Domestic Violence

  • Since 2012 Shpresa has worked in partnership  with Solace Women Aid  and other specialist organisation to address the issue of domestic violence amongst the Albanian Speaking Women  

They continue to offer a number of services  for free , please click to  access information  in Albanian  https://www.solacewomensaid.org/advice-support

During the Coronavirus pandemic Shpresa continued to work hard to ensure  every Albanian speaking girl and women living in UK can be safe and get the support she needs by providing information , training , practical support  in partnership  with Solace women’s aid  and  Ikrow  

Through working with them  and our members we understand the additional challenges women are facing right now while in lockdown. So  we are bringing to you  some resources to help survivors, and those supporting them, at this critical time.

If you are experiencing abuse, you are not alone. Their  and our phone lines are open, their and our doors are open and our staff is  here to help you.

Staying safe during lockdown

Staying safe 

These are some suggestions you might want to consider in order to make yourself as safe as possible.

Following these suggestions is not a guarantee of safety but could help improve your safety. Remember, you know your abuser so only do what you think will help.

Always call 999 if you or your children are in danger. 

Silent help – Call 999 and if you can’t talk press 55 and the operator will respond.

Solace women’s aid  Advice Service is open for advice and support – 0808 802 5565 or email advice@solacewomensaid.org 

If you want to contact IKROW which  are based in Newham  please  CONTACT US

*If you can’t speak English  please  ask for an interpreter 

Safety planning during COVID-19

Physical space

  • Rehearse escape routes 
  • Identify places of safety in the house 
  • Identify places that are most dangerous 
  • Remember – altering the space may be dangerous if the perpetrator has time to notice

If you fear an attack:

  • Move to a low-risk area of the house, away from the kitchen, garage or where there are knives or anything that can be used as weapons 
  • Avoid rooms or spaces you could be trapped in, like bathrooms or walk-in cupboards 
  • Be ready to leave the house in an emergency- be aware however that many shops/restaurants/pubs will be shut.

Stay connected 

  • Ensure any children have important numbers, can call 999 and know what to do in an incident 
  • Keep important numbers to hand, or memorised 
  • Keep a phone charged, switched on and with you at all times

TheSilent Solutionis apolice system to help people who are unable to speak, but who needpoliceassistance. You will hear an automatedpolicemessage, which lasts for 20 seconds and begins with ‘you are through to thepolice‘. It will ask you to press 55 to be put through to police call management.

The Hollie Guard app is really useful if you are in danger – you shake your phone and it sends an alert out to a trusted contact.

Bright sky app is a domestic abuse app which provides support and information to anyone who may be in an abusive relationship or those concerned about someone you know. 

Safety if you are  still in an abusive relationship

  • Plan an escape route from every room in your home
  • Think of a safe area in your home to go if an argument happens – stay away from rooms with no exits and hard surfaces where there are objects which can be used as weapons i.e. bathroom, kitchen. If an argument happens, try to move to one of the safe areas.
  • Think about and make a list of safe people to contact, if possible memorise all important phone numbers.
  • Speak to a trusted neighbour about your situation who will call the police if they hear a disturbance
  • Develop a ‘code word’ or ‘sign’ so that family and friends know when to call for help.
  • Keep money / change with you at all times – know where the nearest working phone box is.
  • Think about what you will say to your partner if they become violent. Use your judgement of the abuser to protect you and your children. You are in no way colluding with the abuser if you give them what they want in order to protect you and your children. Call the police as soon as it is safe to do so.
  • Know where to go and what to do in an emergency and have an alternative.
  • Teach your children what to do in an emergency – tell them to call 999 and be able to give the address but not to get involved – they should never use a phone in front of the abuser as this may endanger them
  • Call 999 in the event of an emergency – think of alternative ways to keep safe if the police do not respond straight away

Safety if you are planning to leave 

If you are planning to leave you may not feel able to leave immediately, but you can plan and be prepared for when an emergency does arise and you need to leave your home. Leaving is often the most dangerous time so plan leaving so you can increase your safety. You can:

  • Keep a record of the violent and controlling behaviour to support any future action you may take – civil or criminal.
  • Log incidents with the police, even if you do not want to press charges at present: https://www.met.police.uk
  • Seek legal advice (Solace Advice can give you numbers of Solicitors, Rights of Women / Community Legal Service Directory link/ National DV Helpline )
  • Have any bruises or injuries recorded by a doctor for future use in any legal proceedings, rehousing procedures, etc. You can also take a picture using a camera or your mobile phone. Solace can also do this for you
  • Have a packed bag ready and keep it in a secret, but accessible place so you can leave quickly.
  • Keep important documents in a safe place, either hidden in your home at with friends / family (e.g. marriage / birth certificates, national insurance card, passport, driving licence etc,) including items of sentimental value, so that they can be grabbed in a hurry.
  • Only tell people you trust where you will be. Lie if you have to – this will protect you and them.

