Domestic abuse champions
We have coordinators out across Norfolk training others to become domestic abuse champions. The aim is for champions to learn how to recognise symptoms and take action to improve the safety of people who are enduring domestic abuse.
Since the initiative started in September 2015, our domestic abuse change coordinators have trained more than 500 champions, which is way beyond the original target.
The coordinators train people who deal with the public, such as social workers, CAB advisers, midwives, nurses, school workers, children’s centre staff and GPs, to look out for signs of abuse.
Champions are trained to know how to ask, respond, and support people affected by domestic abuse, and to use their knowledge to also help their colleagues know how best to respond.
This network of champions will reduce risk of serious harm by identifying and managing the risk early, which will in turn reduce the effect, both on people and businesses.
To become a champion, people attend two free training sessions that are held regularly across the county.
Coordinators provide opportunities for champions to meet up and take back the latest learning points to their organisations. Champions must be given time and support by their employer to carry out their role effectively.
Julie Reeve is a Family Practitioner in Norfolk Early Help and Family Focus. However that is not her only job, she also dedicates her time to offering support and care to victims of domestic abuse.
Julie has been a Domestic Abuse Champion for around six months after a personal experience inspired her to help others.
She said: “The best part is being able to support other victims and professionals and the hardest part is being strong for them as this can be an upsetting subject.
“I directly worked with a lady who was a victim and referred her on to other agencies to arrange support for her son. The woman came out of the relationship she was in and seemed to grow as a person – she had confidence and she just radiated – and knowing I had made a contribution to that made me feel better.”
Julie’s varied volunteering role ranges from offering support to families, working with young people affected by domestic abuse and delivering training to organising fundraising events.
She added that during her training she had learnt the definition of abuse and the impact it could have on a vast range of individuals. She added: “I have learnt about elder abuse, domestic abuse is not just about couples as parents can be victims too.
“My role as a champion is fulfilled on an ‘as and when’ basis, sometimes I do very little and other times I do lots, for example the training other champions took up a whole day of my time. I am happy to dedicate as much time as I can as long as this does not impact on my main role.
“My advice to people wanting to get involve is, ‘do it!’ I take pride in my role and am keen to learn more and the more people we can get out there supporting others whether that be colleagues or victims the better.”
Sinead Murray is a Family Practitioner at Action for Children’s Swaffham Children’s Centre. However that is not her only job, she also dedicates her time to offering support and care to victims of domestic abuse.
Sinead said: “I support women and men who feel they may be a victim of domestic abuse and help them find where to go to get the right support to stay safe. Our Action for Children centre works in partnership with domestic abuse charities such as Leeway, Daisy and Pandora to run services such as ‘Power to Change’, the ‘Freedom Programme’ and various drop-in sessions.
“The most positive outcome was co-facilitating the Freedom Programme with Pandora Project and seeing the women’s confidence grow, hearing laughter and seeing people moving on with their lives, free from domestic abuse.”
Sinead has been a Domestic Abuse Champion for a year and has raised more than £1,000 for Daisy a Breckland Charity by biking from London to Brighton. She says the hardest thing is “being conscious of the effects of domestic abuse on children and how many are exposed to it on a regular basis: 130,000 children live in households with high risk domestic abuse (caada 2012).
“The best part is making a positive change to peoples’ lives - I’ve learnt to be confident talking about domestic abuse. If you don't discuss it with people you’ll never know if they are living with domestic abuse or if they’ve experienced it.”
She added: “I’ve taken part in team activities to raise awareness of domestic abuse including giving a talk at a networking event led by the Pandora project. Above all else, I listen to people affected by domestic abuse and make them feel welcome at the children’s centre.”
When asked what advice she would give to people wanting to become a Champion, Sinead said: “Do it! The training is such an eye opener... you could be that person that makes a positive change to someone’s life!”
Krissi Berry is a Support Coordinator for the Volunteer and Peer Mentoring Team in Stonham, but she has also spent more than seven years as a Domestic Abuse Champion (locally before the county-wide Champions network was set up). She is a front-line worker and has delivered one-to-one support to young people and the vulnerable. Krissi has also supported families in a ‘whole family’ approach which involved working with perpetrators whilst they were still living in the family home.
Krissi said that one of the most positive experiences she has had as a Domestic Abuse Champion was receiving feedback from someone she had helped. The feedback said:
“Thank you for the session. I have been a victim of abuse in all my past relationships. And always blamed myself and it was my behaviour which made my relationships turn into abusive ones. I have recently come out of another relationship, which was pure mental mind games. I was in touch with Leeway (the domestic abuse service), however I kept giving in to him, so they really could not help me as I was not helping myself by staying away. I am still feeling he has control on me. And just can’t seem to accept what he has put my through and move on. A lot of the session put things in to light for me, and now understand DASH and how the risk level is worked out. It’s very hard to talk things through with people as they do not understand. I can say with the session and being through it myself I would rate myself around a 9 for understanding.”
Another moment that stands out for Krissi, is when she helped “to assist a victim to successfully flee DVA after a 2.5 year Support Plan”.
She said: “I have always been active in raising awareness and offering guidance to colleagues, internal and external. I became a Champion due to having a lot of clients who have experienced DVA, I wanted to gain further knowledge and networking links to enable me to support my clients to the best of my ability.”
Nick Little, a Community Engagement Officer at Norwich City Council has been raising awareness of domestic abuse and trying to find ways of reducing violence.
Throughout 2016 he has been working with community groups from across Norfolk to identify the barriers and issues within communities and to discover solutions.
Nick said: “I think participatory activity is the key to wider engagement.
“I have learnt that the issue affects everyone in society, and that the whole community is required to effectively tackle it. I have also learnt that there is a great deal more work to be done with men and BAME groups in both raising awareness and finding solutions to cultural issues that impact upon this.
“The hardest part is raising awareness of the issue among groups where there are complex cultural and/or religious factors to consider.”
Nick was determined to become a Domestic Abuse Champion as he believes that more men need to get involved in the issue. He said: “We need to stand against violence towards partners, spouses etc. I was also motivated as I want to help communities of interest to develop and flourish in the city.
“Part of the work I do is to ensure we live in a safe city is to raise awareness of domestic abuse (DA) /domestic violence (DV) among communities that may have limited awareness, and to help those groups understand the culture and laws of the UK and know why DA/DV is wrong and is a criminal offence.
“The advice I would give to people wanting to become champions is to do it – take the training and start being a champion. The training is powerful and informative and relevant to all of our work. Get involved!”