HOMETRUTHS – Unlocking the Truth on Domestic Abuse
“Seven years ago I met a man who said he would die for me. Six years ago he said that he would die without me. Most days since then he has told me, in detail, how he would kill me if I ever left him….. I knew that the way I was living wasn’t right, but honestly believed that I was living with a man who was ill…. I was depressed, confused, ashamed and totally exhausted from putting on a happy brave face to the world, when in reality I felt like I was dying…. my daughter actually believed I was dying, she would ask me why I couldn’t hold a cup of coffee without spilling it, because my hands were shaking so much all the time….”
HOMETRUTHS, a new co-operative founded in January this year by Kim Swinden and Mary Cosker, based in Swindon, Wiltshire provides services to survivors of domestic violence and abuse such as Clare, who shares her experience to help raise awareness of domestic abuse and promote HOMETRUTHS. “… without HOMETRUTHS I know that I would not be alive today. If I had not lost my life at his hands, I would have ended up taking my own…. instead I am a survivor and my children still have their Mum.”
Both Mary and Kim are qualified Independent Domestic Violence Advocates (IDVAs), with many years experience of working with survivors of domestic abuse. Through risk assessing, safety planning and multi agency advocacy they work with women to help keep them safe whether they are still in abusive relationships or separated from their abusive partner. “We understand how difficult it is to see any way out of an abusive relationship, that it isn’t as easy as just leaving, and that often women aren’t able to leave.” Says Mary Cosker “Leaving doesn’t always mean the abuse stops and we often see stalking and harassment by ex-partners.”
“We enable women to make sense of what they are experiencing, many women think it is because their partner is moody, stressed or drinks too much. Often they think their partner has a problem that they can help fix if they are just able to love them enough or say or do the right thing.” Says Kim Swinden.
Stereotypical images of weak women who have never had a job, living on the bread-line getting a battering on a Saturday night from a drunken man, are very misleading. HOMETRUTHS has supported teachers, accountants, police officers, social workers, court clerks, store managers. In fact 1 in 4 women living in the UK will experience some form of domestic abuse in their lifetime, but it often goes unrecognised even by the woman herself because of most people’s belief that domestic violence is being hit by your partner.
Physical violence is only one element of a much more complex issue. Women are emotionally, financially and sexually abused by their partners and alongside all forms of domestic abuse is psychological abuse. The headworking that an abusive partner does so that the woman blames herself and believes she is the cause of her partners behaviour. Women feel confused, guilty and responsible and this enables the abuser to continue undetected. “You can domestically abuse a woman in many ways without ever physically laying a hand on her.” Explains Kim “The abuser gets inside their head and when they are told often enough it is their fault, women truly believe it. Most come to us saying they think they are going mad.”
“We see our co-operative as a community based response to a well hidden social disease.” Says Mary “through HOMETRUTHS we can make a difference to individual women as well as make change within our society.”
As well as one to one support, HOMETRUTHS facilitates the FREEDOM PROGRAMME, a weekly group enabling women to understand the behaviour of their abusive partner and the impact on themselves and their children. HOMETRUTHS has also developed NEWBEGINNINGS group which is piloting later this year, for survivors who are free from the abusive relationship but have lost their identity, have no confidence or self esteem and feel daunted by the future.
HOMETRUTHS provides training and consultancy to professionals and agencies in the statutory, voluntary and commercial sectors, to increase awareness and understanding of the issues of domestic abuse and to ensure professionals give a confident and appropriate response to anyone who discloses domestic abuse.
Please get in touch with us if we are able to help you or your organisation.