The following items will be useful but are not essential for you to take if you decide that you want to leave in a hurry. Remember we can always help you to get these items later and with police support:

  • ID – passports, birth / marriage certificate, NI number, driving licence etc
  • Money – bank / credit cards
  • Medical – prescribed medicines, prescriptions, medical cards, children’s medical records
  • Legal – injunctions, divorce papers, mortgage documents, tenancy agreement
  • Special Items: photos, child’s favourite toy, house and car keys.
  • Always try to take your children with you or make arrangements to leave them with someone safe.

Remember: If the last number you called was a refuge, taxi or the place you are going to stay, dial another number – for example, the Speaking Clock (dial 123)

Satying safe online 

Monitoring, harassing and stalking behaviours have always been part of domestic abuse. Modern technology has provided new, simpler, means to enable this behaviour to continue. Mobile phones, social media platforms, and apps are all developing so quickly that it can often feel difficult to know how to keep yourself safe online. Here are a few ideas that can help you.

  • Don’t answer calls from withheld numbers
  • Block or change numbers (only when it is safe to do so)
  • Turn off location services such as ‘find my iPhone’ on smart phones
  • Ensure that location services are also not activated on apps – for example facebook attaches a location to posts
  • Delete and/or block your abusive partner on social media sites and don’t add anyone unknown
  • Ensure your social media sites are managed safely; for example changing your facebook settings so you can’t be found by using the search function/setting up new accounts which you only give to safe friends or family
  • Cover cameras on tablets/computers/phones in case perpetrators are able to hack them
  • If you’ve experienced abuse through your phones/tablets the safest option is to get a new device
  • If you can’t afford a new device you can restore the device to factory settings. Going in store to your provider can help you with this to check it’s done correctly.
  • Get screenshots to keep a log of any threats occurring through social media where safe to do so.

Safety after the relationship has ended 

Unfortunately, domestic violence and abuse may not end even when the relationship has ended. In order to increase your safety you can consider:

  • Inform trusted friends or relatives that you are no longer in the relationship and they should call the police if they see your former partner near or trying to gain access to your home.
  • Change locks on your doors and make sure that all windows and doors are as secure as possible.
  • Have additional security installed- sensor security lighting/ burglar alarm
  • Change the routes you use to take your children to school.
  • Inform people who look after your children eg, teachers, childminders etc, which people have permission to collect them. If you have an injunction, give a copy to the school.
  • When at work ask people to screen your calls.
  • Change your routines i.e. shop in different place/supermarket at different times and take a different route home etc.
 

I’m really worried about someone I know, how can I support them?

There are many reasons why you might be concerned about someone you know – perhaps they have previously told you that their partner has been violent and/or abusive; perhaps they have indicated that they sometimes feel scared, or isolated, or that their partner is controlling; perhaps you have some concerns based on things you’ve seen or heard before.  

It can be difficult to know what to do when you think someone you care about is at risk. Here is some guidance to help you reach out to your loved ones and talk to them about what’s going on. 

  1. Talk to them:

Be patient. Isolation and manipulation are frequently used tactics of abuse. Your friend or family member may stop contacting you or become withdrawn. Perpetrators are adept at making these situations look like they are the victim’s/survivor’s choice and may be intentionally turning their family and friends against them. If someone is acting out of character, consider whether there may be something else going on and try to reach out if you can speak to them on their own.  

Try and find out more about what is going on. It might be harder for them to get time to themselves whilst in lockdown, only ask questions when you think it is safe to do so, ie. when they are alone doing the shopping or taking a walk; or in a room by themselves. Ask them if it’s safe to talk, and use ask yes/no questions if necessary. 

Approach it gently, take your time. They might say everything is fine, but you’ve opened the door for them to tell you more. Be mindful that it may feel unsafe for a survivor to tell a friend or family member what’s happening, try not to get frustrated if you feel that they are not telling you the full story. 

  1. Validate their experience, challenge their doubt and self-blame

If they tell you more about what’s going on, listen to them, believe them, and reassure them that it’s not their fault.  

