More needs to be done to support domestic abuse victims

Read Talking Point columnist Sam Billingham's latest column for the Express & Star

Talking Point columnist Sam Billingham
Talking Point columnist Sam Billingham

Domestic abuse is a crime that is completely misunderstood for those who have never experienced it.

“If my partner ever hit me, I would leave” Why don’t you just leave”, “It can’t be that bad or you would just leave” and “You must have done something to provoke them” are just a few common myths said about domestic abuse.

If only domestic abuse was as easy as society thought.

1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will experience domestic abuse at some point during their lifetime, and 2 women each week in England and Wales are killed by a partner or former partner. That is the reality of domestic abuse.

The abuse starts at the honeymoon period of the relationship, with the abuser taking their victim away from their support network.

That is a huge red flag in any abusive relationship.

It’s never easy admitting to yourself that you are being beaten by the person you love, let alone to anyone else and when someone experiencing domestic abuse does disclose what is happening to them, especially to professionals, that is them saying, I really can’t take any more, I need your help.

Domestic abuse is one of the most repeat crimes, with many attending A&E on numerous occasions.

They might not disclose their abuse to the nurses at that point because their abuser will be with them, but this is another red flag. GPs might be aware of the abuse that their patient is enduring behind closed doors, as victims repeatedly go to the surgery.

Therefore, even before a victim of domestic abuse verbally discloses domestic abuse, some professionals – Police, Nurse and Doctor – are already aware of the crime being committed.

So why aren’t we seeing things being put in place to keep the victim safe?

Why are the right questions being asked, to encourage the victim to speak out?

Why, in the 2 st century are we still hearing “lessons will be learned from this” when lives are still being lost at the hands of their abusers when professionals aren’t sharing information with other agencies?

Domestic abuse is about power and control, with an abuser doing all they can to gain power and control over their victim.

It’s not about an argument, a one off or just a domestic; it’s a pattern of incidents that increase in frequency and severity.

Another huge red warning flag is that many abusers have a history of domestic abuse, which again, professionals might know before the victim, yet do nothing to keep them safe.

Professionals and agencies need to take a good hard look at what they are actually doing, or not doing, to keep victims of domestic abuse safe because all the failings they are not learning from, are putting others in danger because they have lost faith in the system and won’t speak out about their abuse because professionals are not doing their jobs properly.

  • Sam Billingham is a campaigner and runs Survivors of Domestic Abuse (SODA). For more information on the support group visit www.sodahq.uk

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