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20 / 09 / 2019

A Beacon Of Hope: We Pledge Our Support To Domestic Violence Charity

Domestic abuse is a major issue in today’s society. In the UK, 1.9 million adults experience domestic abuse every year. Over 90% of high-risk domestic abuse victims are women. And tragically, two women a week are killed by a current or former partner. There are, however, many domestic violence charities dedicated to protecting and empowering abuse survivors. Lighthouse Women’s Aid is one such beacon of hope. Lighthouse Women’s Aid is the chosen charity beneficiary of the 2019 Suffolk Fashion Show. As an official event sponsor, we’re proud to be supporting the life-saving work they do. And with this interview, we’re pleased to raise awareness of the help and support they offer to those in need.

Tell Us More About Lighthouse Women’s Aid:

Lighthouse Women’s Aid is a domestic violence charity working with women, young people and children affected by domestic abuse across Suffolk. It’s an established domestic abuse charity that has operated in Ipswich for over 40 years. It helps people who have suffered many different types of abuse, including emotional, psychological, financial and physical. The charity helps to keep them safe while they recover from this abuse, and helps them move towards a brighter future.

How Can Domestic Abuse Affect You?

When most people hear the words “domestic abuse”, they think of physical violence. While this is a sad reality for many of the women Lighthouse supports, it goes much further. It’s really important to recognise that domestic abuse is an abuse of power. It’s about one individual taking control over many aspects of another person’s life, limiting their choices, rights and freedoms. It can include financial abuse, and almost always emotional and psychological abuse, in order to manipulate, control and induce fear. This form of abuse is called Coercive Control. It became an offence as part of the Serious Crime Act 2015.

How Do You Aim To Help Women, Young People And Children Who Have Been Affected By Domestic Abuse Or Violence?

As a domestic abuse charity, we aim to help in a number of ways. For example, we provide refuge accommodation for women and their children needing to flee domestic abuse to ensure their safety. We also run a Community Women’s Centre in Ipswich. This Centre provides a range of valuable services, including access to legal, financial and housing advice, and therapeutic and educational programmes. Lighthouse also delivers training to local employers, health professionals and partner agencies, to raise awareness of domestic abuse.

Lighthouse believes we have an obligation to work with children and young people to help them understand the differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships as a preventative measure to reduce domestic abuse. We have delivered a programme in Suffolk Schools called Expect Respect over the last three years. This has, in fact, reached more than 4,000 children and young people, aged from 5 to 18 years. We are expanding this project in response to the increase in demand from schools where Healthy Relationship Education becomes statutory in September 2020.

What Sorts Of Warning Signs Should You Look For?

When you begin a relationship, it’s not always obvious whether or not it will become abusive. It can be difficult to recognise some of the signs of a partner being overbearing or dominant. But here are some of the more common warning signs to look out for:

  • You start to see less and less of your friends and family
  • You start changing your behaviour, your appearance or your actions to suit them
  • Sometimes you feel scared about how your partner will react
  • You don’t express your opinions because your partner will make you feel small or stupid
  • They make all the decisions
  • You feel pressured into doing things you don’t want to do
  • You have to justify yourself because your partner is jealous
  • Your partner criticises you a lot and you begin to feel bad about yourself.

When Would You Provide Refuge Accommodation To Women And Their Children?

Refuge accommodation is for women and their children who need to flee an abusive relationship. They need to flee, because they are at high risk of serious harm at the hands of their perpetrator. Taking the decision to leave an abusive relationship is often not enough to ensure their safety. In fact, a woman’s risk increases when she decides to leave. This is because the abuser will often escalate the level of abuse they use to try and maintain control. So it can be a very dangerous time for women and their children.

Women and their children may be housed in a refuge outside the county where they have lived with the abuser. This helps to keep them safe. But it may mean they have to leave their home, job, friends, family, school, pets and toys. They have to move to an unfamiliar area and start all over again. Typically, the average stay in a refuge is six months, although it will vary. Ultimately, it lasts for as long as it needs to.

