Beware the hidden violence

March 28 2014

A BISHOPSTON woman, who believes that domestic abuse is significantly under reported in the local area, is urging victims to recognise their situation and seek help.

March 28 2014

A BISHOPSTON woman, who believes that domestic abuse is significantly under reported in the local area, is urging victims to recognise their situation and seek help.
Safer Bristol has also launched the second phase of their "No Excuse" campaign, funded by Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens and Bristol City Council’s public health department, which aims to tackle violence in relationships and confront abusers' justifications for domestic abuse.
According to a recent survey conducted by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, around a third of all women in the EU have experienced either physical or sexual violence since the age of 15. The survey is based on interviews with 42,000 women.
Lesley Welch, who is the equalities representative on the Bishopston, Cotham and Redland neighbourhood partnership, has worked around domestic violence for 35 years.
Lesley came to Bristol to study in the seventies, where she started volunteering at a Women's Aid refuge. She then went on to work with children affected by domestic violence.
Her more recent work has been around domestic homicide and supporting bereaved families.
Through her experience working with victims of domestic violence, Lesley says that women often find mental abuse the hardest to report as it leaves no physical marks.
She explains that domestic abuse doesn't just apply to physical violence - it can also comes in the form of emotional, financial and sexual control.
Coercive control, which encompasses a wide range of intimidating and threatening behaviours where abuse is random, targetted, and repetitive, is particularly common, says Lesley.
She added: "The abuser knows what buttons to press as they know the person well. They adapt in order to control. One of the biggest issues I have also noticed is isolation, when abusers are purposefully nasty to friends, and unwelcoming when they come round to the house - it's very relevant to this particular area.
"There's a myth that domestic violence only happens in deprived areas, and we tend to focus more on these areas because there is a much higher reporting rate. I see it as a very hidden issue in Bishopston and Redland."
Lesley also highlights how significantly children are affected by domestic violence.
"Couples often try to hide the violence from their children, but they know their parents well and can pick up when something is wrong," stated Lesley. "Children often blame themselves, as they may have misbehaved, causing their parents to argue, but it's about telling children it's not their fault."
However, Lesley recognises that there is a growing number of men in Bristol who are fighting for gender equality.
She added: "We need more people caring, changing behaviours and basing relationships on equality. Most of us come under pressure and stress at some points in our lives, but it doesn't have to result in abuse.
"For those seeking help, it can seem like a long journey. However, it's about taking those small steps forward, and rebuilding your resilience.
"Domestic violence and abuse isn't about male and female hormones, it's about
behaviour we choose to do and about what we think men and women should be like. 
"That's why women, too, can be abusive and men, too, can be abused. Everyone is entitled to live without fear and with support."


Safer Bristol's "This is not an excuse to abuse me" follows on from their initial campaign, launched in November, which raised awareness about myths surrounding rape.
Police and Crime Commissioner, Sue Mountstevens, said: "Domestic abuse is taken extremely seriously across Avon and Somerset and I want victims to know they will be believed if they choose to report. For me, a crucial step in tackling domestic abuse is to give confidence to victims to come forward and seek justice.
"This campaign encourages victims not to suffer in silence and lets them know that there are services out there that can help. The response from the first campaign evoked an emotive reaction and I wish the second phase of the campaign every success in standing up against domestic abuse."
The campaign, which features some of the myths that people use to excuse domestic violence, will be featured on bus stops, billboards, posters, online messages and radio adverts.
Some of the myths include “The kids are upstairs, they don’t know it’s happening”, “It’s not abuse, I never laid a finger on them” and “She was asking for it”.
Jess Dicken, who has been helping co-ordinate the "No Excuse" campaign said: "Anyone can be a victim of abuse regardless of age, race, income, religion, belief, gender, disability, culture or sexual orientation. We must all work together to challenge all forms of violence and abuse."
The campaign also coincides with the national roll out of the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, known as Clare’s Law. The scheme gives people the opportunity to find out whether their partner has a history of domestic abuse, and also gives concerned friends or relatives the chance to raise their worries with police.
Those at immediate risk of domestic violence should call 999. Help lines available include Women's Aid (0808 2000 247), Broken Rainbow for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender individuals (0300 999 5428) and Men's Advise Line (0808 801 0327).