S.A.F.E/R.E.M.O.V.E

Stay safe during domestic violence due to Coronavirus
Stay safe during domestic violence due to Coronavirus

S.A.F.E/R.E.M.O.V.E

A STEP BY STEP GUIDE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE LIVING IN UNSAFE HOMES DURING COVID- 19

It’s a weird and odd time for all of us – but at EdShift we’re really concerned about those living with domestic violence. Our worry is that because of lockdown, you are more likely to see and/or hear emotional, financial, sexual or physical harm.

Unfortunately, because of the unique situation we currently face we must respond digitally, so we created this step by step guide to help keep you physically, mentally and emotionally safe.

You are the boss of your domain

If your home is an unsafe place and has been for some time it’s important to remember that you know your home and family more than anyone, so only take advice that feels safe to you.

This guide has been designed to give you some tips to help keep you safe and not place you at further risk of harm.

Always remember, anything that you see or hear is not your fault.

Thinking Out Loud!

Self-isolation means different things across the world but what it really means is only leaving home when you need to. This could mean that you are more likely to be in the same space when physical or emotional harm is happening, increasing the risk of you seeing something that makes you upset or worse getting harmed in the crossfire.

I Trust My Body

It’s important to trust your own instincts. Instinct is your body’s natural algorithm designed to check out the safety of your surroundings. In a dangerous situation your body is your BFF, packed with an in-built mechanism to protect you. How sick is that? It sends you messages when you’re in danger. Think of your body as the latest iPhone sending your brain texts every time it senses a red flag. 

A good tip is to start recognising where in the body changes take place. For example:

  1. My heart is beating faster
  2. My tummy has butterflies
  3. My eyesight is fuzzy
  4. My mouth feels dry
  5. My body is tense
  6. My hands feel sweaty
  7. My hearing is more sensitive

When your body sends you signs, read them, take note. When it comes to loyalty your body is the slickest, fastest and most powerful ally, listen to it. It is built to protect you.

SAFE SPACE

Do you have a SAFE SPACE in your house? A SAFE SPACE is where you feel free from harm. It’s a place where you can chill and read, watch a movie, listen to music or call a friend.

If you haven’t got a SAFE SPACE think of somewhere in the house that you can make your SAFE SPACE. Put a book there, one that makes you feel happy or some paper, pens and pencils, a favourite teddy or pillow – you’re never too young or old to have a favourite teddy! This will help you when you need to remove yourself from a red flag situation.

If you ever find yourself in an unsafe situation at home, we have designed a REMOVE plan to follow so you can leave safely and get to your SAFE SPACE.

R.E.M.O.V.E

R – ‘RAISED HEARTBEAT’ (Is a red flag – start your REMOVE plan)

E – ‘EXIT’ ( Explore the room to find a safe exit – if the exit is blocked find somewhere safe in the space where you can still see the exit, that way you can leave once it becomes unblocked.)

M – ‘MEASURE (The distance between where you are and the exit and what you might need to do to get there, S.A.F.E )

O – OPPORTUNITY – (Make your move and leave the space safely)

V – VACATE (to SAFE SPACE)                                                                              

E – EXHALE (Breath in and out until you feel calmer)

Circle Of Trust

Support from family or a friend you trust can help you make sense of things and reassure you. Your head might feel messed up and you find it hard to think straight, talking things through can help tidy things up.  FaceTime or call someone, talk to them about your feelings or maybe you don’t want to get that deep and just talking about every day stuff helps to chill you out.  If you can’t do this, drawing or writing things down can help to make sense of things.

Self Love

You are important and you matter.

Living in a space where there is conflict can make us feel alone, angry, sad, confused, worthless and scared. It’s ok to feel like this and you are not wrong or weird for feeling lots of different emotions. Now is a good time to start building the relationship you have with yourself. This might sound strange but Self Love is the best kind of love and as humans it is the one love we can count on when we’re struggling.

Write a list of ways in which we can show Self Love

We’ve started a list to help but there are so many ways to remind ourselves how much we value being who we are, especially when are living in an environment that may stop us from feeling the best we can.

Get Dressed

Eat

Shower

Sleep

Exercise

Get Creative

Listen to Music

Walk When You Can

Get Fresh Air

Chat to Friends

Keep Your Bedroom Tidy

When someone lives in an unpredictable environment keeping to a routine can help make you feel more in control. Making time to do things that you love and enjoy will also support your mental health and wellbeing. It may not always feel like it, but you are brave, awesome and not alone.

You can visit our website where you can find other interactive resources, links to our EdShift Youth Podcast and EdShift Youth YouTube Channel. We are here to offer advice and guidance where needed, however if you, or someone you know, is in immediate danger, call 999 and ask for the police.

