it was unimaginable to her that women can live in abusive relationships and if she could support in some way she wanted to do it.
The Duchess in her speech expressed that victims of abuse are ‘some of the bravest women I have been privileged to meet’, adding how ‘Their silence was broken – but only after a tragedy.’ It is difficult to disagree with that statement, as is the idea that those who find themselves in these horrible situations should hopefully be known as ‘victors not victims’.
We all need to work together to make this statement come true and end the silence that surrounds domestic abuse, for that we need to create a healthy environment for victims to express what has happened to them and events like these ensure that the right steps are being taken for this to happen.
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) is an executive agency of the UK Government. The agency administers compensation for injuries caused to victims of violent crime in England, Scotland and Wales.
Victims of childhood sexual abuse are eligible to make a claim under the scheme and as an ISVA, this group of individuals make up a large portion of my case load. Invariably victims struggle to cope with the effects of their experiences and inevitably some of these victims will resort to drugs and alcohol misuse, self-harming, suicide, anti-social behaviour, criminal activity and so on. On the basis of victims having unspent convictions, claims for compensation made by blameless victims of crime can be severely reduced or even refused.
Clearly as a society we would never advocate a system whereby people are rewarded for leading a life of crime, however, surely there is a debate to be had around what our expectations should be in relation to such victims. Early sexualisation (sometimes perpetrated by family members and blood relatives) impacts on young people’s lives relentlessly and leaves them vulnerable to further abuse. Frequently victim’s disclosures are withheld until much later when survivors feel in a better position to ‘deal’ with the issue or as often happens, a further incident occurs and this triggers thoughts around the earlier abuse.
Some victims may seek counselling or other therapeutic interventions in an attempt to help them understand what has happened, why they were not protected from such abuse and how they are going to come to terms with their experiences and move forward in life. Others will be unable or unwilling to access such support for various reasons and will seek a safe place form their thoughts in less constructive ways.
Unlike physical injuries, emotional scarring does not necessarily reduce with time and victims of childhood sexual abuse inevitably begin their journey through life a good deal further behind the starting line than the rest of us. Surely excluding victims from such a compensation scheme serves only to compound their already reduced chances of recovery and success.