Speaking out about Domestic Abuse

JENNY (not her real name) had been married for many years to her husband. She suffered depression and was confined to the house most days.

Jenny’s children were at school, and her husband worked during the day.

She wanted to go back to work, but he did not want her to get a job, and discouraged her from doing so. Isolated, with no personal money and, by her own admission, friendless, she sought help from the Herts Women’s Centre.

It’s Domestic Abuse Awareness Week this week, and the centre is reminding women - and men - like Jenny that they are there to help.

“A lot of women come to us knowing that something is wrong, but they don’t realise what,” said the centre’s domestic abuse specialist, Mel Drum.

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“They are held under control. But it doesn’t have to be violence to control someone. Most have nice houses, nice cars.

“People seem to have this perception that higher class people aren’t affected. They are, anyone can be.

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“A lot of people don’t want to say anything, they don’t want to break the family up. Often, they don’t realise that children are better off in a one person happy family than a two person unhappy one.

“We get a lot of women not knowing that having sex when you’re not awake is rape.

“If you’re asleep, you can’t consent. Sex is for two people. If you’re asleep, you’re not involved.

“We get women who don’t realise that. Many of them are professionals.

“We’ve been very busy this year. It gets busier every year. I think it’s become less of stigma. I still think, though, that there’s a lot to be done on the prosecution side of things.”

The organisation has also just launched a new service, which helps out men affected by domestic abuse.

They can leave a message by phone, and either arrange a phone or face-to-face appointment.

“I think, for men, there’s not a lot out there for them. A lot of projects which open for them don’t stay due to funding cuts,” added Mel.

“Here, they know we will see them from beginning to end. They can talk, they don’t have to see anyone, whatever they choose. We have legal advice too.

“Sometimes, it’s just about knowing their rights. Some need support. All need different things.”

The number for the new men’s service, which is checked daily, is 01438 316359. The women’s number remains the same on 01438 742742.

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