The NDAS team are a group of highly trained and focused individuals who are passionate about supporting people in Northumberland who are victims of domestic abuse. We believe that no-one should have to suffer like this and we aim to plug the gaps in local services. Currently rural victims suffer longer than those in towns and cities and we are hoping to raise funds to stop this inequality.
Our purpose is to relieve the distress and suffering of women, men and children in Northumberland who have experienced recent domestic abuse.
We offer free and confidential services, providing emotional and practical support to victims to enable them to make better choices and decisions to rebuild their lives. Our aim is that all victims of domestic abuse in Northumberland, and their children, will be protected; survivors are empowered to take back control of their lives; and communities educated on the diversity and impact of domestic abuse.
Domestic Abuse includes all kinds of damaging behaviour, not always physical violence: emotional, psychological, sexual, economical, stalking and harassment, and coercive and controlling behaviour. The main issue for victims is their lack of control and not being allowed to make decisions over many aspects of their lives. Victims face multiple issues, often have no money they can access, risk losing their homes and even their children. Taking the first step at this critical moment to acknowledge they are suffering is very hard and the social stigma, and living in rurally isolated areas, adds additional barriers to accessing services.
If we are able to raise the money we will extend the hours of one of our Domestic Abuse Practitioner to focus on supporting people in rural communities who find it harder to access vital support services.
Our Domestic Abuse Practitioners provide bespoke, direct, individual support, including regular risk assessments, and safety planning to keep victims safe. We provide: -
• Emotional support – we listen to and believe victims, enabling them to trust us and not be judged
• Housing – assist them to achieve safe housing
• Finance – help put in place a personal income stream
• Legal – support through the legal system
• Group courses - Freedom Programme etc. designed to increase awareness of abuse, improve self-esteem, mental health and well-being, to break the cycle of abuse that can often start in childhood. This also promotes peer to peer support with many friendships formed as a result.
We are seeking funding for an additional Domestic Abuse Practitioner to increase our capacity to provide initial practical and emotional support directly to victims of domestic abuse (usually for approx. 3 months), and also run group recovery courses, focusing on the hard to reach rural communities. The courses help victims to understand how abusive relationships happen, and to try and provide them with the skills and knowledge to identify unhealthy relationships to help prevent abusive relationships in the future.
Domestic Abuse can make victims feel guilty, worthless, ashamed, stupid, not believed, alone, isolated and marginalised from society. Victims tell us:-
- They want to feel safe and in control of their lives and want to be able to make their own choices
- They want to rebuild their relationships with family and friends which have suffered leaving them with little or no support networks
- They want to improve their self-esteem and confidence which has been damaged and is very low
One of our part-time (24 hrs a week) Domestic Abuse Practitioners is able to provide one-to-one support to at least 60 victims each year.
The services the practitioner provides includes;
• general emotional support - victims have often not been listened to, believed, or may not even been able to tell anyone their whole situation
• work around self- esteem and confidence – being told they are doing well, are strong and able to make even small initial changes in their lives improves their self-esteem and confidence as often years of abuse has left them with little self-worth, not even sure they deserve or need help
• risk management – the practitioner goes through the Risk Indicator Checklist (RIC) with each victim which covers areas such as physical and sexual violence, emotional abuse, stalking and harassment, feelings of safety, feelings of isolation, mental health and well-being. This involves gaining the trust of the victim to enable them to disclose everything that has been happening which obviously includes sharing very personal and private information. Once the risk level is established the practitioner discusses with the victim what can be done to manage the risk. If the assessment comes out at high risk of death or serious injury the victim will be advised of safeguarding procedures that may be needed to protect both them and their children and they are referred to the police for support from the statutory service however, we continue to support those at this level of risk if they have built up their relationship with the practitioner they are working with. This dedicated arrangement reduces the re-victimisation of the victim by having the need to repeat their story from the start and also maintains the levels of trust built up between victims and their practitioner.
• safety planning – this builds from the RIC and looks at specific areas where the individual’s safety can be improved including liaison with the police or other statutory services
• needs assessment – the practitioner uses the Empowerment Star to identify what issues need addressing in a support plan for each victim. The stars cover 9 key areas: safety, accommodation, support networks, legal issues, health and well-being, money, children, work and learning, empowerment and self-esteem. Each of these areas is rated and actions are identified. Our practitioner assists with rehousing, obtaining legal advice, signposting for welfare and other benefits or with banks to establish financial independence from the perpetrator, advocacy with other statutory and voluntary agencies, support in court and ensuring that all relevant and necessary support is in place for the individual, any children or other dependent adults.
Follow up meetings are held weekly to start with and then fortnightly or monthly as required. The practitioner will make regular telephone calls or texts to keep up-to-date with the victim’s situation, and to ensure they are supported emotionally. The RIC and Star are revisited when milestones have been achieved or something significant happens. The practitioner uses both of these to show how much progress has been made in addressing their issues and making positive change in their lives.
Our practitioners support victims of abuse to enable them to regain confidence in their decision making and to be fully aware of the types of abuse they have lived with. This is usually up to 3 months but can be longer as needed. Each session lasts approximately 1 hour as we find that the impact of abuse on victims means that any longer can be overwhelming. NDAS empowers those we work with by providing them with choices, we do not make decisions for them unless they lack capacity or they are at serious risk of harm or homicide. Our practitioners support victims to become independent not dependent on others to arrange and organise their own lives.
Service Users story
A recent victim we helped was Ruth who came from a household where it was believed that the police were there to convict you not support you, she had never contacted the police before she was referred to us. During 1-2-1 sessions we suggested the Freedom Programme would be beneficial so she could identify and understand the behaviours of perpetrators and why they behave as they do. She agreed to attend, but suffered from anxiety so our practitioner drove her to the first session and we funded a taxi for the following sessions as she lived remotely and couldn't get there on her own. Our Practitioner noticed Ruth was unusually quiet in one session, whilst talking about sexual abuse. Ruth stayed behind so they could talk in private. Ruth said she needed to think about everything she had been through as it was starting to become real. Our Practitioner suggested a home visit to have a chat and make sure Ruth was coping. During this 1-2-1, Ruth disclosed that she was not aware an intimate partner could rape a person as she thought it only counted as rape if it was a stranger. They talked about consent, what does consent mean and what does it mean if consent has not been given. Ruth agreed to report the crime to the police, despite her previous beliefs around the police, so they went together so we could support her whilst giving her statements. Ruth thanked NDAS for our support as she didn’t feel she would have ever realised or been able to report the incidents without NDAS. Ruth showed great courage, agreeing to make a video statement to be used in court. Ruth has since told us that he was arrested and convicted for these crimes and has been sentenced by court.
We believe that domestic abuse is everybody's business, and victims should not have to hide behind closed doors.