Broken Rainbow the national LGBT Domestic Violence charity has worked with nearly 42,000 individuals in the 13 years since its conception. In 2014 we took over seven and a half thousand calls for help and this year we are on track to hit the ten thousand mark.
Much has changed since the days when all we had was a mobile phone, shared amongst a group of friends who wanted to offer help. Sadly, the types of abuse played out in LGBT relationships haven’t changed and the demand for Broken Rainbow’s help has increased.
We believe that one in four LGB and four in five Trans individuals will be affected by domestic violence in their lifetime, from an intimate partner or family member.
This year we have had increased contact from gay men living with HIV, civil partners with no asylum status frightened they will be deported if they report their abusive partner, lesbian and gay men and women being forced in to marriage, lesbians enduring corrective rape, and young LGBT people experiencing abuse in their first relationships.
We know this is only the tip of the iceberg and that iceberg just keeps growing. Over the years we have faced continued cuts in our funding head-on. Somehow, we have not only continued offering services, but provided more; extending hours on the helpline, introducing online chat, and recruiting a specialist LGBT Independent Domestic Violence Advisor.
This year we are facing our biggest challenge yet, up to 40% cuts in government funds following the public spending review. This may be one challenge too many. Realistically, we will need to severely reduce the level of support we offer. At a time when the community needs us the most.
The biggest barrier anyone faces is having to ‘out’ themselves in order to gain help and for many that is an impossible act, particularly if they’ve spent years with someone who uses their sexual orientation or gender identity as a weapon. LGBT victims more often than not find themselves staying at home with their abusive partners and facing escalation in the abuse.
That's why it is so important that we are there to take that call, be supportive, and give a voice to the thousands of invisible victims we have contact with every year.
There really is No Pride in Domestic Violence.
Jo Harvey Barringer is CEO of Broken Rainbow
Broken Rainbow helpline: 0300 999 5428, 10am – 8pm Mon & Thursday, 10am – 5pm Tuesday & Thursday, 1-5pm Friday. Trans service Tuesday pm.
Online Chat via website: www.brokenrainbow.org.uk, 2-10pm daily
The issue of female genital mutilation (FGM) might be front page news and the go-to policy success for the PM, but work to prevent it and support survivors on the ground is grossly underfunded, or not at all in some places.
When we started Daughters of Eve five years ago the issue had been neglected for years so the idea of funding for a survivor-led or focused organisation was wishful thinking. Years on this is still the case. Organisations working directly with those affected or at risk of FGM are mostly run on good will and commitment from some amazing people.
Integrate Bristol, which is the UK leading charity working with young people from FGM affected communities has since it was founded in 2008 till only months ago been staffed by volunteers. This an organisation that supports over a 100 young people, and has spearheaded campaigns on ending FGM and other forms of violence against women and girls within BME communities.
The practice of FGM is a reality in this country and those at risk need specialist support, which cannot be provided on the shoestring grants or funding pots currently out there. Nor can we keep relying on volunteers to deliver life-saving work.
The systems needed to help identify FGM have been successful and we are now more aware of the issue, but this also means that more young women will be coming forward for support that is currently lacking. I can personally tell you how painful it is to be on a phone for hours seeking a bed for a young woman who fears for her life because she needed medical treatment after an act of violence.
The lack of services and support for those affected by or at risk of FGM is only one part of a bigger picture, and we need to take a more reliable, thoughtful approach across the board.
Nimco Ali is the founder of Daughters of Eve
SurvivorsUK is the longest established UK service supporting male victims of sexual violence. Since its inception in 1986, the organisation has offered national helpline and London-based counselling and group therapy services to both male survivors and those who care for them.
The recent GLA Conservative report "Silent Suffering - Supporting the Male Victims of Sexual Assault" estimated that based on four years of actual reports from male complainants (26,483), the likely number of male victims in the same four-year period was more than 670,000. This clearly indicates that male survivors are among the least likely to report or come forward for help. In part, that’s because there are few places that they can go — there are only four male specialist services in the UK. But the larger issue is that as a society we inadvertently act to silence them.
