Supporting women affected by abuse

I think I’m experiencing domestic abuse

The government defines domestic abuse as:

“Any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality.”  This includes issues of concern to black and minority ethnic (BME) communities such as so called ‘honour killings’.

If you think you are experiencing abuse, call us, talk to us.  Do not dwell on doubt.  Talk about it.  Our service is confidential and non-judgemental.

‘I could heal the cuts and hide the bruises, but it was his words that really hurt me.  His words stayed in my head, tormenting me, long after he was gone.  He taught me that I was worthless and I believed him.  I still hear his voice in my head all the time, telling me I am nothing.’

The goal of an abuser is control.  They want you to behave only in the ways in which they want you to behave.  They achieve this control with abuse.  For many women and children who have been subjected to abuse, it is difficult to know what a healthy relationship is.  Abuse is normalised and accepted.  Women brought up by abusive fathers will often find themselves married to men with abusive traits and as the cycle of violence persists, they are often then subject to abuse from their sons who have been conditioned to behave as their fathers.  Abuse is often all they have known.

Domestic abuse can make a person feel isolated, unable to talk to others, embarrassed, ashamed, worthless, low  self-esteem, insignificant, vulnerable and powerless to change circumstances.  As a result, many women remain with an abuser lacking the self-esteem to act or living in the hope that they will change.  They do change – they get worse.  Violence is progressive.  It almost always escalates over time.  Emotional abuse almost always leads to physical violence.  This is evidenced in our beneficiaries for over 31 years.

 

The Impact of Domestic Abuse

‘My confidence was shattered.  I was always unwell and my health had suffered so much that I couldn’t even work.  I had no money.  I was anxious and paranoid.  My doctors told me I had post-traumatic stress disorder.  I was told that I had the same symptoms of people traumatized by war.  This was a year after I had left him.  I feel like I would never get better’.

 

Many women endure abuse for a long period of time before they report the violence or leave the situation.  Some never leave!

The impact of domestic abuse against women can be devastating and far reaching.  Many survivors suffer physical harm which can have fatal consequences.  Violence against women has serious consequences for their physical and mental health.  Besides the obvious physical injuries abused women are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, psychosomatic systems, eating problems and post traumatic disorder.  Sustained abuse may also trigger suicide attempts or psychotic episodes.

 

How can we help you?

We provide free and confidential advice on housing, legal, welfare rights and safeguarding options.  We have specialists working with Domestic Abuse, Sexual Abuse,  BAME specialist staff supporting women who have additional barriers to support.  We can speak with you on the telephone, contact us via email help@aanchal.org.uk, by appointment for one to one support, telephone us on 0203 384 9412/9413 or 24 hours on 0845 451 2547.

We speak English, Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, Gujerati, Tamil, Bengali and can get help of volunteers with Eastern European languages.

We are on NU SOUND RADIO every Tuesday between 12pm and 1pm  @ 92FM.  You can listen to us on  topical advice and listen to experiences of others.

You can access our befriending groups support, counselling, empowerment programme, child support, join our Aanchal Community Forums.  Call us for a update on current events.

You can access our MWAC project (Muslim Women’s Advisory Counsel) – a panel of women who will advise on Sharia Law and British Law, so you can feel comfortable and knowledgeable about the decisions you make.  We support women seeking KHULA.

We have over 31 years experience in supporting women affected by domestic abuse.  Whatever your background, language or cultural experience we understand the impact it has on people, whether it is emotional, physical, situational, financial.  Domestic Abuse takes many forms and the help you may need can constitute a number of things.

You may want advise with benefits, welfare rights so that you can safely continue supporting yourself and your family, while you are deciding what to do.

If you are looking to flee from the perpetrator, we will assess your needs and give you various options.  This will help you decide coping strategies for each option before you take action, so that you are making informed choices for long term safeguarding plans.

We work in partnership with solicitors, which ensures safe and timely legal actions.  These can include orders to prevent the perpetrator contacting you.

In many families where domestic abuse exists, it is hard to flee or make changes due to the specific controlling dynamics of the household which keeps those affected trapped in a web by use of cycles of behaviours.  Whilst there are many methods we can support and help people escape or become more empowered in managing themselves better to improve their situations, it is important to remember that some changes can only happen by the individual affected making changes in themselves and in their homes within a safe action plan.

We cannot change others but we can change ourselves.  Therefore giving yourself self- belief and empowerment will help you make change. When you make change, other things around you will change.   Domestic Abuse is a crime and it should not be accepted.  Work towards a meaningful and fear-free life.

What can I expect when I contact you?

We have a number of staff with linguistic skills who answer the telephone.  This may be reception and administration staff or front line domestic and sexual abuse specialists.

We will listen to you, ask you questions to help us assess your needs specifically and then discuss your plans, whether these are immediate or for your future planning.  It may be you just need to talk to someone.

You can ask to speak in your preferred language.  If the language is immediately available we will put you through to the relevant advisor.  Otherwise we will take your details and ensure an advisor calls you back within 5 hours.  We will ask you a few questions to ascertain whether your need is urgent and immediate and will take a risk assessment which mean you need help straight away.  We have multi-lingual staff and we are usually able to communicate with individuals on the first call.

Once you have reached us, we will help you decide what help you can have from us across all our unique services and from the borough you reside in. It is important that we work with others to get you the best support possible in your unique circumstance.

We understand that it takes much courage to pick up the phone or send an email seeking help.  We ensure confidentiality, we will not judge or discriminate.  We are here to help believe in yourself and build confidence and self-esteem.

Taking a risk assessment by asking specific questions will help staff and the caller to identify potential dangers and risks and we will advise on options available to you.