They might be doubting themselves or feeling like they are making a big deal out of nothing. Hearing things like ‘that sounds really difficult’, ‘this seems like it’s making you feel really bad’ lets them know that you are listening, you believe them, and what they are saying is valid. 

They might feel like something is all their fault or focus on things they’ve done wrong – after all, this is what they are hearing from the person who is abusing them all the time! You can offer a different perspective on this: saying things like “it doesn’t sound like it’s your fault”, “I don’t think you’ve done anything wrong here”, “what you’ve done seems reasonable to me”, can provide some reassurance for them and highlight that they are not to blame. 

It’s important to recognise that some of the most powerful forms of abuse are not physical – coercive control, financial abuse and psychological abuse can be extremely damaging and often result in a survivor feeling trapped and powerless. If someone discloses any form of abuse to you, validate their experience, support them, and advise them to seek help. 

  1. Tell them about the support that is available

You can share the number of the Solace’s helpline, the national domestic abuse helpline, or of local service (find out what’s available in your area on your local authority website). Let them know that the helplines are there to provide free, confidential support, that we will listen, and that we will never judge, stigmatise or blame them.  

Remember, specialist services are there to help provide support and advice. Don’t try to take it all on yourself and offer advice – what might be good advice for one person, could put another person at risk. Specialist workers can assess the risks, safety plan and provide advice and guidance. 

  1. Find out how you can support them

Ask them what you could do to support them. This could be arranging a code word that they can use over the phone or via text, so if they are in danger, you know to call 999. If it’s safe to do so, they could leave some emergency items at your place, such as some clothes, passport and essential documents, in case they and any children need to leave at short notice. If they do have to leave, encourage them to get to a safe place and call Solace, or the national helpline if it’s out of hours, to get advice on the next steps. 

Don’t! 
    • Insult their partner: think about a time when someone was mean or rude about someone you cared about – how did that feel?  
    • Ask them what they’ve done to ‘provoke’ the situation: they will be carrying enough blame and doubt, and they don’t need you to add to it! 
    • Try to force them to take action they’re not ready for: they will do that when they are ready.  
    • Try to manage the situation yourself: you are not alone in this, and neither is the survivor. Specialist support is available. 
 

Other sources of help


Do you need help? Call Solace Women’s aid  now on freephone 0808 802 5565

Housing and homelessness

What is a refuge 

A refuge is a safe space where women and children experiencing domestic abuse can stay free from fear of the perpetrator. 

Refuge addresses are confidential and there are often additional security measures in place to keep them safe such as CCTV, alarm systems and additional locks on doors and windows. 

Each refuge will have its own assessment criteria, which will include proximity to the area you are fleeing from, the number and age of children that can be accommodated, and the level of support that can be provided.

Some refuges are self-contained, however most will have a private room for you and your children with shared facilities such as kitchen, living room, and bathroom. You will be expected to cook for yourself and your children, and budget for your own living expenses.

The time a resident lives in a refuge will vary. However, refuges are short term crisis accommodation, and you will usually expect to stay there for around six months. You will be allocated a key worker or support worker, who will help you explore your housing options for when you leave the refuge. The key worker will also support you with your practical and emotional needs during your time at the refuge.
The rent for refuges can be high, and your keyworker will support you to apply for housing benefit to help cover the costs. Some refuges cannot accept referrals for women who are not eligible for Housing Benefit. 

Some refuges will have a play room and services for children, such as a children’s worker who will help your children settle in to the refuge and arrange play activities for them.
 

Find a refuge space 

If you would like to find a refuge space you can call Solace Advice Line on 0808 802 5565. This service is available Monday-Friday from 10am – 4pm. Advisors can do a refuge search for current vacancies which are suitable for you and your needs.  

To do a refuge search on weekends or at evenings/night, you can call the National Domestic Violence Helpline which is a 24-Hour service on 0808 2000 247. 

Staying safe at home 

If you are living with the perpetrator, there is safety planning that you can do. You can plan exit routes for emergencies, pack a bag if you have to leave in a crisis or put emergency contacts on your phone/in a safe place so they are they easily accessible. 

Please see our section on Staying Safe for further advice. 

If you are no longer living with the perpetrator, but they know where you live and you feel unsafe, you may also be able to access a sanctuary scheme with your local council. This involves an assessment to help keep you safe in your home, and they can put extra security measures on your home such as secure locks, panic alarms, CCTV, security lights to help make your home safer. You can contact your local council to put these measures in place for free, usually with permission from the landlord. 

