Tag Archives: Coercion

white-ribbon-day

Domestic Abuse

Last Saturday around forty men walked from Salary Corner to the Guernsey Yacht Club. A total of one mile. So what’s the news story here? Well they were all walking in women’s shoes as part of Walk A Mile In Her Shoes event, intended to show that men abhor all forms of violence against women.

The timing of the event was to coincide with the White Ribbon Campaign that seeks to raise awareness of domestic abuse.

I therefore thought that I’d take that message and write this post, as I don’t think that we’re as aware of this issue in Guernsey as we should be. Before anyone thinks that this isn’t an issue in Guernsey can I emphatically state that YES IT IS, horrific detail as to how much of an issue it is here are later in this post, keep reading.

I’d like to start by discussing what domestic abuse is. Too frequently we have an image of domestic violence as a man that comes home drunk and beats his wife. Whilst this does happen, it also ignores the many faces of domestic abuse, all of which start from a point of control. Domestic violence is first and foremost the desire of one person to exercise control over their partner (or another close family member’s) life. This then manifests itself through physical violence, stalking, abusive language, intimidation, threats, sexual violence, coercion and many other ways.

But it’s the desire to control that we so frequently miss and is the greatest area of concern. There are so many people that are put in a position of trust, that simply abuse that trust by turning it into control. Wives trust husbands and husbands trust wives; partners trust each other; children trust parents and parents trust children; people in need trust carers. All these bonds of trust are essential to a healthy community, but people are so vulnerable when they’re abused.

The reality of domestic abuse then plays out in the most heinous form and the reason most of us abhor it is not only the extreme violence, but also the complete abuse of trust.

Many of us think of domestic abuse as an argument between a couple that got out of hand, the police being called out and someone suffering a black eye. Once it’s all dealt with, life returns to normal.

That’s rather a naive understanding of the issue, as with all these things, it’s complicated. Domestic abuse is a pattern of emotional abuse and coercion where physical violence is often (but not always) an underpinning factor. The abuse of power and the coercion can lead to the victim being isolated from their family and friends, their activities completely controlled. In some circumstances what a person wears is controlled as well as their finances.

Physical and sexual violence often underpins the control, with victims living in a constant state of fear and anxiety, which can have profound implications on both their mental and physical health. This then leads to some victims using drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism, with predictable results.

For more information on what domestic violence is, visit the Safer website.

Around 700 incidents a year are reported to the police locally, (around 14 incidents per week) however this is only the tip of the iceberg.  It is well known that domestic abuse is a seriously underreported crime with victims on average experiencing around 35 incidents of abuse before seeking help. 

Here in Guernsey our records are frightening in this area when compared with the UK. Of our highest risk cases this is how we compare with the UK.

Complex Needs

Local Clients

National Dataset

Financial Problems

44%

25%

Mental Health Issues

44%

28%

Threatened / Attempted Suicide

30%

16%

Self Harm

19%

13%

Alcohol Misuse

22%

11%

Drugs Misuse

7%

6%

Requiring Benefits Advice

7%

17%

And in case you thought that wasn’t bad enough, these are the numbers comparing the risks when victims enter our IDVA service (Independent Domestic Violence Advisory Service) compared to the UK.

Risk Profile at intake

Local

National Dataset

Physical Abuse

High Severity

59%

40%

Medium Severity

4%

21%

Sexual Abuse

High Severity

15%

8%

Medium Severity

22%

6%

Harassment & Stalking

High Severity

59%

32%

Medium Severity

19%

18%

Jealous & Controlling Behaviour

High Severity

33%

43%

Medium Severity

41%

26%

The impact of all this violence is profound with many victims having to access some other services as mentioned previously: mental health, drug & alcohol services and others. But the violence has profound impact on the children of those in an abusive relationship as well. Research in this area has only just started, but in the very young it is understood that brain development is hampered. There’s also a strong correlation between domestic abuse and physical or sexual child abuse. In the UK, nearly three quarters of children on the “at risk” register live in households where domestic violence is occurring.

So what do I want to say about all of this? The first thing I suppose is to reinforce what those men did last Saturday, raise awareness of the issue and add my voice to those who stand up to domestic abuse. I suppose I also want to raise awareness of this issue, I sit in a position where these things are regularly brought to my attention and I’m aware of their existence in our community, but I know that others aren’t so aware.

Domestic abuse is a huge cost to our community, both in financial and physical terms. We haven’t developed a meaningful language to talk openly about the issue and too many people still consider the issue to be a private matter between a man and his wife, and that they shouldn’t involve themselves in such matters. We should. Domestic abuse diminishes all of us, we have a duty to stand up and confront it.

Finally, I’d like to ask all those who suffer domestic abuse, or if you’re aware of someone that is suffering, to contact Safer on 257652. I know what excellent work is done by all agencies involved with this issue. Believe me when I say that you will be treated with respect, care and dignity.