Brief Outline: Nicki Norman is Director of Services at Women’s Aid.
Background: Nicki has over 20 years direct experience with providing, managing and developing local domestic violence services in a range of settings. Nicki oversees the delivery and development of Women’s Aid’s direct services which include the National Domestic Violence Helpline, online Survivors’ Forum, and the ‘Safer Futures’ schools education project. Currently, Nicki is leading a national project that aims to transform multi-agency responses to domestic abuse in England and Wales – Change that Lasts.
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Nicki Norman, Deputy Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, urges women to seek help.
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Yes I have been working directly, one way or another with survivors of abuse for about 25 years, and I think if there was one message that I was going to give to women experiencing abuse it’s that it’s not your fault, absolutely it’s not your fault. Women often internalise the abuse they’re experiencing, they often question whether they’re actually experiencing domestic abuse, particularly as the rhetoric is it’s about physical abuse, when often actually the physical abuse won’t necessarily be their day-to-day experience. There might always be the threat of it there but women experience other forms of abuse as well within a relationship so sexual abuse, financial abuse, control of everything they’re doing. So coercive control was recognised as illegal in the law last year, which is a really positive step forward, particularly because many women don’t necessarily seek the help that they need or deserve because they don’t recognise that they’re experiencing domestic abuse.
And there are services available, so Women’s Aid has a network of member services, in most area there is a domestic violence service that might provide refuge for safe accommodation to escape from the abuser. There is, there are outreach services, there are advocacy services and there are helplines and we also run the National Domestic Violence Helpline which is 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Women can just ring and get support with anything related to their experiences around domestic abuse. It can be anonymous and we won’t judge them but what we can do with our online database is identify exactly where they can get the help that they need in the country.
OK and what would be your message to say a friend of family member or someone if they were concerned about a woman that they knew?
I think it’s really hard when you see can someone that you care about in an abusive relationship and you feel helpless to be able to make things better for them. My advice to them would be to not to try to pressurise her to leave the relationship or take action that she doesn’t want to do because ultimately you’ll probably just drive a wedge between yourself and her because she’s not able to do that and its very important to recognise what the barriers to her seeking help might be.
Two women a week are killed and often that’s after they left the abuser so it’s a really, really risky time so what I would say to them is to not judge her, to provide information about where she can get support and to let her know that you’re always there for help and support if she needs it.
And I gather family members and friends themselves can actually ring your – the national helpline?
Yes the helpline is available for anybody that’s concerned about domestic abuse whether they’re a professional or a family member or a friend or a woman experiencing abuse themselves.
And if you’re a professional working in the field you might come across through health care professionals or other areas, you might come across women who’ve experienced abuse, what would your be your advice to them do you think?
My advice would be to always, always attempt to see the woman on her own because often if she’s in a controlling relationship the perpetrator will make sure that he’s by her side when she’s seeing professionals, not giving her an opportunity to disclose the abuse. So to see her on her own and actually to question her about whether there’s anybody in her life that she’s worried about or she’s fearful of at the moment. So actually ask the question and give her the opportunity to tell you. And if she does tell you, again not to be judgmental but to listen to what she’s telling you about the risks that she’s facing and what support that she might need and how you can help he, rather than running away with your own agenda and being um, attempting to make her decisions for her. It’s really important that you provide her with the information to enable her to make the decisions that are right for her.
Nicki perhaps you could finish by just actually telling us what the helpline number is and for anyone that is on this website there is a link here but you might just like to tell us what the National Helpline is.
The National Domestic Violence Helpline we run in partnership with ‘Refuge’ is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s staffed by female, trained experts in domestic abuse. Anybody can ring and get support, whether it’s first time disclosing or whether it’s an emergency refuge today and we’ll help them. The number for the national Domestic Violence Helpline is 0808 2000 247.