Rape and sexual abuse are devastating experiences for anyone who has experienced them, regardless of their sex, sexual identity or gender will face many of the same challenges and barriers. Shame, guilt and trauma are also inevitably thrown into the mix.
However, male survivors experience some unique challenges that act as additional barriers to engagement and help-seeking.
One of the biggest challenges faced by male survivors is society’s projection that men should be able to withstand and endure terrible circumstances. From infancy, males are told that they should strive to be masculine, i.e. resilient, self-sufficient, dominant in sexual interactions and able to defend both themselves and those relying on them for protection. An experience of rape or sexual abuse contravenes all of these expectations. In essence, it leaves the survivor feeling ‘less than a man'.
The rape and sexual abuse of men and boys continue to be difficult and under-discussed phenomena. Until we are able to embrace this difficult conversation on a public level and to shatter some of the myths that surround these crimes, that is unlikely to change. It’s the work of a lifetime but for the 670,000 male survivors cited in the GLA report and the estimated three million plus male victims of child sexual abuse in the UK, it’s work that we all have to start right now.
Michael May is a team member at SurvivorsUK.
The End Violence Against Women Coalition was set up ten years ago this week with the aim of making ourselves redundant in less time than that. We are a unique coalition of more than 60 women’s organisations all over the UK working to end all forms of violence against women and girls – sexual and domestic violence, FGM, forced marriage, trafficking and sexual exploitation. Sadly, a decade after we handed a ‘could do better’ report card to Tony Blair’s Downing Street, we are still here and our message is not very different.
When we launched in 2005 we highlighted the failure to stop Ian Huntley's predatory behaviour which allowed him to go on to murder Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman – he had come to the attention of the police numerous times for suspected sexual offences but still been able to get a job in a school. Years later we see the same devastating mistakes made in the cases of Jamie Reynolds’ murder of Georgia Williams, and in Asher Maslin’s murder of Hollie Gazzard. In the intervening period, there have been multiple scandals, including the Jimmy Savile revelations which have exposed not just his behaviour and obvious confidence in his impunity, but also his abuse survivors’ reasons for not seeking justice. Multiple child sexual exploitation ‘grooming’ cases which were not previously making it to court have now been prosecuted. But still, we have catastrophic system failures in stopping violent men offending, and as a society we have not yet consciously set about trying to prevent abuse of women and girls.
We published a new report yesterday – ‘Where are we now?’ – which reviews the Government’s work over the last decade towards ending violence against women and girls. It’s really important that we give credit where it is due – there is now a strong policy framework on violence against women and girls in place, which is a huge leap on from a decade ago, and all credit should go to the politicians and civil servants who have worked with the women's sector to deliver this.
In addition, the CPS was the the first government agency to adopt a pioneering violence against women and girls strategy which has enabled significant changes in the prosecution of these crimes; Rape Crisis centres have received more support since 2010 than previously (although their funding situation is very precarious right now as no funding is agreed after March 2016); and action has been taken to implement some new regulation of harmful media images and the availability of online pornography. The law has been changed to recognise ‘coercive and controlling behaviour’ as key to domestic violence, a critical step which we need to be vigilant on as it works itself through the system.
This work shows that the intention to make women and girls safe is there in Government, and at the general election this year was endorsed by all opposition parties. But the reality is that conflicting policies elsewhere undermine this intention constantly – localism, ‘austerity’ cuts and poor commissioning practices are decimating women’s support services at a time when more women than ever before are seeking help. Education policies fail to protect girls from abuse now and are not working towards the prevention of future abuse, as seen especially in the resistance to making Relationships & Sex Education compulsory. The most marginalised women, including women in prostitution and asylum seeking women, have very few rights to protection and support. Legal aid cuts threaten the safety of women and their families.
