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New campaign to highlight the effects of domestic abuse

THE VOICES of victims will form the central plank of a new campaign to tackle domestic abuse in Scotland which is launched today.

The Together We Can Stop It campaign targets domestic abuse
The Together We Can Stop It campaign targets domestic abuse

Scottish Women's Aid's winter campaign, Together We Can Stop It, aims to highlight the devastating stories behind the statistics.

Four of the six recordings come from case-study interviews conducted by Professor Rachel Pain of Durham University for a report she did in conjunction with Scottish Women's Aid looking at why women find it difficult to walk away from violent relationships.

The three-phase campaign is supported by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit (VRU), domestic abuse advocacy service Assist, and by Strathclyde Police and Police Scotland.

Clips of the women's words, spoken by actors, including Scottish comedian and actress Keara Murphy, have been created for the campaign. They will be released in three stages starting today, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the first of 16 Days of Action to Eliminate Violence Against Women.

The project is an international campaign originating from the Women's Global Leadership Institute co-ordinated by the Center for Women's Global Leadership in 1991 which highlights specific charity days.

Lily Greenan, manager of Scottish Women's Aid, said: "Domestic abuse is about so much more than any one incident, we hear from women who tell us that they and their families live in fear each and every day.

"Responses from the police and justice system are improving all the time, but we need everyone to come together to play a part in ending domestic abuse.

"The support of friends and family is often what gives women the strength to seek help in the first place."

The Solicitor General for Scotland, Lesley Thomson QC, said COPFS prosecutors had been at the forefront of effecting cultural change in attitudes towards domestic abuse.

She said: "Domestic abuse is a serious issue that affects many households across the country. COPFS are absolutely committed to tackling domestic abuse through a robust prosecution policy.

"We will continue to work with our criminal justice partners to ensure victims of domestic abuse have confidence in the Scottish Justice System."

Detective Chief Superintendent John Carnochan, co-director of the VRU, said: "We know from increased reporting by both victims and others that people across Scotland are becoming less tolerant of this wicked behaviour.

"This is due in large part to the fantastic work being done by police and partners, from Medics Against Violence training dentists to support victims to Children 1st raising awareness of child victims and our own Mentors in Violence Prevention Scotland programme teaching people how to tackle the behaviour that can lead to domestic abuse.

"Domestic abuse is unacceptable to right-minded people in 21st-century Scotland."

Mhairi McGowan, head of service at Assist, added: "More and more victims of domestic abuse are coming forward and reporting the reality of their lives, and we are seeing the positive impact of this in terms of police action and a firm response to perpetrators of this unacceptable activity.

"There is still so much more to be done in our communities throughout Scotland, and we call upon everyone to support this campaign, which we know can change lives.

"Acting together we really can stop it. The campaign title is more than a slogan."

VOICES FROM THE FRONTLINE

1: the effects

Candy: "I thought he was a really nice guy but then it started because he was working and I would be at home with his mum.

"He didn't like the fact that I was getting on with his mother.

"So the jealousy started with that and he used to say: "Go and sit in your room – I don't want you spending time with my mum."

"He stopped me talking to my family. I wasn't allowed to go out of the house, I wasn't allowed to meet anybody, I had no contact with anyone outside the house at all - He had a mobile and I had one to begin with when I was with him but he broke it so I didn't have any other phone - I mean, to be honest, the kind of guy he was, if he could have got away with it he would have tied me in the house and locked me in a room, because I was basically a prisoner anyway-"

Margie: "It would come out of nowhere -I'd be like a spring coiled up. That's how I felt the whole time, because I didn't know when something was going to happen. I was never relaxed, I was always tense that something could happen."

Police officer: "When I attended the scene it was obvious she was upset, but they weren't fighting.

"He couldn't have been calmer. It's often how it is – the perpetrator is completely in control, doesn't give anything away. But we always take it seriously, because there is a story there – reading between the lines.

"If we don't believe the victim, if we don't investigate, what happens next?"

2: Why doesn't she leave?

Jennifer: "There came a point where I actually started to see life after marriage as a possibility. Then it's like: 'Well how do I get there, because the person who's standing in the way of me is the person that I'm the most scared of, and if I'm scared of him now what's he going to be like when he knows I want to leave him?'

