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The Dash Charity: Helping domestic abuse victims and their families get back on their feet

The Dash (Domestic Abuse Stops Here) Charity has been supporting victims in the Royal Borough and Slough since 1976. Chief reporter GRACE WITHERDEN spoke to staff about the challenges they face today.

One in four women and one in seven men will experience domestic abuse in the UK, and a victim will be assaulted an average of 35 times before seeking help.

“You can’t tell someone they are a victim of domestic abuse, they have to realise it for themselves,” explained Becky Spiller, head of services at The Dash Charity, which helps men, women and children affected by the issue.

Last year alone Dash, which stands for ‘domestic abuse stops here’, supported more than 900 clients in Slough and the Royal Borough.

The charity, formerly known as Berkshire East and South Bucks Women’s Aid and based on Slough Trading Estate, offers children’s and refuge services, an advocacy and outreach team and a hotline to support victims.

“Refuge is a last resort, but so needed still. Some people have nowhere to go and the funding is diminishing quite significantly over recent years,” said Becky.

“Some people will walk through the door with absolutely nothing, so we will work with them to get them and their kids back on their feet. We will look at getting their self esteem and confidence back up, giving them specialist therapy or getting them back to work with training courses.”

But this is just one element of the service provided by the charity, which has been going since 1976.

The advocacy and outreach team is the biggest and is divided into IDVS (independent domestic violence advocates) who look after high risk clients, and the outreach team, which works with clients who are medium risk.

 “There is no blanket blue print plan of support, the dynamics are completely different for everyone,” said Becky.

The charity is mainly funded by donations and grants from the Royal Borough and Slough Borough Council, but the contract to offer services in the Royal Borough is currently out to tender, which makes staffing levels difficult to plan long term.

“Because we are grant funded it’s a difficult thing to manage. It’s a constant battle to make sure we have enough staff to meet the demand,” Becky said.

But funding is just one challenge faced by the charity. It also faces the high turnover of social care staff in both boroughs, making it difficult to build relationships, and it says it experiences a lack of support from the Prime Minister and MP for Maidenhead Theresa May.

Jayne Donnelly, chief executive of the charity, said: “I think our frustration has been round having an MP in our area who is also the Prime Minister and who is very vocal about domestic violence.

“But our frustration around that is this certainly hasn’t been seen for us as her local service provider. She knows of us, she’s been to our AGM before, we would have hoped we would have seen more specific area support from her.”

When asked if central government could be offering more

support, Jayne said: “There is no overarching onus or legality on the local authority on what they have to do for domestic abuse. Everything is a recommendation and central government could take more control in bringing back a

service level agreement.”

Looking ahead, the charity would like to look at how it can help the whole family, including the perpetrator.

“There is a perception that we are only female focused and we only want to work with women and children but we think there is a gap in working with the perpetrators and there needs to be some kind of support around the whole family, it’s on an ultimate wish list for us,” added Jayne.

“If we are not working with the perpetrators it’s difficult to
break the cycle in the long term and while we are a feminist based organisation and we strongly feel women are overwhelmingly the majority of victims of domestic abuse that is perpetrated by men, we’ve got to look at what is domestic abuse and what do perpetrators need to break their behaviours.

“If a man thought, ‘I know what I am doing isn’t right’ then that’s half the battle and there should

be more services available, but that shouldn’t be at the expense of the resources being put into victim services.

“The majority of our victims are overwhelmingly women, but we still work with men, it’s small in numbers but if a man presents to us as a victim we will support him.”

To find our more about the charity and its work, visit thedashcharity.org.uk


Charlie’s Story

“he is no longer living rent free in my head,” says Charlie*, speaking about her abusive ex-husband.

She is one of the thousands of victims who have been supported by The Dash Charity.

Back in 2010 when she filed for divorce, she had no idea she would be dragged through the court system for six years by her ex.

“I naively thought that going through divorce proceedings would be straightforward, well I knew it would be difficult, but I didn’t realise how much,” she said. “What I did not expect was the abuse of the system by my ex-partner trying to tie me up in knots, making accusations about my parenting abilities and the rest of it.”

Before divorcing her domestically-abusive husband, Charlie had been married for 15 years, and lived in ‘a very large detached house in the Royal Borough’.

“We had money, property; my child went to an independent school. Nobody knew,” she added.

After the birth of their child, Charlie was pressured to give up work by her husband, and she became isolated from her friends and family.

“When he became physically violent it got to the stage where an incident happened and it was really the final straw,” she said. “My solicitor said to me, enough is enough; you have to start proceedings now because it’s getting worse and it’s not going to stop.

“He always said to me, I will make sure you will have a breakdown and I will not stop until you are on your hands and knees on the street, and you will not have our child. His strategy was to attack and attack.”

After finding out about Dash, Charlie was assigned case worker Caron Kipping.

“She helped me from the first meeting; I needed somebody to help me help myself,” she said. “Caron was really clear on how the organisation works, and she’s always been very honest with me.”

Overall Charlie has attended 50 court hearings, with the latest being just last year – despite her divorce being granted in 2012.

She had to have several orders granted against her ex including a non-molestation order, a restraining order, a financial order and one month she was in court six times.

“He breached everything on all the cases consistently,” she said. “It was difficult; all I wanted was to disentangle myself from him as quickly as possible.”

The first order she had was to remove her husband from the house, an order she has had to fight several times.

“The main focus for my ex-partner was to move back in the house and stop the divorce and take control of the situation. That was not even an option for me,” she said. “I wouldn’t be alive now, he was a very angry individual who was in complete denial of anything that he did.

“It’s beyond anyone’s imagination what somebody like me goes through every day, and there are some days you wake up and you don’t even want to get out of bed but you do for your child. It’s a full-time job, trying to disentangle yourself from someone like that. I can say now without the support of Women’s Aid and my case worker, I would not have got through that at all.”

Charlie has since moved out of the borough with her child and is in a new relationship.

“I’m confident in saying if had not been for the support my outcome would not be what is now,” she said, in praise of Dash. “They listened to me.”

 *Charlie’s name has been changed to protect her identity. Photo posed by model.

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