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A Letter to Mankind

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A Letter to Mankind

We would like to warn readers that the following article may have the potential to trigger traumatic events. Please read with caution. Contact details for follow on support have been provided below.

Dear You,

I am still connected to you, like death clinging to a cigarette. I’m tied to you through the ruptured cord of our children. I am stuck to you through a shared Mobius strip of haunted memories and lopsided photographs. Jolted screams of laughter burst the silence.

We are joined by buried feelings that grip like limpets and words that slice like paper. I am part of you from the depths of my stomach, where life once grew.  I will never escape you. I’m locked to you. And so it shall be.

But I want to ask you this question. How is that you live so free?

I met you in the late 90s whilst I was studying Law. A lifetime ambition after years of dysfunction, I thought that law would straighten me out. I’d had numerous relationships before you, all of which had been tinged with toxicity. I’d always pacified the behaviour with excuses, because that’s what us ‘sound’ girls do, we ‘go with the flow’, we give in, appease, relenting to a poisonous concoction of ideals and distorted representations of strength that render us powerless.

The one that went before you was the jealous type. My insecurities lapped up the possession. High voltage sex became the barometer of love but festering underneath the sheets lay a mountain of dead skin being eaten by hungry lice. When the lust subsided and I could no longer be close to him, he always managed to wear me down. I’d lay there, lice clinging to my hair giving my body away to a man who would never accept me saying no. Because that’s what ‘chilled’ girls do, they put out whenever boys ask.

Our first date was electric. I do not lie when I say I fell hard for you. A succession of beautiful dates led me to attach myself to your stability. You weren’t like the ones that had come and gone before. You were everything I believed I was looking for. Kind, respectful, open and sensitive.

You were working for a large construction firm in London earning good money, your apartment came with the job. Big income, small outgoings, whilst I was struggling to keep up with the high life. I earned a fraction of what you did as I studied and held down blue collar jobs to pay rent, bills and a top shelf life style. One night out with you usually blew my weeks wages but I was too embarrassed to say anything, lost in the fog of a façade.

The red flags raised their heads 8 months in, almost fully formed and ready to be delivered. I didn’t always go about things in the right way but the money situation was taking its toll. You met me at Waterloo, excited about our impending trip to Santorini. The walk from the train station to the pub we always had a drink in before heading back to your swanky apartment had already cost me £1500. The car, the flights, the hotels, a new motorbike helmet and the money I owed you that you had said you’d cover.

The panic swelled over the weekend. My friends had been warning me to assert myself and be honest, ‘he can’t keep expecting you to match his income, it’s unfair and unrealistic *Leah’.

Sunday arrived and what I had avoided saying the whole weekend was now a large mass of anxiety lodged in my throat. We ate food at your dining table. I told you apprehensively that I couldn’t keep meeting your lifestyle. That I was getting into debt, that my mental health was being effected, that some compromise needed to be factored in and I couldn’t afford Santorini. An argument ensued. I called you an ‘arsehole’ I didn’t shout it, but it was enough to have a spoon thrown at me, it narrowly missed my foot and took a chunk out of the parquet floor. I remember the menacing look in your eyes. The anger exploding at the speed of light. I went in the bedroom to get my things, absolutely perturbed that you had threatened me physically. I wanted to leave and what would become a consistent pattern in our relationship was born right there in the door way. You barricaded me in. I asked you to let me go. You refused. This went on for half an hour until I said I would call the police.

Your demeanour rapidly changed but it took me a long time to connect the coward and the bully. Because that’s what supportive women do, we put your needs before our own.

The abuse gradually grew in size like a tumour. The verbal began to slash away at the frail canvas. My body became torn up paper aeroplane dreams that never took flight. The emotional singed my spirit, the financial froze my independence, the sexual ate away at my identity and the physical devoured me with self-loathing.

After we separated, I read a book that said domestic abuse has 5 levels. It will often start with verbal and emotional, which will eventually lead to financial, physical and sexual. A perpetrator of abuse will never just rape his partner straight away. It’s more like a tap. That he can open and close whenever he chooses.

Drip, drip, drip, drip.

Drop.

Open the tap slowly but surely and fill the water up a little. How much can she take? What can I get away with? Now let’s make it hot. I want to see her burn. I want to see how much she loves me. Now let’s cool it down. I can’t lose my grip completely. Let’s empty the sink. She’s pushing her luck again, she knows I don’t like it when she behaves like that, let’s flood the bath. Let’s give her that look, she knows what I am capable of when she doesn’t do what I want her to do. Let’s make it boil. Now she’s threatening to leave.  Let’s make it calm. Let’s freeze. Let’s turn it all off.

Let’s watch her drown.