"So it's probably the biggest challenge in my life and the most frightening thing that I've ever done.

"All the way through he was blaming me, screaming at me, attacking me because he thought I was breaking up the marriage, you know, I was responsible for everything, I was ruining his life, I hadn't tried, I hadn't put any effort in, it was all my fault. It sounds easy, you know – 'he was violent so I ended the marriage' – but especially when you've got kids it's really, really hard -

"I was desperate, unhappy, confused and scared – you hear these stories about women who leave men who are violent and the guy kills them or, you know, the first time the guy has access to the children he kills the children, and so I was scared that he would do something really stupid.

"But at the same time I knew that I had to weigh things up and I had to be rational and I had trust that would not happen, because if I didn't overcome that fear then there was no way anything was ever going to change."

Nina: "My grandmother, aunt and everybody kept saying 'You have to try your best, your marriage is not a joke, you know', and I didn't have the courage to say 'It's not my fault'"

"I thought 'He could have killed me, who would look after my children?' So I planned that night to pack my bag.

"Something inside me said: 'I have to improve life for my daughters, I have to give them a better chance.'"

3: Together We Can Stop It

Linda: "I was getting stronger, and he was getting weaker. Other people started to get involved and that was a great comfort. I didn't feel I was on my own any more.

"With lots of love and support around me, I felt more empowered to make the break.

"I stayed in the refuge for over a year and my journey was extremely difficult, but I was supported all the way by Women's Aid and friends and family. I know I was very lucky to have the people I love around me.

"I'm no longer scared to come home at night. I don't need to make excuses to people about not going out or phoning them. It hasn't been easy and there were plenty of times when I wanted to give up and go back, but I swear to myself that I will never ever again put up with the life I was living. So I keep going and I am starting to believe in myself. I have found the strength I never knew I had, but I now know I always had it; I had to use it all just to survive my marriage and all the abuse I was suffering.

"I am still on a journey but it is in the right direction. I know I have to keep going straight ahead and never waiver and I will find happiness. I will not give up."

PUPILS TO LEARN ABOUT VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

HUNDREDS of pupils in Dundee will be taught about violence against women this month by a charity campaigning to end domestic abuse.

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which marks the start of 16 days of action, and White Ribbon Scotland – an organisation working with men to tackle all forms of violence against women – will be delivering talks to all of the secondary schools in the city.

In countries around the world today is known as White Ribbon Day, and men are asked to wear a white ribbon to show their opposition to domestic violence.

White Ribbon Scotland, which began in 2006 and became an official charity in 2010, works with non-perpetrating men to tackle violence against women by campaigning, running workshops and educating men to challenge their own behaviour and that of their peers.

This year the charity will visit schools to chat to third-year pupils about violence against women, gender equality and negative attitudes towards women and masculinity.

Meanwhile, other organisations including women's aid centres and councils are have organised a range of events to mark the campaign.

Plays, film screenings, arts and crafts and workshops will take place across the Lanarkshire area, the Forth Valley, Dundee, Fife and Inverclyde, Dumfries and Galloway, and West Lothian.

In Glasgow, the Rape Crisis Centre will host an information event about its prevention work, while in Stirling a seminar titled "Forced Marriage – Understanding the Issues" will take place tomorrow at Forth Valley College.

This year's global theme for the 16 days is "From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let's Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women". According to White Ribbon Scotland, an incident of domestic violence is recorded every 10 minutes north of the Border.

The White Ribbon Campaign was started by a group of men in Canada, who believed they should be working to engage men on the issue of domestic abuse. It now operates in 55 countries.

Callum Hendry, co-ordinator at White Ribbon Scotland, said: "Across Scotland, campaigning organisations, local Women's Aid centres and local councils are hosting a range of events to bring the 16 days of action to people's attention.

"The work we are doing in Dundee this year is particularly powerful.

"Having the opportunity to go into a classroom of young people – in particular young boys – and talk to them about violence against women gives us the opportunity to really change minds. Young people forge their opinions through media, peers and older people around them.

"We live in a society where violence against women has become almost normalised, and objectifying women has become some form of badge of honour for young men.

"By talking to young people, we can change this norm and challenge this idea."

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