This week is National Safeguarding Adults Week, so this blog provides the script used in a presentation at the Connexional webinar on Safeguarding Adults that was held on November 17th. This section summarises Domestic Abuse, one of three topics covered in the webinar, which was attended by almost 200 people.
Domestic abuse is a prominent example of an abuse type that has seen an increase during this time of lockdown. Some living with an abusive partner or family member have seen an escalation in abuse due to the added tensions and frustration caused by the whole family having to stay indoors. The tensions can be further increased where families are living in cramped, temporary accommodation. The abuser may experience additional anxiety about, for example, supplies of food, alcohol, medication and illicit drugs. Equally they may be concerned about lack of money, redundancy, frequent changes of regulations and lack of social contact. The consequences of this could be escalated abuse of those around them. People who are experiencing abuse may be less likely to ask for help as they know that emergency services are stretched. Fewer visitors to the household may mean that evidence of physical abuse goes unnoticed.
What is domestic abuse?
It’s not just about violence and includes a range of other coercive and controlling behaviours, including: -sexual, economical, verbal, religious, emotional and psychological abuse; stalking and harassment; honour based violence, forced marriage. It can happen between those who have been intimate partners or between family members. Coercive behaviour is an act or pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten the victim. Domestic abuse and coercive behaviour happens irrespective of gender or sexuality.
Who is affected?
Research suggests that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lives. This means that during the course of your church work you will encounter people who have been or are experiencing domestic abuse. Remember, people you worship with, friends and acquaintances, are not immune from Domestic Abuse either - any one of them may be experiencing domestic abuse of one form or another. Children in households where there is domestic abuse may carry the psychological scars for decades and where the behaviour is normalised, there may be a greater likelihood of them becoming perpetrators or victims in their teenage/adult life.
What to look out for
People affected by domestic abuse may exhibit one or more of the following signs :- Low self-confidence and esteem, always checking in with their partner, change in socialising and behaviours, unexplained injuries, financial worries, become withdrawn, changes in how they present themselves (clothes, hair, make up etc.), withdrawn and uncommunicative. Repairs - have the Police asked for a lock change? Is there damage to internal walls and doors? (Especially bathroom/ toilet doors). Are there unexplained injuries, debts or rent arrears?
Why is it important?
Nationally, on average 2 women a week and 30 men a year are killed by a current or former intimate partner. 30 women a day attempt suicide and 3 a week are successful in their attempt. Hundreds more commit suicide after attending hospital for treatment for DV related injuries. Domestic abuse is a crime – we all have a duty to act.
What’s my role?
If you have a leadership or safeguarding role in the life of your church, you are probably already working with Domestic Abuse! Doing nothing is not an option! Make sure you are familiar with the Church’s Domestic Abuse and Safeguarding Policies and follow the reporting procedures that we have instituted. If your concerns relate to someone you work with closely in church life – speak to your minister. Take the time to familiarise yourself with the Methodist Church Safeguarding web site on and the Domestic Abuse pages – it will shortly give more information for church leaders and safeguarding officers and will provide a directory of support services available locally and nationally.
Checking things out and safe inquiry
Take protective measures to ensure that any discussions with potential victims of abuse are conducted in a safe and confidential environment without interruptions. Ask direct questions about abuse, but only when the victim is on their own and in a private place, don’t assume someone else will ask at another time. If interpreters are needed always use professional interpreters, never use family members, children or friends where abuse is known or suspected. Keep good records
If you make a referral to your local Domestic Abuse Service they may ask you for more information. It’s best to discuss referral with your DSO first unless it is an emergency. Details will be shared with the Police and other agencies who will decide on how best to respond. The fact that you made the referral will not be shared with any of the parties involved.
If you want to know more about Safeguarding Adults Week click on the link below.