As a speaker on ‘Honour based abuse’ and a champion for IDAS (Independent Domestic Abuse Service) in Craven, I myself have witnessed and experienced abuse and understand the struggles a victim may face.
I was recently speaking to a few women about the impact lockdown has had on many vulnerable individuals and we discussed the appalling fact that domestic violence has increased by 66% during COVID-19 lockdown.
There are many whose lives have been taken; two women are killed every week by their partners and it is reported that on average it takes 37 attempts of violence or abuse to someone before they disclose the facts to anyone.
Frequently I have heard people say: "Why don’t they just leave?" Well, if only things were that simple. Leaving is not an easy step for women suffering with abuse. They are often silent; they are constantly feeling ashamed of their situation, and afraid of the consequences of leaving. Victims feel vulnerable and isolated, always stepping on egg shells in a relationship and unable to make key decisions in life as the perpetrator has drained all your energy - and sometimes your will to live.
Perhaps less talked about but men also suffer from domestic abuse. Men may find it even harder to express and talk about their abuse for fear of being labelled as weak.
Abuse happens in all forms of relationship, be it with a partner, sibling or other contacts. Conditioning and learned abuse is seen as normal behaviour in some families and in some communities.
Many communities even make abuse a taboo topic for discussion, but this surely is unacceptable. It is so important for members of a society to speak out, no matter what faith or culture they belong to.
I have seen communities where abuse is hidden away, brushed under the carpet, where domestic abuse is tolerated or simply ignored; the mere existence of the problem is denied.
There are many who, in addition to the abuse at home, suffer additional verbal, emotional, physical, anger and intimidation from their wider community. And at the same time back at home abusers will reassure their victims or shower them with remorse saying "It’s never going to happen again". This potent combination of internal and external factors is a force for continuation of the relationship, but so often the same destructive behaviour resurfaces.
I’ve known victims who have left and then returned to their abuser. With no experience of leaving a home they battle with themselves asking questions such as "how could I do this to my family". It’s not easy to stay away from abusers, to leave all you know, your family and friends and to then go seek refuge somewhere else.
Communities can work together to stop domestic abuse, to prevent victims going back into an abusive relationship. Across our society there is a vitally important conversation to be had. That conversation must incorporate households and their wider community and it must be given the importance it deserves. The vision must surely be to prevent domestic abuse where possible and, ultimately, to entirely eradicate this plague from our society.
To those suffering domestic abuse: Get in touch with support organisations or someone you can trust and get out of the situation. You are not alone.
Contact IDAS – North Yorkshire and Barnsley helpline 03000 110 110
To raise and support IDAS I have a simple recipe booklet you can purchase. All profits to go to IDAS charity.