As this year’s international White Ribbon Day gets underway, Zoe Hall, project manager at PA Housing’s Eden Park scheme in Northamptonshire, explains why everyone, especially men and boys, should take action to stomp out domestic violence
Ahead of this year’s annual awareness-raising event, PA Housing has been awarded the White Ribbon accreditation in recognition of its work tackling male violence against women.
PA has set up its own White Ribbon Group, a growing team of colleagues who have worked together to draw up a three-year action plan as part of our commitment to the campaign, with plans including the development of a staff training strategy, which will cover subjects such as sexual violence, coercive control, consent and domestic abuse.
The team here at PA’s Eden Park scheme will have a lot to contribute to the discussions that are about to ensue – because, for us, changing the behaviour and culture that leads to abuse is already part of our daily working lives.
We’ll be keen to share with our colleagues the main lessons we’ve learned during our 15 years working with young parents – many of whom have suffered domestic violence and have nowhere else to go.
While they are living in our 13 self-contained flats in Corby, Northamptonshire, we work with young families, providing housing and support as they get ready for the next phase of their lives. One of the most important services we provide is the Freedom Project, a 12-week course designed by Pat Craven to raise the awareness of domestic abuse, delivered by our own fully trained staff members on a one-to-one basis, in a safe and supportive environment.
At the start of the programme, we find our clients can have very little understanding of what constitutes a healthy relationship, and the project is about placing violent and abusive behaviours into a social context that enables them to recognise what might have been their own experiences.
We not only work with the victims of abuse, but often also with perpetrators, to help them to realise that domestic abuse is not always physical. Threats, humiliation and intimidation are all part of coercive control – as are behaviours intended to isolate a person from their support network and deprive them of independence.
The purpose of the course is to change individuals’ awareness so they can identify when they are being controlled, and to help them have the strength and courage to do something about it.
Crucially, we help clients make sense of what has happened to them in the past, and to understand the long-lasting impact being exposed to abuse can have on children.
During our one-to-one sessions, several clients have disclosed abuse within their relationship, and in one case involving severe physical violence, staff were able to intervene. The perpetrator went on to be prosecuted and was sent to prison; meanwhile, with support from the PA team, the family was able to move into independent accommodation and is now thriving.
“If our clients go on to be more vigilant in their relationships and build equality on an ongoing basis, then the difference we’ve made will last a lifetime and more”
Often, during our work, the team at Eden Park is reminded how simply enabling individuals to talk about experiences can help them to see certain behaviours for what they are. We’ve seen for ourselves that talking to both men and women about the cultures that lead to cycles of abuse can stop them affecting the next generation.
At PA, we’re very aware the Coronavirus pandemic and resulting lockdowns have prompted a rise in domestic violence, harassment, and abuse; and we’re viewing this year’s White Ribbon Day as an opportunity to come together and recognise the ways in which we can take action.
For the families we work with at Eden Park, knowledge is truly empowering. If, after leaving us, our clients go on to be more vigilant in their relationships and manage to build equality on an ongoing basis, then the difference we’ve made will last a lifetime and more.
Image: Zoe Hall, project manager at PA Housing’s Eden Park scheme in Corby, Northamptonshire
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