In England, over the weekend, you’d be mistaken for thinking we have returned to a time where what happens behind closed doors is private, a family matter, ‘just a domestic’, something which neighbours and the public shouldn’t be concerned about.
It has been alarming to see the mixed messages by politicians and other commentators about whether neighbours should call the police if they have concerns about women’s safety. It is concerning to hear the demands that women who scream so loudly that neighbours are concerned should justify themselves for the police being called.
In Wales, our national ‘Don’t Be A Bystander’ campaign issued by Welsh Government is clear.
- Domestic abuse is not a private matter. It is a crime and kills over two women a week in England and Wales.
- Domestic abuse should not be kept within the family, behind closed doors. This is what abusers want us to believe and explains why they may be charming with other people, why it may be hard to spot.
- We should not stand by or accept violence against women, domestic abuse or sexual violence in our communities. By remaining silent, we condone abuse, we minimise it, we give abusers permission to continue their behaviour.
- We should understand that it is never the victim’s fault, the responsibility must always rest with the abuser. Asking women to explain themselves or justify their actions is victim-blaming.
- We may be the only person who’s noticed what’s happening next door or who’s worried about a friend, family member or colleague. By not asking ‘are you ok?’ we ignore the evidence that women experiencing abuse often want to be asked if they need help, and value knowing there are people around them who will be ready to help when needed.
- Don’t be a bystander. Take action if you’re concerned about someone’s safety or about someone’s abusive behaviour, call it out, tell someone, and call the police if you think someone is in danger.
At Welsh Women’s Aid we call time’s up on abusers whose behaviour goes unchallenged and unpunished, and on colluding with the everyday abuse that happens in our homes and communities.
We know sometimes that when we dare speak out, call out abuse, and stand up for others we are concerned about, we will likely face criticism because those with more perceived power or social status want us to keep quiet.
If you’re worried about it not being your business, remember you could be someone’s lifeline. By not making that call or speaking out, we only collude with and further contribute to women’s silence, whilst expanding the space for action for abusers everywhere.
If you are worried that someone is in danger, call the police on 999.
If you are worried about someone you know see our website for more information on what you can do. Welsh Women’s Aid has produced leaflets for friends and family – contact us for copies to share in your local community.
If you need help or are concerned about someone you know, get in touch with the Live Fear Free Helpline. Domestic abuse includes psychological, physical, emotional and sexual abuse, coercive controlling behaviour, threats and intimidation, economic abuse and harassment. It is never acceptable and can be prevented, if we intervene early enough.