A new support group aiming to help women affected by domestic abuse has been launched in Morecambe.
Set up by a group of women, the informal drop-in sessions are open to any women who are suffering, or have previously suffered, any form of domestic abuse.
Whether the women are looking for confidential advice, or just a friendly ear, they are welcome to go along to the new group meetings.
Children are also welcomed at the sessions.
Natalie Marshall, an outreach family support work specialising in domestic abuse for Morecambe Children’s Centres, said it is hoped the new group will provide a confidential space for women to meet up and chat.
The group was set up after several women expressed similar thoughts that such a group was lacking in the district.
Natalie said: “I facilitate a freedom programme for victims of domestic abuse and from that a few of the ladies established that there wasn’t really anything in this area and so a discussion was had with Home Start about holding one.
Although the group has initially had backing from family support charity Home Start, the ultimate aim is for it to become a peer support group.
The group is free and meets every Wednesday between 9.30am and 11.30am at the Home Start centre in Morecambe Street, Morecambe.
Children are welcome at the group and there are toys and refreshments available.
Natalie said: “It’s a very informal drop-in session. The children can play and members can have a chat.
“Eventually we hope to set up with a bit more structure, and maybe have a solicitor giving advice, or someone who can help with housing and benefits issues.”
Women are welcome to drop in for as long or as little as they wish.
They can also call in for advice at any of ther local children’s centres.
Sarah Willis, one of the volunteer group organisers and herself a former victim of domestic abuse, said the meetings will give women an opportunity to chat with other who have gone through similar experiences.
The 36-year-old mum-of-three said: “I did the freedom programme run by Natalie at the children’s centre, which teaches you about domestic abuse and how to make sure you are not put in the same situation again.
“A few of us decided it would be good to have a support group locally.
“Sometimes in that situation, even if you have the support of your family they don’t really understand what you are going through.
“We have set up the groupwith the idea that any women can just drop in, whether they are still in a relationship or not.
“Sometimes it is not that clear, especially if it’s emotional abuse rather than physical that is being suffered, and so the women may just want someone to talk to.
“We hope that people will come back week after week – it’s about building friendships and new relationships because you can end up quite isolated if you are going through it.
“We are hoping that places such as social services and Women’s Aid will tell women about us, and also that people will come and give talks to the group and offer advice.
“We may not even end up talking about domestic abuse every week – sometimes we will just be having a chat.
“I have an autistic son and I have been to support groups in the past so I know how good the support can be.”
Anyone needing advice or guidance can call the 24 hour national domestic abuse helpline on 0808 2000 247.
Natalie said: “If someone is in need of help they should try to speak to a family member if they can. If they are feeling threatened in any way they should call the police.”
Women’s Aid in Lancaster can be contacted in confidence on 01524 389637.
Help and support for male victims of domestic violence can be found at the Men’s Advice Line, which can be contacted Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm on freephone 0808 801 0327.
“I felt so isolated, lonely and scared” – one woman’s story of suffering at the hands of a violent husband
“My family and friends knew my husband had mental health problems and that he was difficult to live with but they didn’t realise he was abusing me and my children.
“I desperately wanted someone I could talk to about how he made me feel but I was scared to tell my family because I didn’t want them to hate him and I was scared to tell professionals because I worried they’d take my children away.
“Even though I had friends and family I felt isolated, lonely and scared because nobody understood what I was going through and I didn’t feel able to tell them.
“When I left him I was amazed at the level of support I got; professionals didn’t take my children away, they helped. My family and friends rallied round. I didn’t think I’d be believed about the abuse but I was.
“But even though I had a really great support network and wonderfully loving people in my life I still felt alone, because as great as they were they hadn’t been there, they had no idea what I was going through.
“People don’t understand the grief you feel at the loss of an abusive husband, they think that you must be glad to be rid, but it’s not so simple and it’s difficult to explain those complicated feelings of loving someone who hurt you to someone who hasn’t been there.
“When I made friends with other survivors and victims of abuse I found it so helpful to be part of a group of other women who I didn’t have to explain that to and who understood the complex feelings I had to work through as well as being able to offer practical advice from their own experience too.”
Domestic abuse – the facts
* One in four women in England and Wales experience domestic abuse over their lifetime.
* One incident of domestic abuse is reported to police every minute, however less than 40 per cent of domestic abuse crime is reported to police.
* 45 per cent of women and 26 per cent of men experienced at least one incident of domestic abuse in their lifetime.
* Women are much more likely than men to be the victim of multiple incidents of abuse.
* On average two women a week are killed by a current or former male partner.
* The total number of women supported by domestic abuse services in England on one typical day (in 2006) was 11,310.
* In 75 per cent to 90 per cent of incidents of domestic abuse, children are in the same or the next room.
* Children who live with domestic abuse are at increased risk of behavioural problems and emotional trauma, and mental health difficulties in adult life.
* Abused women are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, psychosomatic systems, eating problems and sexual dysfunction.
* 75 per cent of cases of domestic abuse result in physical injury or mental health consequences to women.
* Domestic abuse has a higher rate of repeat victimisation than any other crime.