Our report author Holly Dustin said: 'There is huge demand from the public to put an end to these scandals. A society where women and girls are not safe is incompatible with a just and equal society.'
And, we have a five-point prescription for how Government should go about a renewed drive to end violence against women and girls. It is time for a law which guarantees that survivors of abuse can access a support service whenever they need it; we need to seriously step up policy and practice to prevent violence in the first place, especially via compulsory sex and relationships education in our schools; we need consistent regulation of harmful media images; we need a coherent approach to tackling violence against women and girls overseas; and local councils should be required to develop violence against women and girls strategies.
Our Coalition was founded on a very simple and basic belief – that violence against women and girls is not inevitable. And, political leadership which makes a priority of eradicating it will succeed.
Sarah Green is the Acting Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition
Support services are only the first step to helping women to face a variety of challenges when they are fleeing violence.
Housing for Women have 80 years of experience in championing women to access suitable housing. We deliver projects that support women and their children through a number of the strands of Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) strands. These include our Re-Unite project that supports women who have been released from prison to be re-united and housed with their children, our Re-Place project that assists women who have experienced trafficking, as well as a range of Domestic Abuse services in Ealing, Greenwich and Merton.
Whether a woman loses her home due to domestic violence and/or abuse, exploitation or prison her life, and often her children’s lives, are plunged into uncertainty. Cuts to legal aid and welfare benefits and the threat of long term homelessness together with the potential of losing custody of her children exacerbate this.
Many of our support services provide crucial safe temporary housing, but with the current housing crisis there are less and less housing options available and it is becoming increasingly difficult to support women in their transition into their own safe, secure and permanent accommodation.
Local councils are under increasing pressure to house vulnerable women after they have been in temporary accommodation. It is challenging for councils without the means to take action to do so. The private renting sector can be almost impossible to ‘crack’ for those who claim any sort of housing benefits, and even for those with jobs rent levels are often unaffordable.
Support services like ours provide a crucial short term means to empower women into an independent and positive long-term future.
Many women report that the support we offer is life-changing. We want to ensure that this important first step to recovery and independence remains available to women in the future.
Roxanna Donald is a Support Worker for Housing for Women.
Around the world, activists will use the #16days of activism as an opportunity to highlight the devastating impact of violence against women and girls (VAWG), while calling for change.
This post is dedicated to all the women who have fought, and who continue to fight for equality, justice and a voice. In particular, these words are dedicated to the women of Roshni, Nottingham, and all the other women whose blood, sweat and tears continue to soak through the rich, painful tapestry of this work.
I cried because we lost Roshni. But through the tears, I stand here to say again, ‘Nothing about us without us!’ We will keep fighting!
We will fight to save Apna Haq, a lifeline for many of the women of Rotherham who are even more unsafe on the streets as Islamophobic violence has increased. Apna Haq, like so many organisations for minority women, was set up because we needed a place to go, a place of safety, a place where we could speak, a place where we could be heard.
This has always been about the work. This has always been about our voices, our safety and our lives.
So to the politicians we say, this: ‘As you contemplate your cuts, remember we never started out on a level playing field. We have already been cut. We have already suffered disproportionately. Let us get on with our work.’
We say: ‘Stop destroying our organisations and our lives. We have a right to define the solutions that work for us. We have a right to speak with our own voices and in our own words.’
We know our realities and we speak from that place. We are the experts in our own journeys. Black women need Black-led services, and so we say: nothing about us without us!
Marai Larasi is the Executive Director of Imkaan, a UK-based national second tier organisation dedicated to challenging violence against black and ‘minority ethnic’ women and girls. A longer version of this piece appeared in Imkaan's publication In Our Own Words.
nia started out as Hackney Women’s Aid. We became the nia project to reflect the organisation’s move to an approach which integrated provision to women who have suffered any form of sexual or domestic violence. That doesn’t mean that we provide the same service, irrespective of a woman’s experience but that we recognise the connections that run through all forms of men’s violence against women.
