Advocacy group restarts confidential service to support those suffering under domestic abuse and forced marriages
SCOTTISH WOMEN’S AID (SWA), the charity that campaigns against violence towards women has relaunched their 24 hour, seven days a week helpline for people affected by domestic abuse or forced marriage.
The relaunch was funded by the Scottish government who transferred management of the helpline to the group earlier his year having supported more than 2140 people between 2014 and 2015.
The service will have a dedicated team 24 hours a day and seven days a week including a translation service for those who do not speak English and come with a revamped website, online contact and multi language leaflets and posters.
"We are immensely proud of the work done so far to make Scotland's domestic abuse and forced marriage helpline the best it can be, and the launch this week marks an important milestone." Dr Marsha Scott
Dr Marsha Scott, the chief executive officer of SWA, said: "We are so pleased to be providing this 24/7 service. We have assembled a skilled and specially trained staff team made up of the most incredibly warm and welcoming women as well a new phone system that connects male callers directly to a specialist service designed just for men.
"We are immensely proud of the work done so far to make Scotland's domestic abuse and forced marriage helpline the best it can be, and the launch this week marks an important milestone.
"With the support of the Scottish Government and partners across Scotland, we plan to end domestic abuse and forced marriage; in the meantime, those in need of help can be assured that our new helpline is there for them when they need it."
Among the new look website and helpline features, the service also offers support through any crisis a person ringing up may be going through including advice on what other agencies to talk to.
There has been a particular new focus on forced marriage, which is where one or both individuals do not give their consent to being in a marriage.
Scottish Women’s Aid emphasised that it is important to differentiate between this and an arranged marriage in the public mind, the difference being that the later is an entirely legal and formal cultural tradition where both persons agree to marry.
The renewed focus on forced marriages is in tandem with Scottish Government priority. In September of 2014 Scotland became the first UK nation to make it a criminal offence to force a person into marriage.
There were 58,439 reports of domestic abuse recorded by the police from 2013 to 2015 and 59,882 reports of domestic abuse from 2014 to 2015, a 2.5 per cent increase.
Forced marriage protection orders (FMPO), can be used by courts to grant protection from local services, the law and police services for both men and women who are affected by forced marriage.
If a person or persons is found guilty of breaching a FMPO in any way they can be hit with a fine in addition to two years in prison
The new service will also offer emotional support, and advice on choices around housing, planning personal safety, and financial and social benefits.
Additionally the helpline is open to supporting those including friends, family and others who are connected to or concerned about anybody they know going through a crisis of violence and abuse, both physical or psychological.
The service was launched with testimonies from survivors of domestic abuse such as Nicola who credits the helpline with giving her support and confidence to leave her abusive partner.
In a statement, Nicola said: "The helpline is so vital. I first called five days after I fled; I needed to keep my child safe. The words they used, the way they spoke to me, listened to me, believed me – it changed my life.
"Women’s Aid made so many pieces of the jigsaw come together. My whole mind set then changed. But it took me another five months to get my head around everything. That he really did do these things on purpose. That he wasn’t going to jump off a bridge if I didn’t go back.
"They were there when I was terrified with the police at my door after he falsely accused me of assault, when he turned up at my door after my son and I had been in hiding for 18 months, when he took me to court for access despite years of no contact. Every step of the way I’ve had support. I just had to make a call and someone was there to help."
The Scottish government in 2009 conducted a study showing that in 2009 domestic abuse cost the economy £2.3bn.
According to Scottish government figures there were 58,439 reports of domestic abuse recorded by the police from 2013 to 2015 and 59,882 reports of domestic abuse from 2014 to 2015, a 2.5 per cent increase.
Incidents where a woman was the victim and a man the perpetrator of domestic represented 79 per cent of all incidents of domestic abuse in 2014-15.
Regarding age grouping 26 to 30 year-olds were the most likely to bee affected by domestic violence.
Dundee had just over 1,700 reports and Glasgow had 1,497, making the cities the highest in terms of incidents of abuse per 100,000 of population.
In addition to the emotional, psychological and social cost that domestic abuse inflicts, in 2009 domestic abuse cost the economy £2.3bn according to a Scottish Government report.
Picture courtesy of Andrea Pearson
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