However if you do not feel safe to remain in your home, you can make a Homelessness Application (see below).

How to make a homelessness application 

If you are not safe in your home, either because the perpetrator lives with you, or knows your address, then you are entitled to approach the council for assistance. If you do not feel safe in the area in which you currently live, then you are entitled to approach any council in England and Wales.

This is called a Homelessness application. In order to access this route, you will need to have ‘eligible’ immigration status, this means you are a British national, have Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK, or are any EU National exercising your Treaty Rights. 

To begin this process you can call the housing department of your chosen council and request an appointment. Some councils will not offer appointments, and they may ask you to come in in person and wait to be seen by a housing officer. When you see the Housing Officer, you will be interviewed about your circumstances. You have the right to ask for a female interviewer, if you feel more comfortable. It is a good idea to bring ID, proof of housing history, proof of income such as bank statements, payslips or benefit letters, medical evidence if you have any medical conditions, and any information you have about the domestic abuse that you have experienced, such as police reports, doctor’s letters, letters from Children’s Services, or any other agencies that you have received support from. 

The council will want to establish if you are in ‘priority need’ for assistance. This means that the council consider your household to be particularly vulnerable if they do not assist. Households in which there are children, or pregnant women are considered to be in priority need. If you do not have children, you may still be in priority need if you are elderly, have physical or learning disabilities, have mental health difficulties, are fleeing violence or abuse, have spent time in care, prison or the armed forces, or have any other vulnerabilities. The council will assess priority need on a case by case basis. If the council believe you to be in priority need, then they have a duty to provide you with emergency temporary accommodation that day. If you are not in priority need, the council may not provide with you emergency accommodation, but still have a duty to advise and assist you in finding safe accommodation. 

The council have a duty to assess if you are ‘intentionally homeless.’ This means, if you did anything that may have led to you being homeless. If you have had to flee your home due to abuse, then this is never your fault, and the council should not find you to be ‘intentionally homeless’.

The council will work with you to develop a ‘Personalised Housing Plan’, to help you find somewhere to live within the next 8 weeks. The Plan will have actions both for you and your housing officer to complete, and must be agreed on by both of you. If your housing officer asks you to do something that you are not able to do, then you have a right to tell them this. 

The council have 56 days to make a decision on your Homelessness Application. If the council accept a duty to house you, then they may offer your privately rented accommodation, or they may put you on the Social Housing list. The wait for a social housing tenancy (a council property or Housing Association property) can be very long, sometimes several years, particularly in popular urban areas. However, the council have a duty to provide you with some form of safe and suitable temporary accommodation until they have provided you with permanent accommodation. 

If you need more support about how to make a homelessness application, you can call Solace Advice Line on 0808 802 5565.  

Secure tenants 

You may have a secure council tenancy, or Housing Association tenancy. If you flee your home, you may be worried about losing this. You can speak to your landlord about transferring to a new property. You can approach your designated housing officer, or request to speak to the Safeguarding Lead, or Anti Social Behaviour Team. You will probably have to tell them some information about the abuse you have been experiencing, and explain that you do not wish to remain in the property.

Dual Housing benefits 

If you have left your home because of abuse or fear of abuse you can get housing benefit for both your old home and the home you are staying in now.

If you intend to return to your old home, you can get housing benefit for up to one year on both homes. You can get dual housing benefit for up to four weeks if you do not intend to return to your old home. 

Please call the Advice Line for further guidance on any housing issues – 0808 802 5565

If you cannot get council support for housing 

Immigration and No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF)

Support at solace 

Solace offers r support to women experiencing domestic and/or sexual abuse who also have insecure immigration status. In particular women who are able to make immigration or asylum applications relating to this abuse.

Call their  advice line for help – 0808 802 5565

Other support 

Rights of Women

Free legal information and advice about family law.

rightsofwomen.org

Rights of Women legal guide

Domestic violence and immigration law the “domestic violence rule” 

This legal guide explains the immigration law and policy relevant to women from abroad who are in the UK on a spouse or partner visa and are experiencing domestic violence. The domestic violence rule, explained in this guide, may apply to you if you are in the UK as the wife, partner or civil partner of someone who is British or has
Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).

Children and parenting

The impact of domestic abuse on children 

We know that domestic abuse can impact children of any age in many different ways. Children don’t need to have witnessed violence or been hurt themselves to be affected.  

