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Burnham-based Dash charity volunteer raises awareness of domestic abuse

Power and control.

These are the words a Burnham-based volunteer uses to describe domestic abuse after 12 years working with survivors at The Dash Charity.

Suzy Kelly has been working with the Slough-based unit, which helps people across East Berkshire and South Bucks, since 2007.

She said she wants to ‘raise awareness of the warning signs in a new relationship, and help people who may not realise they are in an ‘abusive relationship’.

As a former independent domestic violence advocate (IDVA), a trained professional helping survivors at the charity, Suzy said that domestic abuse can affect everyone.

She said: “We have helped people from all nationalities from across the world and they all suffer the same basic issues [of] power and control but it’s used in many different ways.”

The many forms of abuse include psychological, physical, emotional, sexual, financial and coercive control.

Becky Spiller, head of sustainability at The Dash Charity describes coercive control as ‘an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish or frighten a victim'.

Coercive control was criminalised in 2015, with abusers prosecuted and convicted.

Highlighting the warning signs for people in a new relationship, Suzy said they can ‘apply in the first two weeks of meeting someone’.

According to The Dash Charity, some of the warning signs include: wanting to move in too soon; texting and wanting an instant response; asking where someone has been and who they have been with.

While at Dash, Suzy became involved in running the Freedom Programme, which is a 12-week course for survivors of domestic abuse devised by Pat Craven and is explained in her book called Living with the Dominator.

According to The Dash Charity there are many reasons why individuals stay with an abuser including love for their partner, the fear of threats to life, the embarrassment and shame of not wanting to admit to others what is happening because you are afraid.

The Dash Charity, which was first established in 1976 and currently consists of about 22 staff members, is funded by the Royal Borough, individual grants, trusts, foundations and community fundraising donations.

Discussing how the charity supports victims of domestic abuse, Caron Kipping, grants writer at Dash, said: “They can either come through the helpline and then one of our girls will complete a risk assessment, chat to them about their story and see what kind of risk they’re at.”

Caron added that staff will then ‘see what kind of help they need’, allocate a support worker from the community team’ and devise a support plan and safety plan around that’.

However, if ‘they are not suitable for community support’ staff will search for alternative help including ‘finding refuge space’ or ‘signposting them to another service’.

If you feel frightened or you are not sure if you are in an abusive relationship, contact your GP or healthcare provider, call the police on the non-emergency number 101 or in an emergency dial 999.

Alternatively visit or call the helpline on 01753549865,, or call the free 24-hour national domestic violence helpline run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge on 0808 2000 247 or visit the National Centre for Domestic Violence for more information.

Pat Craven’s book ‘Living with the Dominator’ can be purchased from where you can also find your nearest Freedom Programme group.

Domestic abuse - the statistics

According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales, in the year ending March 2018:

  • 6.1 per cent of adults (an estimated two million adults aged 16 to 59 experienced domestic abuse)
  • 7.9 per cent of women and 4.2 per cent of men, equating to an estimated 1.3 million women and 695,000 men experienced domestic abuse
  • 2.4 per cent of adults aged 60 to 74 experienced domestic abuse
  • 3 per cent of women and 1.7 per cent of men aged 60 to 74 experienced domestic abuse
  • The average number of women killed each week by their partner in the year ending March 2018 was 1.2

Between March 2018 and April this year The Dash Charity:

  • Has taken 2,429 calls through their helpline – ‘740 of which were crisis calls’
  • The community team supported 389 women
  • The children’s team supported 74 children
  • The charity supported around 13 men
  • Through its school work, the charity reached 3,442 children and young people
  • Its refuges have supported 39 women and 30 children

Warning signs in those being abused

There are a host of warning signs family members and friends can look out for in those who may be being abused. These include:

  • Covering up more
  • Change in appearance
  • Lacking in confidence
  • Not coming around as much

Additionally, Suzy added that when helping someone who is in a controlling relationship, it is important not to tell them to ‘leave’.

“I don’t ever ask anyone to leave or advise on anything. Just be willing to listen because once a person starts talking it becomes more registered in their mind.

“It might make things more real for them so you don’t want anyone to react as what they are actually doing is just off-loading on you.

“Don’t react if someone is telling you something, [just] listen, be sympathetic and go away and see if you can find out any information for them or be available to talk to them.

“If they are scared or the abuser gets wind of it, you don’t know what the repercussions are going to be.”

'Stigma and shame' of male victims

Male victims don’t often don’t report domestic abuse, due to ‘stigma and shame’.

Becky Spiller, head of sustainability at The Dash Charity said: “We support anyone experiencing domestic abuse, although the majority of clients we support are women and girls.  

“Male victims of domestic abuse will often have increased barriers to disclosure due to the stigma and shame, which is still associated with male victims and domestic abuse more widely.

“Our workers understand how difficult it is for anyone to come forward, will not judge and will help victims move forward positively with their lives, whatever their situation.”

Discussing this Suzy added: “[There is a] contingent of people being abused in gay relationships.

“Very often the threats will be ‘I’ll out you’.

“Really the same applies to the men as the women. The difficulty is because of the perceived male position, he’s meant to be the stronger one. Men will say ‘well people won’t believe me’.

Effects on Children

Children can be affected by domestic abuse too, in different ways:

  • The perpetrator being jealous of the child
  • Financial control leading to the child’s needs not being met
  • Threats to take the children away or hurt them
  • Criticising the parent and blaming them for their child’s bad behaviour
  • The perpetrator encourages the child to abuse the parent

Discussing the abuse of parents by teenage children, Suzy said: “There are lot of reasons that make the teenager abuser.

“For example you see Dad getting his way on everything, it’s likely that you’re going to do the same thing yourself, but it’s also based on lack of respect of the mother. Because they’ve seen the father being disrespectful and putting her down they start to follow what the dad is doing.”

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