This year, Ayrshire College is publishing a series of blog posts to mark the ’16 Days of Action’ – an international call of action to end violence against women and girls.
Next up is Ayrshire College Campus Liaison Officer Kimberley Bradford.
So let’s talk about domestic abuse…what exactly is it?
As the Campus Liaison Officer I speak to a lot of students within Ayrshire College who are experiencing problems with their partners, and they aren’t even aware that what they are suffering from constitutes abuse.
If you have experienced physical, emotional, sexual or financial abuse, or are being intimidated or threatened by a current (or previous) partner, then you are a victim of domestic abuse.
Domestic abuse happens in all sections of our communities. Abusers and victims can be male or female, any race or religion and from all different types of background.
So let’s break the types of abuse down into more manageable chunks.
• Physical abuse includes all types of assault and physical attacks like hitting (including with objects), punching, kicking and burning.
• Sexual abuse includes forcing you to engage in sexual acts or to have sexual intercourse.
• Mental/emotional abuse includes threats (including threats of violence), criticism, name calling, controlling what you do, where you go and who you speak to, threatening your children, isolating you from friends and family, accusing you of being unfaithful, threatening to ‘out’ your sexual orientation to family, friends or work, or to reveal your HIV/AIDS status.
I want to make it clear to everyone that the victim is NOT to blame for what is happening to them, although a lot of the time they are made to feel like it is their fault. You don’t need to suffer in silence – there is so much help available out there.
I think it’s particularly important to mention that domestic abuse regularly happens to young people, in fact 5% of all domestic abuse incidents involve girls aged between 16 and 18 years old. Those are only the incidents that have been reported, unfortunately many don’t get reported to Police Scotland. As college students many of you will fit into this profile and it’s important to know where you stand.
So what can Police Scotland do? Well one very useful scheme that is up and running is the Disclosure Scheme for Domestic Abuse Scotland. If you think that your partner might have been involved as an abuser, or if you have concerns about another person’s partner, then you can apply to the scheme to ask if there has been a history of abuse or other similar behaviour.
It’s also important to know how to report abuse, and there are many ways you can do this.
You can of course report it directly to me within the College. I work between the Ayr, Kilmarnock and Kilwinning campuses, but Student Services can reach me at any time and they can also schedule appointments with me on your behalf. You can also email me on Kimberley.Bradford@ayrshire.ac.uk and I can arrange to meet with you and provide you with advice.
If the incident is ongoing and needs dealt with immediately then always call 999. This is free from all phones including mobiles.
You can also report it at your local police office or online using the online domestic abuse form.
Ayrshire College is a Third Party Reporting Centre, so that means that certain staff are specially trained to take a report from you if you don’t want to go directly to the police.
All reports of domestic abuse are investigated and the police may also get you in touch with support groups that can help you move on and help you to cope.
You can help by trying to remember as many details as possible about what happened to you, things like: dates, times, where the abuse took place, any witnesses that may have saw it, and keeping any evidence like threatening texts, videos or audio recordings.
When domestic abuse has been reported to Police Scotland, they have set procedures to follow to make absolutely sure that you as the victim (and your family) are safe. They investigate the incident as thoroughly as possible and get any evidence available, and actively pursue the abuser to make sure they will be held accountable for their actions through the criminal justice system (courts) as well as referring you to other organisations who can help and support you.
Police Scotland also have Domestic Abuse Liaison Officers whose job is to link in personally with you following an incident, making sure you are getting the help and support you need, and keeping you updated on the case and advising you of your legal rights and options.
However, after knowing all of that some people still struggle to report the abuse. So let’s look at what can you do to keep yourself as safe as you can if you are a victim?
Well there are a few things you can do (ideally in addition to involving Police Scotland).
• Keep handy a list of phone numbers (police, friends, family, helplines).
• Tell a friend or neighbour – if you can talk to them about it they could call the police if they hear angry or violent noises.
• Teach your children how to get help, like how to dial 999 and ask for the police, consider a secret word that means you need help.
• Get safe in the home, think about safer places or rooms without weapons. If you think abuse may start try to get the abuser into this area.
• Have an escape plan. Even if you don’t plan to leave just now, think about how you could do it and practise ways of getting out of the house (taking the dog out/putting the bin out/nipping to the shop). Pack a bag of everyday things that you would need and hide it, or give it to someone you trust to keep.
Remember, if you are being abused YOU ARE NOT TO BLAME. It is not your fault and you don’t have to put up with it. Police Scotland are here to help and if you need any advice at all then you need only to ask and I will be more than happy to help you in any way I can.
Finally, there are many agencies across Scotland set up to offer support to victims and their families experiencing domestic abuse. The following contacts may be useful:
Broken Rainbow (tel 0845 260 4460)
Rape Crisis Scotland (tel 0808 801 0302)
Men’s Advice Line (tel 0808 801 0327)
Scottish Domestic Abuse Helpline (tel 0800 027 1234)
Assist (tel 0141 276 7710)
Samaritans (tel 08457 909090)
MensAid (tel 0871 223 9986)
Supportline (tel 01708 765200)
Victim Support Scotland (tel 0845 6039213)
Abused Men In Scotland (AMIS) (tel 0131 447 7449)