Helping The Victims Of Domestic Abuse
Across Surrey there are many women, and some men, who are the victims of domestic abuse. The perpetrators of such abuse make the lives of their victims a misery. Whether it’s by inflicting physical violence or being cruel, by being coercive or controlling, they cause fear and distress, which sometimes results in their victim self-harming or attempting suicide. Or, often, as a last resort, the woman will flee with her children to a Refuge. The amount of abuse is so prevalent that there is a need for more refuges. Nobody leaves their home and most of their possessions unless their plight is serious. That person will probably have very little money, and little support. It is frequently the only thing to do to avoid further injury, or really serious injury or even being killed. They cannot go to family members because the perpetrator will harass them there and inflict more distress upon others. It is a scenario that is all too common, sadly, and it affects women in all sections of society.
Why has domestic abuse become more common? Certainly, there is a greater awareness of it being committed, with more publicity about it, and more reporting of it. It became more prevalent during the lockdowns that were imposed because of Covid, which perpetrators took advantage of to exert further control. The human and financial resources needed to cope with it cost millions, with the need for visits to doctors and hospitals, to police stations and the criminal courts. Social workers may become involved, and there are usually family court proceedings involving applications for injunctions, ouster orders, and disputes about contact with children. The courts are improving their handling of such cases, after more training, and there is better support available.
Fortunately, the county has some remarkable agencies and charities, as well as the Community Safety Team at SCC, who work to help victims. Most of those helping women are women, a number of whom have experienced domestic abuse themselves. In Redhill, the East Surrey Domestic Abuse Service helps victims. There is also I Choose Freedom, which runs a refuge. The Salvation Army runs a refuge in Surrey and there is another refuge in the west of the county Your Sanctuary is based in Woking and helps many.
At Christmas, ideally there should be joy in every family home, with excited, happy secure children enjoying their new toys and having fun with their parents. Yet there will be children who witness violence and aggression in their home over this special period of the year. What are the effects upon them of seeing such behaviour? How can it be prevented?
ESDAS with the help of some amazing volunteers has set up a special Grotto which mothers and children can visit in the days leading up to 25th December to choose presents for themselves and loved ones. Perpetrators of domestic abuse aim to take away choice and organisations such as ESDAS aim to give it back. I was delighted to declare it open on 7th December. There, mothers and children will experience joy as they see the presents that have been donated for them by local people, businesses, faith and community groups. They will know that people care about them and their welfare and will help them as much as possible. And the spirit of Christmas will remain all year round, because of the wonderful work of all those working in the agencies named above.