Our services now include East London Rape Crisis for women and girls who have experienced any form of sexual violence - including rape, sexual assault and child sexual abuse - regardless of when it occurred, who it was perpetrated by and whether or not it was reported to the police; and The Emma Project, a pioneering refuge and outreach service for women with problematic substance use who have experienced any form of domestic or sexual violence including prostitution; as well as a range of other services.
We started running The LEA Project to support women in prostitution and facilitate exit this month. It was developed by our sister organisation Eaves before they closed down due to loss of funding. We’re currently raising money to buy back the van that was used for night-time outreach work as it was seized by the administrators. Without it, there are women who will not be able to access support.
Times are hard for women’s services, much of our funding for the next financial year is unconfirmed, insecure or reducing. It’s now forty years since 1975, when a group of feminist activists and survivors of men’s violence started Hackney Women’s Aid. It was also the year that Peter Sutcliffe killed the first of at least 13 women in West Yorkshire and the year the BBC1 launched Jim’ll Fix It, presented by Jimmy Savile who is now known to have sexually abused hundreds of women and children.
40 years later, men are still abusing, raping, beating, exploiting and killing women. Research shows that women want, value and benefit most from specialist women only services and while men’s violence against women continues, we will fight to support women.
Karen Ingala Smith is CEO of nia
Manchester Women’s Aid works with the public and voluntary sector and funders like the Big Lottery and Comic Relief to keep victims of controlling, coercive and threatening behaviour, violence and abuse safe and well.
The majority of services are accessed by women because they are more likely to experience domestic violence and abuse (DVA) and when they do it is more likely to be more severe and repeated.
On an average day there will be 30 women in refuge, having escaped life-threatening abuse from an intimate partner or family member. There will also be many children coming to terms, through play sessions, with the DVA they have witnessed. Our skilled staff will be providing practical and emotional support to over 150 victims of DVA in the community, running groups and drop-in advice sessions each week and training professionals such as GPs and the police in how to identify abuse and respond appropriately.
And yet we struggle to fund even this level of service, even in places like Manchester where DVA crimes are reported every 8 minutes. And we spend precious time completing endless short-term funding applications and having to explain, over and over again, why closing refuges and forcing victims to stay in a violent relationship is wrong, why families will often have to move across the country to a place of safety, far away from the abuser and why it’s so important to invest in the healing of child and adult victims of this awful crime. Time that should be spent ending the fear.
Gail Heath is CEO of the Pankhurst Trust
As we start the 16 days of action opposing violence against women, the picture in the UK is bleak. Specialist women’s services up and down the country are seeing huge increases on demand for their services yet these self-same services are shrinking, closing or at risk of closure. One such sad casualty was Eaves which, after 29 years working to end violence against women, closed at the end of October.
The sorts of challenges that organisations face are linked to commissioning processes which favour large, generic, non-specialist organisations with economies of scale and significant reserves so they can subsidise tenders. This directly militates against small, specialist, women only services (which we know is what works and what women want) being able to win tenders. In turn this has a hugely negative impact on the quality of services that women receive.
Eaves managed to save some services, in collaboration with Nia, Gaia, Women in Prison and the Beth Centre. Sadly, the Alice project, which averted homelessness for 294 women in one year, could not be saved.
The big unknown is the Poppy project, which was the first British service to work with women trafficked into prostitution or domestic labour. They operated way over the minimum standards allowed for by the Government contract. They undertook outreach in prisons and detention centres identifying women missed by the system. They provided gender specific and victim centred support beyond the minimum of 45 days. They challenged wrongful decisions achieving a high success rate with women.
The fact that they built such trust and supported women for so much longer than is provided for, accounts for the fact that the Poppy project helped women to bring a total of 45 traffickers to justice achieving some 423 years sentences between them! However Poppy is not gone – it is trying to set up independently. There may be a break in service but they’ll be back.
Heather Harvey was formerly research and development manager at Eaves.
If you are affected by these issues, you can click here for details of support services.