Breaking the cycle of domestic abuse in Hertfordshire this Christmas
Published: 17 Dec 2018
In the lead up to Christmas the Hertfordshire Domestic Abuse Partnership will be continuing with our focus to raise awareness of domestic abuse and its effects through our Breaking the Cycle of Domestic Abuse campaign.
In 2017/18 there were 19,651 reported cases of domestic abuse in Hertfordshire, a 7.1% increase on the previous year. Sadly, we know that incidents and reports of domestic abuse increase over the Christmas period, while this can’t be attributed to a single factor, spending more time with family, increased alcohol intake, additional pressure on money can all have a part to play.
Colette Wyatt-Lowe, Executive Member for Adult Care and Health at Hertfordshire County Council, said; “Christmas is a time for celebration and kindness, and for many of us its precious time we look forward to spending with family. However, sadly for some Christmas will bring about feelings of fear and anxiety as a result of domestic abuse and that’s not right; no one should live in fear or intimidation.
“As we go into the festive season, I would like to send a message to anyone affected in Hertfordshire to say that you are not alone; help and advice is available and waiting for you and I would urge you to speak to someone in confidence and get that support for yourself or for a loved one you think might be in need.”
Domestic abuse does not discriminate and can affect anyone, regardless of gender, class, age, race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or lifestyle. It’s not just about violence, domestic abuse can include acts of verbal, emotional, sexual, or financial abuse used as a means of power and control over a (ex)partner or family member. It is any incident or pattern of intimidating and controlling behaviour, purposefully meant to isolate, exploit, deprive or regulate a person’s everyday behaviour. Those experiencing abuse are often made to feel inferior to or dependent on their abuser following continued patterns of assault, threating, intimidating or humiliating behaviour that is intended to cause harm, punish or frighten.
If a partner, ex partner or family member is causing you distress or fear by repeatedly hurting you, calling you names, forcing you to do things you don’t want to, or controlling who you see, what you wear, where you go or your money – this is domestic abuse and it’s never ok.
Going into Christmas we want people to understand and consider the impact domestic abuse has on children, young people and families. Unfortunately, over 750,000 children are affected by domestic abuse in the UK each year. Here in Hertfordshire, children were known to be present in the home in 26% of all reported domestic abuse crimes and incidents in 2015/16 and in 14% of these, children had viewed the abuse taking place.
We know that domestic abuse affects everyone; in every three cases of domestic abuse, two of the people being abused will be female and one will be male. Shockingly in the UK 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will be affected by domestic abuse at some stage during their lifetime, everyday people just like Joanne, who’s story we have shared.
Joanne* disclosed that she was in a controlling and abusive relationship when she attended a Citizens Advice Bureau in Hertfordshire; they got in touch with Herts Mind Network, part of the Hertfordshire Domestic Abuse Partnership to support her.
Joanne had no income or access to her own funds; she spoke little English and had very little in the way of a support network around her. Her partner would demand to see receipts for whatever money she spent and would use fear and control of the children to keep her in the relationship.
Joanne had no independence. She was struggling emotionally and had previously been committed to hospital after an emotional breakdown. Sadly, her partner was using this past illness to maintain control over her; she was the main caregiver for the children and as such, her partner used this to keep her at home. One of her children had begun to copy her partner’s behaviour, which Joanne was finding difficult to manage, and social services had become involved due to concerns for the children.
One of the Hertfordshire Domestic Abuse Partners, Herts Mind Network helped Joanne to obtain a non- molestation order without any legal representation, they supported her through the court process, especially with the language barrier. They were able to secure an order to keep Joanne safe in her home whilst she looked for alternate accommodation, supported her to get financial help and to look for a job.
Joanne now has paid employment and her confidence and independence has increased. The legal non-molestation order has kept her safe at home from further abuse from her partner and she is looking to move herself and the children out to a new home very soon. The children are attending school regularly and Joanne feels more secure in managing their challenging behaviour.
Living in a home where there is domestic abuse is harmful to children and young people and can have a serious impact on their behaviour and wellbeing both in the present and future. Parents and carers sometimes underestimate the effects, especially long-term.
It’s a very complex issue and can manifest in a whole range of complex behaviours in children and young people such as becoming withdrawn, anxious, struggling with school, experiencing problems sleeping or eating, displaying aggressive or bullying behaviour, self-harming, or having problems with drugs or alcohol.
Some young people may not even know they have experienced domestic abuse and enter into unhealthy relationships themselves or think it’s acceptable to replicate the abuse they have seen.
You can use #breakingthecycleherts to join in the conversation on social media and help to raise the profile of this important issue by liking and sharing any posts you see – let’s help to break the cycle of domestic abuse together this Christmas!
If you’re concerned about yourself, your children, a family member, friend or colleague; free confidential advice is available at www.hertssunflower.org or by calling the Hertfordshire Domestic Abuse Helpline on 08 088 088 088 (9am-9pm Mon-Fri, 9am-4pm Sat/Sun) including Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day. In an emergency, always dial 999.
*Real name changed to protect identities