Taking up options given is entirely up to the caller.  We will ensure we are there for you whether you choose to take action or not.

We can seek safe accommodation for you.  It will help us if this is requested as early in the day as possible as it gives us more time to search safe housing options and to engage with key agencies.

You will need to keep your documents safe (these will include your passport, birth certificates, NI number, any other important documents such as mortgage or insurance).  Any evidence you already have, such as statements to the police or your GP records will be relevant in your support.

If you are not a British Citizen, it is important we see your passport.  If you are in the UK with a Spouse Visa, we will be able to help you and advise other Visa Holders.  To support you, we will need to collect evidence of abuse to be able to make appropriate applications for you.

We have a Child Support Officer in post who will be able to assist your children with emotional, relationships or safeguarding issues.

How can I keep my children safe?

First of all it is important for you to understand the impact of domestic abuse on children.   Noticeable triggers of impact can include your child experiencing tiredness, sleeplessness, bed-wetting, anger, withdrawal, depression, abnormalities around food such as eating too much or not wanting to eat, sadness, loneliness, wanting to over-achieve or underachieving.

To cope with the impact of domestic abuse, children can adopt many different coping strategies.  Sometimes this focuses on food or behavioural changes, it can also lead to substance misuse where children can be living two lives – one at home and one outside the home.  Domestic abuse can make children feel safer in the street than at home.

Keep your children safe by keeping them informed, create healthy and safe relationships so they are able to talk to you.

Children are silent witnesses and what they witness can create lifelong confusion.  Talk to them and communicate rational for decision making regularly.

Keep your children safe by understanding perpetrator behaviours which use children as pawns on the battlefields of domestic abuse.  Ensure you speak to specialists to support you in ensuring the perpetrator is not able to use this controlling behaviour to rule the children’s lives.

We can speak with you about child protection and reporting abuse.  Your local social care support will help you with action plans towards safeguarding.  Often this will be useful in helping the parent understand abuse in depth and to take decisive actions to move away from an abusive environment.

You can report to the Police.  You can report to your GP or School.  We can assist you with reporting.

What are my options?

Safety Measures

If you are experiencing domestic abuse we recommend that you take the following safety measures to protect yourself.

  • Talk to someone
  • Keep money aside if you need to leave straight away
  • Build an escape fund over time
  • Set up a new bank account
  • Keep a mobile phone close to you with credit
  • Keep important documents such as passports, children’s birth certificates together
  • Keep any important or emergency numbers with you
  • Keep copies of important documents such as bank statements, joint credit cards
  • Keep copies of original receipts of expensive purchases such as gold jewellery or furniture
  • Pack emergency bag for you and your children and keep somewhere safe. Don’t forget your child’s favourite toy
  • Think about somewhere that you can go that is safe and can tell someone what is going on
  • Teach children to call 999 in an emergency
  • Rehearse a safety plan so that you know what to do if you need to leave in an emergency
  • Be aware of any early signs and symptoms of abuse

I’m not a British Citizen, can I get help?

What is No Recourse to Public Funds?

If you have been given permission to live in the UK, this permission may include the condition that you have ‘no recourse to public funds’.  If so, you will not be able to claim most benefits, tax credits or housing assistance that are paid by the state.

‘Home Office UKBA’

Frequently asked Concerns:

  • How will I survive financially?
  • If I report the violence, I will be deported
  • If I talk to anyone, I will be judged
  • My children will be taken away from me
  • Can my in-laws throw me out of the home?
  • I don’t understand the Visa
  • What is indefinite leave to remain?
  • Am I allowed to work?
  • What is safe shelter and what housing support can I get?
  • I cannot provide evidence of abuse
  • My family don’t know I have been involved in a relationship

 

If you are here on spouse visa, we can take action to help you immediately.

Women in the UK on alternative visas.

  • Working Visa
  • Student Visa
  • Dependent Visa
  • Asylum

If you have suffered domestic abuse it is still important to report to the police and/or a domestic abuse specialist agency.  Even though you may not be granted support under the Destitution Domestic Violence Concession you may be able to get help keeping safe while here in the UK but each case and circumstance is different.  It’s advised you contact Aanchal who will be able to identify potential support structures.

Someone I know is experiencing abuse

If you know someone is experiencing abuse, and you know them well – it is best to give them our telephone number so they receive prompt and informed advise.  It is evidenced that many women who reach us have experienced accelerated abuse because they have been given uninformed and unsafe advice by close members of the family or friends who may be trying their best to help but are not knowledgeable about safeguarding or legislation.

If someone is experiencing abuse and you do not know them, for example it may be a neighbour or something you have witnessed in your local faith group or a parent at your child’s school – call us to send you information cards – you can either give information to the person in need or pass information to the school, faith establishment or neighbour.

Important information to give to others

Dial 999 for help

Talk to Aanchal

Talk to your GP

Tell them there are legal pathways such as non-molestation orders and injunctions

Can escape to a refuge (safe house accommodation) – this can be well away from the local area

If they do not have British Citizenship – advise them to seek help at Aanchal.  Their information will be kept confidential.

Be aware that forms of domestic abuse can include physical, emotional, financial, sexual, verbal and other controlling behaviours.  Physical abuse may give evidence such as bruising and other injuries.  Emotional abuse can be witnessed by use of threatening language and withholding friendships and relationships outside the household.  It is often difficult to recognise emotional injuries as domestic abuse. Many perpetrators manipulate relationships by keeping children away from the non-abusive parent by use of finances, using emotional blackmail, using love and hate as tools to separate people, causing divisions in extended families.