Tell Us More About The Available Programmes You Offer:

One of our roles as a domestic violence charity is to offer a range of therapeutic programmes designed to break the cycle of abuse. We do this by helping survivors to understand the tactics and behaviours of the abuser. Then, we help to build self-esteem, self-determination and empowerment.

We work with mums and their children to help re-establish their parent/child relationships. Also, we give mums the tools to support their children to come to terms with the abuse they’ve been exposed to. Throughout our courses it is vital that we reiterate that abuse is not the fault of the children or their mothers. They need to know that they are not to blame.

Are There Any Factors Which A Professional (Dentist/Hygienist) Could Take Into Account, Which Might Make Them More Aware Of This Problem When Treating Patients?

It’s important for any professional working with the public to be aware of the warning signs of domestic abuse. These can be physical signs, such as injuries like bruising. However, by this stage an individual will already be at high risk. To support victims earlier, there are other signs to be aware of and look out for. These include:

  • Always being accompanied to appointments
  • Constant phone calls (and their reaction to them)
  • Certain changes in their behaviour, for example, withdrawn, upset, agitated or nervous
  • Changes in their mental and emotional wellbeing, such as evidence of self harming, anxiety, depression

Lighthouse offers Domestic Abuse Awareness training for professionals. This training is designed specifically to develop a better understanding of domestic abuse. It also instructs how to respond to disclosures of abuse, and how to signpost patients to get the help they need.

How Would You Hope Your Local Dentist Could Take Action If Required?

There are simple things any dental practice can do. These include putting up posters about domestic abuse (the back of toilet doors is a good place). Distributing Lighthouse leaflets in the surgery is another option. Practices can also ensure that all staff are knowledgeable about domestic abuse. Staff also need to know what to do/say if someone makes a disclosure, or they suspect a patient is being abused. Telling anyone about being in an abusive relationship is really difficult. So if a patient decides to tell their dentist, it’s vital they get the right response.

Why Volunteer For Lighthouse?

Our volunteers are a hugely valuable part of the Lighthouse team. It’s through their gift of time, and their commitment to our work, that we are able to support so many people. By volunteering with Lighthouse you can:

  • Make a real difference to people’s lives
  • Put your skills to good use
  • Learn new skills and get some experience
  • Meet new and like-minded people
  • Work as part of a dedicated, professional team
  • Feel great that you’ve helped others

Firstly, we recognise that each volunteer is an individual. We work hard to understand what’s important to you about volunteering, so we can match you to the right role. Then, we offer a full induction, ongoing training and a range of opportunities to get involved. We are also flexible in how we work, so can often offer opportunities to match your availability.

How Can We All Help To Raise Awareness For Such A Worthwhile Local Cause?

Domestic abuse remains a major issue in our society. Yet those who suffer domestic abuse find it difficult to talk about it for many reasons. We all have a responsibility to raise our awareness of domestic abuse, and take opportunities to develop understanding in others. If you belong to a community group, why not arrange for Lighthouse to come and talk to you? At work, suggest appointing a Domestic Abuse Champion. Book Lighthouse to do some Domestic Abuse Awareness in the Workplace training. Finally, if anyone you know is behaving in a controlling or abusive manner to their partner or family member, challenge them.

Lighthouse Women’s Aid can be contacted on 01473 220 770 (general enquiries) or email: admin@lighthousewa.org.uk . For confidential advice and support, please call 01473 228 270.

We are here to help you.
If you would like to speak to a member of our friendly team about any of the issues in this article please visit our contact page or call us on 01473 257379.

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“Hygienist, Angela sets you at ease from the moment you walk ...“

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“I am 70 years of age, and I have always been afraid to go to...“

Earlmain L

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“I booked an emergency treatment appointment, having had a to...“

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“Hygienist, Angela sets you at ease from the moment you walk in the door. She is not onl...“

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“Wow! The service I received from Jane was absolutely fantastic; she went above and beyond ...“

Dee D

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“I am 70 years of age, and I have always been afraid to go to the dentist. A broken tooth ...“

Earlmain L

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“I booked an emergency treatment appointment, having had a tooth for a few days and was una...“

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“As a nervous patient, I was very worried about having my tooth removed. I was instantly pu...“

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