Some people were supportive. Most people judged. Our neighbours complained incessantly but never asked me if I was ok. My dad hated you but blamed me and broke off all contact. My mum didn’t want to get involved, she just wanted to protect her grandkids. My step-sister still doesn’t talk to me. Yes I shouted, yes I screamed, yes I hit back. Yes I was a complete and utter mess. But I cannot convey to anyone how it feels to not only be consumed every hour of every day by self-hate but to live with someone who enjoys watching you try to win their love when they’ve already placed bets on your defeat.

Why are you granted these freedoms?

I used to think you were a psychopath but now I have realised you’re just a man. Shaped by a cruel system that socialises us at the offset. I am not giving you excuses and I will always hold you accountable but I know nothing will change because you were born a boy and I was born a girl.

Because I was born a girl I should always do right by my man. Because I was born a girl I should always be ‘classy’. Because I was born a girl I should have my shit together. Because I was born a girl I am vulnerable. Because I was born a girl I am virginal. Because I was born a girl I automatically know the man will fix things. Because I was born a girl I shouldn’t walk through dark subways alone. Because I was born a girl I will always meet my boyfriend’s needs. Because I was born a girl I will always be blamed.  Because I was born a girl I shouldn’t drink too much or I might get raped. Because I was born a girl I will always choose my children over my career. Because I was born a girl my anger will always be invalidated. Because I was born a girl I am a psychopathic nag whenever I assert my needs. Because I was born a girl I will accept that I am paid less. Because I was born a girl men get to decide what is best for my body.

As a woman I have come to understand that lurking underneath the mirage of equality, behind the closed doors of every male subconscious women and children are still possessions. Decisions are still made for me, not just by normal men like you, but by powerful men that enforce the rules. By the narratives we read and watch every day. I am less than. I have to be grateful to have and keep a man’s love. I will submit to the worst punishment if only to keep my family together. What a fallen, broken woman I am if I can’t succeed at that.

These beliefs are my prison sentence.

I am still connected to you because our children share your last name and like a criminal I get questioned every time at the airport. I am still attached to you because the courts granted you access even though there is a paper trail of evidence screaming about your violence. I am still effected by you when you use the children to hurt me. I am still controlled by you when you decide not to pay the child mantainence. I am still glued to you by the courts agreement to have your photos on the walls in my home. I am still angry at you for not getting convicted for breaking my ribs, whilst our baby slept in the cot beside us. I am still consumed by a self-hatred for not leaving you sooner.

Because you were born a boy you have these freedoms.

From Me.

*EdShift would like to thank our guest writer who would like to remain anonymous. If you have been effected by any of the issues raised in the story please either contact one of our team via ellie@edshift.co.uk, leave a message via website or contact the Women’s Centre on 01422 386500. For readers not within our local area there is the 24hr Freephone National Domestic Violence Helpline (run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge) is available on 0808 2000 247 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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The drama and tragedy of teen domestic violence.

Titanic

The drama and tragedy of teen domestic violence.

‘Can someone please open the curtains’?

We can all remember our first love. We can relive the same intense feelings, regrettably recalling our most impulsive behaviours and amateur outbursts. There is no truer saying than the first cut is the deepest for many reasons, cheered on by our romanticised notions of what love really is. We’re still learning our lines, feeling through emotions and understanding who we are. Accompanied by an intoxicating chemical surge of hormones. This is why we can all relate to the words of inexperience uttered by Romeo.

Love is a smoke raised with the fume of sighs;
Being purged, a fire sparkling in lovers’ eyes;

He’s learned about love through the great poets and books of the time. Today teenagers learn from social media, friends, Anne-Marie, Ed Sheeran, Skepta, Drake, and Arianna Grande. Not as reassuring is it? In fact, in a quote about Anne-Marie’s success, it is her ‘infectious songs about her messy breakups’ that have made her one of the biggest stars in the UK. Rehashing the depressingly macabre reality that painful love is profitable. Are we really a nation addicted to pain and violence? Or was Shakespeare really a visionary. Did he already understand our proclivity for melancholy? And is this why Romeo is still the most romantic and tragic protagonist of the last century?

In juxtaposition to all the beauty, passion and romanticism are Shakespeare’s elixir, tragedy and violence. Many critics have shunned the idea that Romeo and Juliet has a moral, that it is merely a story of youthful love running counter to a family feud and ending in disaster. But working in domestic violence and seeing the surge of teen relationships ending in fatal tragedy, is Shakespeare shining a torch on the pernicious aftermath of love with no boundaries?

‘My bounty is as boundless as the sea’

Families caught up in conflict and violence, is all too common a narrative in the lives of young people who fall into abusive relationships. The context of Romeo and Juliet is not centuries apart from the circumstances young people experience in 2019. Entering an adult world with unprecedented naivety, vulnerability, family conflict, divided communities, unrealistic expectations, and an overwhelming feeling of fear, isolation, and violence pervading society. This provides a deadly concoction of risk factors to manifest in young relationships and for the abuse to remain hidden behind the curtains.

