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Domestic abuse and violence against women and girls

Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) is the umbrella term used to describe a range of violent and abusive acts and behaviours including:

These types of abuse can happen to anyone, regardless of age, social background, gender, religion, sexuality or ethnicity. However, we know that it disproportionately affects women and girls.

If you are experiencing any form of abuse, it is important to remember that it is not your fault, and that support is available.  

1. What is abuse?

Abuse takes many forms and does not just include physical violence. It isn’t always easy to recognise, and often develops gradually over time. Perpetrators of abuse exert power and control over those they abuse.

Some examples of what abuse may look like, include:

  • someone taking their partners pay, preventing them from being in education or employment, and/or taking out loans in their partners name. This is economic abuse.
  • someone feeling pressurised into having sex or worried about the consequences if they say no. This is sexual violence.
  • feeling pressured into marrying someone who has been chosen by family. Being told that rejecting the marriage will bring shame on the family. This is a forced marriage.
  • taking control over aspects of someone’s everyday life, such as where they can go, who they can see, what they can wear and when they can sleep. This is coercive control.
  • making unwanted phone calls, showing up unannounced, using social media to track someone, leaving unwanted items or gifts, waiting at places someone hangs out. This is stalking.

 

2. Get help

Support for domestic abuse is available from the Council and voluntary organisations and national services.

Support from the police

In an emergency, always dial 999. For non-emergency support call 101.

If you are in danger and unable to talk on the phone, call 999 and then press 55. This will transfer your call to the relevant police force who will assist you without you having to speak.

Family and Children's services

If you are worried that a child or young person is at immediate risk, please contact the assessment and access team immediately at accesstochildrensservices@westminster.gov.uk or phone: 020 7641 4000

If you need a service in an emergency between 5pm and 9am on weekdays or 24 hours a day at weekends and bank holidays, you can contact the Emergency Duty Team on 020 7641 2388.

Freedom Programme

Westminster Children’s Services can refer you to The Freedom Programme which is facilitated in house by Domestic Abuse specialists. It is an 11 week group programme for women who have experienced or still are experiencing domestic abuse.  The aim of this programme is to help you to understand abusive behaviour and help you identify abusive behaviour in the future.

Angelou Partnership

Angelou is a partnership of 10 specialist organisations that support women and girls experiencing domestic or sexual violence in Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith and Fulham.

Angelou can provide support if you have been subjected to domestic abuse, sexual violence, stalking, forced marriage, so called honour-based violence, female genital mutilation and child exploitation. They provide specialist support to the Black, Minority and Ethnic and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender communities.

Contact Angelou Partnership:

  • Call 0808 801 0660, Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm. Wednesday 6pm to 9pm.
  • Or, 0208 741 7008, Monday to Friday, 10am to 6pm.
  • Email: angelou@advancecharity.org.uk

Translators are available. 

Men’s advice line

Men’s Advice Line is a confidential helpline for all male victims of domestic abuse and those supporting them. They offer advice and emotional support, and signpost to other vital services that help keep them and their children safe.

Phone: 0808 8010327 or email info@mensadviceline.org.uk, Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm.

National Domestic Abuse Helpline

The Nationl Domestic Abuse helpline is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing domestic abuse.

Phone: 0808 2000 247 for 24 hour telephone support.

Women's Aid

Where telephone support is not safe, Women’s Aid have an online service to support you. This includes instant messaging, (Monday to Friday, 10am to 12pm), email support (response within five days), a survivor’s handbook (to get help on housing, safety planning, dealing with police and more) and a community of survivor’s forum.

Victim support 

Victim Support offer tailored support to help people recover from the effects of crime and traumatic events.

Telephone support is available 24 hours a day, phone: 0808 168 9111.

Paladin National Stalking Helpline

Paladin is a trauma-informed service set up to provide support for anyone experiencing stalking.

Phone: 0808 802 0300, 9am to 4pm weekdays, except for Wednesdays when it is open from 1pm to 4pm.

Samaritans

Samaritans offer helpline support 24/7. They work to make sure there's always someone there if you’re having a difficult time.

Phone: 116 123 or text: 85258

Forced Marriage Unit

The Forced Marriage Unit offer support if you’re trying to stop a forced marriage or you need help leaving a marriage you’ve been forced into.

Phone: 020 7008 0151 or email: fmu@fco.gov.uk

Female Genital Mutilation Helpline

The NSPCC run a helpline to provide support for anyone who is concerned about Female Genital Mutilation.

Phone: 0800 028 3550

Surviving Economic Abuse (SEA)

SEA offer support to anyone who is experiencing economic abuse. This means when a partner restricts how you access or use money and resources, such as accommodation, food, clothing and transportation.

Crime Stoppers

If you witness or have information related to domestic abuse, you can call Crime Stoppers completely anonymously.

Phone: 0800 555 111

3. Housing support

If you are experiencing or at risk of homelessness, you can apply for social housing and assistance online or by phone on 020 7641 1000.

Sanctuary Scheme

The Sanctuary Scheme is a free scheme for anyone who is at high risk of harm from domestic abuse and wants to improve the safety and security of their home.

The scheme offers a range of works to increase safety, such as changing windows and door locks, installing grilles, and strengthening doors. Sanctuary Scheme decisions are made on a case by case basis to determine the safest support is in place.

During the pandemic, we are continuing to offer a Sanctuary Scheme service. To access this service, a referral needs to be made on your behalf via a domestic abuse charity, the police or a statutory professional, such as a social worker.