Your child may present with concerning behaviours such as lashing out, avoiding school, becoming more clingy to you or complaining more of physical pain such as tummy aches.

However it is also useful to remember that sometimes impact may be less visible; children may become more withdrawn or become very well behaved as they don’t wish to put any more strain on their parents. 

A child’s brain is forming some of its most important connections and systems in the first 18 months of life and these are shaped by their experiences of the world around them. When a child is in a stressful, dangerous or unpredictable environment this activates their stress response system which can make them hypervigilant, always trying to monitor danger. This can become over active with the result that even when the child is safe their brain may continue to feel that they are not, resulting in them becoming jumpy or seeming angry and hard to manage.

In school age children this can also impact on their concentration and ability to make friends. In younger children this means that their development may become delayed as so much energy is going in to keeping them safe. 
 

What can i do to help my child 

The most important thing is that you continue to tell your child that you love them; provide lots of affection and reassurance.
It is useful to answer any questions they may have as openly and honestly as you can. You should try to do this in an age appropriate way and keep explanations as simple as possible.

You may want to set aside some dedicated time to do this when you are not preoccupied with other activities and when your child is feeling calm. 

Help your child to express and name their feelings – model verbalising how you feel when something makes you angry worried or upset. There are also books for children of different ages which can help you talk about feelings. 

You may want to seek some therapeutic support for your child, which can provide a space for them to process their experiences and express difficult feelings. 

Finding activities for your child to boost their self-esteem can be really beneficial for example a sports or drama club. 
Make sure you still make time to do nice activities with your child- playing, colouring, watching a movie, going for a nature walk…. 

Look after yourself! You cannot support your children unless you are being supported. You may want to find some counselling for yourself. Do not be too harsh on yourself – what has happened is not your fault either and you are coping with a very stressful situation.

Getting back in charge 

It can be really hard to maintain boundaries when there has been domestic abuse, often there are feelings of guilt for what the child has experienced and often behaviour can escalate when children feel unsettled. 

It is really important to maintain clear, consistent boundaries to make children feel safe. Tips for doing this include: 

  • Modelling good behaviour and communication
  • Giving clear instructions as to what you want the child to do
  • Giving praise and attention for good behaviour 
  • Ignoring bad behaviour
  • Confrontation  – “NO, don’t do that” followed by firm authoritative instructions 
  • Incentives 
  • Consequences 
  • Time out  – time out should not be an alternative to completing a task, but a consequence of bad behaviour.

How to talk to your children about Domestic abuse 

It is very important to talk with your children about domestic abuse. If you don’t they may feel that they are to blame, confused or like they are crazy, they may think that it is not ok to talk about violence or their feelings. By talking to your children you can make them feel safer, cared for and understood and help them to learn that violence is not an ok way to deal with your problems and that it is ok to talk about feelings. 

Talk to children when they are ready and make sure that you have lots of time and are both feeling calm. Be patient; accept that they may not be willing or able to talk about it right away. Try another time. 

Let them know that it is not ok for anybody to ever hurt somebody else.

Make sure that they realise what has happened is not their fault and there is nothing that they could have done to change or prevent it. 

Let them know you will listen to them, and that you know it must have been scary for them. Let them know that they can tell you how they feel. 

Talk about what your child can do to keep themselves safe if it happens again. (For example, staying in your room, going to neighbours, etc.)

Speak about your ex-partner in a general way and try to avoid name calling. Challenge their behaviour rather than the person- your child may still love the abusive parent and may find these feelings confusing. 

If they find it difficult to talk you could try having a question box in which they can post questions or a journal where you can write messages to each other. 

Acknowledge that it may be uncomfortable for you to talk about the abuse – saying you don’t have time may be your way of avoiding it. It might be scary for you to remember what happened- it’s scary for your children too but once you start talking it may feel less scary. Try talking with an adult you trust first. 

Children’s services 

When children’s services (previously known as social services) receive information which lead them to suspect that a child may be at risk of harm, they must look into the child’s situation and take any action necessary to keep them safe and promote their welfare. Often when there has been domestic abuse in the home they will complete an assessment with the family to make sure that the children are safe and that you all have the support they need. 

Sometimes if parents are not taking steps needed to keep their children safe and there is reason to believe that the risk of harm to them is very high Children’s services may go through a legal process in order to take those children in to care. However this is only something that will happen after all other attempts to work with parents to keep their children safe have been exhausted. 

*This information was gathered from Solace Women aid website 

Do you need help? Call them now on freephone 0808 802 5565

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