Written by Rashida Simpson, Digital Campaigns Officer, UK SAYS NO MORE
16 Days of Activism is an opportunity for us to recognise and raise awareness of gender based violence. Here at UK SAYS NO MORE we continue to work with our partners and those on the ground to commit to a whole community response against sexual violence and domestic abuse.
Whether it is through our newly launched Safe Spaces initiative or in every day conversations with those around you both young and old, we encourage everyone to BELIEVE, RESPOND and REFER at the point of disclosure.
We hope you have found our messaging over the last 16 Days to be useful and actionable in your day-to-day lives. Let’s now take the opportunity to recap on #WhatICanDo and reinforce the ways in which we can look out for one other, whether it is with your friend, your family or the local and wider community.
1. Empower yourself to respond
Learn a little about domestic abuse and sexual violence. We do not ask you to become experts in the field, we do not even expect you to share advice and offer opinions on the subjects at hand. What we do ask is for you to listen, both without judgement and carefully, to the person who has chosen to confide in you and share their experiences. Rather than be the bastion of all knowledge use the available tools around you to do the expert legwork. You can easily locate nearby services in your area by downloading the Bright Sky app. This app is confidential and is easily hidden if a perpetrator is near. The app also provides information on both the issues and the job titles of those who can help support.
There are other things you can do to learn more about domestic abuse and sexual violence. For instance, did you know that domestic abuse is more than just physical? Coercive control is about using power to control a partner and is now a crime in most countries of the United Kingdom. In addition, how much do you really know about consent? Watch this video to put it all in perspective.
2. Start those conversations around domestic abuse and sexual violence
On the surface, starting conversations around consent and sex sounds awkward. We encourage you to speak openly with your family and friends without fear of those so-called sensitive subjects. At times, the subjects need not be sensitive. When you were talking to your friend at dinner last night did they say something questionable such as “he always goes shopping with me and chooses what I buy” or “they control all of my finances.” Maybe it is not an issue, but maybe it is. Listen to the people around you carefully and do not be afraid to ask questions and guide discussions to the subject of healthy relationships.
3. Consider the ways to respond to your employees
There are several ways in which, as an employer, you can protect staff who have experienced domestic abuse or sexual violence. One way is to incorporate a domestic abuse policy in your workplace that includes domestic abuse leave. There are several organisations, which recognise issues of domestic abuse and are aware of how it can affect staff. In fact, a report by KPMG, commissioned by Vodafone, found that 122,000 women are estimated to have taken time off work due to domestic abuse in 2019. The report also found that over £300 million is being lost by the UK businesses each year as a consequence of work absences related to domestic abuse.
Rather than wait for staff to avoid work, find ways in which your organisation can be on the front foot to protect them.
There are also ways in which you can empower your employees to understand domestic abuse and sexual violence, training them to become effective responders. UK SAYS NO MORE launched Safe Spaces in the London Borough of Islington. This fantastic initiative sees local organisations commit to a whole community response around domestic abuse and sexual violence through training their staff to become Ambassadors. These Ambassadors know how to effectively Believe with a listening ear, Respond with a glass of water and a secluded place to sit and Refer members of the public to services which have the knowledge and tools to support.
4. Think of the children
We want to break the cycle of abuse. Our report found that 58% of respondents who had experienced domestic abuse as a child went on to have relationship issues as an adult. If we want to see a future without domestic abuse we need to address what is happening in the present. UK SAYS NO MORE has lobbied politicians to include children in the domestic abuse bill. We understand that children are affected by the abuse, which is happening in their parent’s relationship. If we want to break the cycle we have to encourage conversation between generations on issues regarding consent and healthy relationships.
5. Come together and fundraise!
Lastly, your local specialist services need you not only for 16 Days, but throughout the year. They do all they can on quite limited finances. Consider the different ways you can raise money to support them and there are several ways to do this:
· Hold a bake-a-thon
· Sell those old books
· Sell those old clothes
· Have a coffee morning
· Host a lunch
· Hold a Battle of the Bands gig
· Auction some fancy goods!
· Have a film night
· Get your school to have a non-uniform day
· Sell art
· Sell photography
· Hold a pub quiz
· Do a sponsored run
· A sponsored swim
· A sponsored walk!
· Teach yoga or a dance class
The list is endless!
What matters most is that we believe that we can all work together as a society to recognise #WhatICanDo to respond to those who have experienced domestic abuse and sexual violence by referring them to specialist organisations.
It is only then where we have the opportunity to change the narrative and break the cycle these 16 Days and beyond.