For more information contact Angelou Partnership on 0208 741 7008 or email sanctuaryscheme@westminster.gov.uk

4. Support if you are worried about hurting someone

If you are worried about hurting the ones you love while staying at home, call the Respect Phoneline for support and help to manage your behaviour on 0808 802 4040 or visit the Respect Phoneline website.

5. What to do if you witness abuse

Communities must stand together against domestic abuse and hold abusers accountable

As a bystander, family member, colleague or friend you may feel helpless when you know someone is a victim of domestic abuse. But there are things you can do.

If you are worried about someone who is experiencing abuse, you can call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline for advice. Call 0808 2000 247, open 24 hours a day.

6. Personal stories

All of the women below received one to one support from the Independent Domestic Violence Advocate at Westminster Children’s Services. They have also completed The Freedom Programme, an 11 week group programme for women who have experienced or still are experiencing domestic abuse.

I honestly don’t think I’d still be alive. I was in pretty bad shape when I left my former partner. I couldn’t even make a decision as to what sandwich to order for lunch and was too scared of going out on my own. Since then, I have found my sense of self again, and in the darkness, found this glimmer of hope, telling me I was strong enough to get through this. I have better understanding as to how I found myself in this situation in the first place and will never ignore my inner voice again. For me, what would have been useful if I were still with him, would be to have access to the support services I have now but didn’t know existed then.

 

I was actually still with my abusive ex-partner when lockdown started and for about 2 months of it. But during that time, I started doing the Online Freedom Programme and it was like a lightbulb being switched on! I threw him out and got an injunction to keep him away, from the National Centre for Domestic Violence. With help and support I have freed myself and my children.

 

I am still with my abuser. Lockdown has been so hard for me and my children have witnessed much more of the abuse than they normally would have. I want other women to know that Social Services are so helpful. I don’t think I would have got through this lockdown if it weren’t for my children’s social worker. She has kept in contact with me and the children and my husband and her presence, albeit over the phone or by video call, has meant that my husband is wary of being very abusive.

 

Because I left my abusive ex-partner, I was one of the lucky ones who could wake up in lockdown smiling instead of being woken up and having to pretend to smile! Housing were so brilliant with me. They moved me somewhere safe where he can’t hurt us anymore.

7. 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women

November 25 is the United Nations Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Partners across the City of Westminster, Hammersmith and Fulham Council and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea are organising a series of events to celebrate 16 Days of Activism leading to December 10 International Human Rights Day.

Spread the word

Help call for an end to violence against women by joining our campaign on social media. Use #noexcuseforabuse to help spread the word and find out what we are doing to make our boroughs safer.

Legal Advice Clinic on Family Law

1:1 Information on options and legal rights as a survivor of any form of violence and abuse, including advice on protection orders, child protection procedures and child arrangements and contact.

Date: Wednesday 25 November, 10am – 4pm

By appointment only. Contact support@forwarduk.org.uk

Blooming Strong Coffee Morning

Join Standing Together as they celebrate the strength of women who have survived violence or supported someone who has. They are running a coffee morning and a network brunch which will be attended by Nicole Jacobs, Domestic Abuse Commissioner. Services can also nominate women to receive a Blooming Strong award.

Date: Thursday 26 November

Find out more about the coffee morning.

Whole Housing Approach to Domestic Abuse

This online session will be delivered by Standing Together and will explain the role that the housing sector play in responding to domestic abuse, drawing on the recently launched Whole Housing Toolkit.

Date: Thursday 26 November, 1-2pm

To book, email admin@standingtogether.org.uk

Living with the Dominator: Survivor Stories

This special online event will share the experiences of three survivors and their survival stories. The event is being organised by Total Family Coaching.

Date: Monday 30 November, 11am-1pm.

Please visit the Total Family Coaching website to register.

The Strength of Self-Care

The Open DAWS Women’s Service are running workshops celebrating women who have faced or are facing adversity.

Date: Tuesday 1 December at 1pm.

To book a place, contact Julie Ryan at julie.ryan@DAWSLondon.org

Training: Raising Awareness of Violence against Women & Girls (VAWG)

This online training session will provide an overview of VAWG, the impact on those experiencing abuse and will explore what we can do to support those affected. 

Professionals only session: Thursday 3 December, 10 – 11.30am

Residents only session: Thursday 3 December, 2 – 3.30pm

Book a place on the training course.

Training: Adult Family Violence

This online training session will be delivered by Standing Together and will explore domestic abuse in the context of family violence, focusing on adult child to parent abuse.

Date: Wednesday 9 December 10am – 1pm

To book please email admin@standingtogether.org.uk

Film Screening - Last Date

Last Date is a ground-breaking domestic abuse drama following the experience of young couple. It raises awareness of how abuse can begin and trap people in relationships. The film screening will be followed by an expert Q&A panel discussion. This is suitable for those aged 15 and above only.

Date: Thursday 10 December, 6 - 7.30pm

Register for the film screening.

Event - Still We Rise

This event will showcase community advocates who have supported women using online tools and workshops to build confidence and break isolation during the pandemic. FORWARD will also share research findings on the impact of COVID-19 on VAWG in Black, Minority and Ethnic communities.

Date: Thursday 10 December

To book please email forward@forwarduk.org.uk

Advance

Advance provide emotional and practical support to women in London. They are holding a range of activities over the 16-day period. Find out more information about Advance.

Last updated: 20 November 2020