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You're not alone

You're not alone - that's the message to victims of domestic abuse during the current Coronavirus lockdown.

Sunderland City Council has joined forces with domestic abuse charity Wearside Women in Need and Northumbria Police to reassure anyone who thinks that they or someone they know could be at risk that help is still available.

Councillor Michael Mordey, Chair of the Safer Sunderland Partnership and Deputy Leader of Sunderland City Council and said: "We know that home isn’t a safe place for everyone. We also recognise that during these restrictions, being isolated with an abuser must be terrifying, so we want to send a very clear message to you that you're not alone and there is help and support available."

The City Council is urging anyone who needs help to:

• Call Wearside Women in Need’s 24/7 helpline on 0800 066 5555. Their specialist advisors offer confidential, non-judgemental support and information to survivors, anyone experiencing domestic abuse, and their friends and families.
• Call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 200 247.
• Call the Police on 999 if you are in immediate danger. Silent calls will work if you are not safe to speak so use the silent solution service by dialling 999 and press 5 5.
• Call the Police on 101 if you need help and support or if you are worried about a friend or loved one, or worried that someone’s behaviour is abusive.
• Access support online using the Women’s Aid’s Live Chat (10am-12pm) https://chat.womensaid.org.uk/
• Call the Respect helpline 0808 802 4040 if you are worried about your own behaviour
• Call the Men’s Advice Line - a confidential helpline for male victims of domestic abuse and those supporting them 0808 8010327 (www.mensadviceline.org.uk)

For anyone worried about their own behaviour, the Respect Phoneline is a confidential helpline for people who are hurting and/or scaring their partners and families, which can also support the professionals who work with them 0808 8024040 (www.respectphoneline.org.uk )

The message from Becky Rogerson, Director of Wearside Women in Need, is clear: "If you are worried about your own safety or the safety of someone you know, we are here to help. Our services are open and ready to take your call. We can provide a place of safety, discuss your options and choices and offer confidential advice and support. There’s never been a more critical time for us to all to pull together and look after one-another. We call on all our community ambassadors, supporters, and previous service users to spread the word and make that ‘stay safe’ call."

The City Council is also urging anyone who suspects that someone they know may be a victim of domestic abuse to report it so that they can get the help and support that they need.

Councillor Mordey, said: "We are calling on our communities to be our eyes and ears and to step forward and report any concerns if they see or hear evidence of domestic abuse or suspect it may be happening, or if they are worried about a friend, neighbour or loved one."

"Often in cases of domestic abuse, the community knows something but struggles to know what to do to help. Neighbours, family and friends may be suspicious, but are often reluctant to get involved because of spilt loyalties, embarrassment, or fear of reprisals.

"However, when victims and children are in self-isolation with their abuser, it may not always be safe for them to call for help. We are urging anyone who has concerns or suspicions that someone they know, or live near, is experiencing domestic abuse to contact to Police, or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111."

Domestic abuse can be emotional, psychological, financial, sexual or physical abuse. It usually involves controlling or coercive behaviours. Though physical assaults are all too common, victims more often describe a whole range of behaviours – intimidation, emotional abuse, isolation, constant questioning, day to day monitoring of their time, movements, telephone calls and texts – which build up over time and leave them trapped. The space in which a victim is able to think or act freely just gets smaller and smaller and unfortunately the corona virus has made this worse. Victims are being asked, like we all are, to stay in, to stop visiting friends and family, lets ensure we all keep a check on each others welfare and stay safe.

Anyone who suspects someone is abusing their partner or loved one:

• Should contact the police with their concerns.
• Do not approach the perpetrator about their behaviour, this could escalate the abuse and put the victim in further danger.
• Should not put themselves in a dangerous situation
• Always call 999 if they are worried that someone is in immediate risk - the police will respond.
• Call Crimestoppers 24/7, free and anonymously on 0800 555 111 or pass on information on-line at https://crimestoppers-uk.org/

Northumbria Police’s Detective Superintendent Deborah Alderson, of the Safeguarding Department, wants to reach out to send a clear message to those experiencing domestic abuse and living in fear.

She said: "We know that home is not a safe place for those experiencing domestic abuse, and the much-needed respite often provided by work and school may no longer be available.

"Isolation is already a tool used by abusers. Therefore, we can expect that self-isolation and social distancing will be used to coerce and control victims. It will also inevitably close off community support networks.

"If your home is not a safe environment then we urge you to seek support, to contact police. We will do everything we can do to support you which can include finding safe accommodation for you and your children or removing abusers from homes."

She also had a very clear message for abusers: "I want to be clear – abuse is a choice made by the abuser. To those perpetrating abuse – we will take action against you and can and will remove you from your home to stop you committing further harm. I would urge anyone who is worried that their behaviour may be abusive to seek advice from the charity Respect which has a website and helpline."

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