Civil blood, makes civil hand unclean

In 2016 two serious case reviews were published in the UK due to the deaths of two teenage girls. The young girls were murdered by their partners, and the reports highlighted significant levels of coercive control. They were both also pregnant at the time. In the wake of these tragedies, statutory services need to open up vital pathways of communication. We need to collaborate with young people so we can engage in discussions about teen domestic violence at the source. As Dr. Christine Barton puts it,

‘We can’t simply dictate to young people what to do, they have had enough of that from their abusive partners. We need to collaborate with young survivors overtime to break down the barriers their partners have erected around them by supporting survivors to realise this is not normal’ or their fault and by providing new routes to self-esteem away from their harmful relationships’.

Dr. Christine Barton

A recent study conducted by Dr. Christine Barton highlights the magnitude of the problem.

Domestic violence happens in stages, gradually growing in size like a tumour. Abuse in relationships doesn’t start with sexual abuse, maybe in very rare cases, but in most abuse starts with a trickle of coercive control. This usually comes after a period of excessively romanticised behaviours. Those behaviours are the foundations which the victim can’t let go of and the perpetrator uses as leverage.

Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things

The serious case reviews provide insight into the lives of Lucy and Jayden and like many teenagers in the UK they experienced additional vulnerabilities and challenges. What’s more terrifying is that statutory services failed to view the two girls as two young girls in desperate need of protection and support, rather they were viewed as two ‘difficult’ girls, entirely responsible for coping with the range of risk factors manifesting in their lives.

The serious case reviews provide insight into the lives of Lucy and Jayden and like many teenagers in the UK they experienced additional vulnerabilities and challenges. What’s more terrifying is that statutory services failed to view the two girls in desperate need of protection and support, rather they were viewed as two ‘difficult’ girls, entirely responsible for coping with the range of risk factors manifesting in their lives.
Those risk factors, which can increase the prevalence of relationship abuse can be; ‘Domestic violence and child abuse; attitudes which normalise violence including gender roles; anti-social peers; psychological factors – including low self-esteem; bullying; early sex, and alcohol and drug use’

Furthermore, research shows that young girls who have experienced abuse in adolescent relationships are at higher risk of experiencing domestic violence in adulthood. Surely, this identifies the need for more preventative interventions to be available at primary schools. Statutory services need to recognise and disseminate best practice with other agencies on the impact of risk factors. We need to dismantle the current narrative and change beliefs and attitudes, so we understand that being in a controlling and abusive relationship can distort a young woman’s ability to recognise abuse, and affect her life choices and decision making. The real tragedy, however, is that Lucy and Jayden’s fears were not unfounded, they knew they were in danger and felt powerless to do anything about it. Due to their age and vulnerabilities, their calls for help were silenced, and their needs remained unmet. How many young girls’ lives need to be ruined or cut tragically short before drastic measure are put in place to repair the damage? In the UK alone 2 women a week are murdered a by their partners or ex-partners. We desperately need a call to action and to throw the curtains wide open. In cases where the domestic violence has resulted in homicide, 80% of those victims were in the first 3 months of leaving their partner. Leaving abusive relationships places women and girls at higher risk, which is all too hauntingly familiar in Lucy and Jayden’s stories. The results from Dr. Christine Barton’s research reveals the inequalities that reinforce the crippling impact of coercive control on girls.


‘In our interviews with young people, girls repeatedly reported feeling too scared either to challenge the control and abuse or to end the relationship due to the possible repercussions (Barter et al 2009; Wood et al 2010; barter et al 2015.). What could the potential outcome be in let’s say, 6 months’ time if Chloe feels too scared to assert herself, is battling a number of other risk factors in her life and doesn’t realise that what she is experiencing is abuse?

Statutory services are not entirely to blame here. We all have a role to play in challenging the risk factors that contribute to the smear left by domestic abuse on our society. What EdShift wants to achieve is quality drama based learning workshops in schools across the nation, particularly in areas where the contributing risk factors are more prevalent. We believe that by providing a safe space to open up conversations with young people will give us the platform to offer a different narrative. We want to challenge beliefs of gender through a whole school approach involving parents, teachers and the local community so that everyone feels empowered to change the current paradigm. Our workshops focus on victim empathy, educating young people on the lifelong impact of abuse. We aim to dismantle the narrative that love equates to pain. We want to give young people fresh routes into self-esteem by giving them a whole new script that redefines love as compassionate, kind, vulnerable, accepting, respectful and equal. Furthermore, we want to advocate that a healthy relationship is a right and not a privilege. 

And as the great William Shakespeare proclaimed we want all young people to understand the power of this mantra;

“Don't waste your love on somebody, who doesn't value it.”

William Shakespeare

#shakespeare #tragedy #teendomesticviolence #drama #EdShift

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