The festive season has arrived. For many this is a time for happy reunions and celebrations, however the reality for others is quite different.
This year will be particularly difficult for a lot of people. COVID-19 restrictions, the prospect of not being able to see loved ones as usual, increases in unemployment, as well as financial hardship could lead to a rise in abuse taking place at home.
Last December, Avon and Somerset Police logged a total of 3,063 cases of domestic abuse – 10.9% higher than the average of the total number of domestic abuse cases recorded between January and November (2,762 cases). Also logged were a total of 132 child abuse, child sexual exploitation, and child sexual abuse cases – 8.5% higher than the average total number of cases recorded between January and November (122 cases).
More than ever, PCC Sue Mountstevens and the police are urging communities to look out for one another, to learn to identify the signs of someone being abused, and to know the steps to take if they suspect someone is being abused.
It can be difficult to spot the signs of abuse. However, trust your instincts; if you sense something isn’t quite right with a friend, family member, or colleague, they could be a victim of abuse. Remember abuse thrives on silence and so starting a conversation is vital. If you think someone is a victim, be curious and talk to them. Ask and ask again, and provide support where possible.
Different types of abuse and signs to look out for:
Domestic abuse can happen to anyone. It happens in all types of relationships, regardless of race, ethnic or religious group, class, disability, sexuality, lifestyle, nationality or age. Domestic abuse isn’t always physical, it can also be emotional, psychological and financial.
Signs someone you know could be in an abusive relationship:
o They withdraw from their circle of friends and do less with other people.
o They receive a lot of messages or phone calls from their partner when they aren’t with them.
o They become anxious when they might be home late or plans change.
o They have unexplained bruises or physical injuries.
Support services for domestic abuse victims:
For more information on domestic abuse, the signs to look out for and where to find help visit www.thisisnotanexcuse.org
Rape and sexual violence:
Survivors of rape and sexual violence may feel uncomfortable sharing their experience. There can be signs, however, that a person may have been assaulted or raped. If you think someone you know may have been a victim of sexual violence there are ways in which you can help.
The signs to look out for can vary depending on the context of the assault and the survivor. Signs of sexual assault won’t always be visible but they can include:
o Difficulty trusting people
o Isolating themselves from friends / family
o Uncharacteristic outbursts of anger or similar reactions.
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) states child abuse is when a child is intentionally harmed by an adult or another child – it can be over a period of time but can also be a one-off action. It can be physical, sexual or emotional and it can happen in person or online. It can also be a lack of love, care and attention – this is neglect.
Signs a child you know might be being abused:
o Unexplained changes in behaviour or personality
o Becoming withdrawn
o Seeming anxious
o Becoming uncharacteristically aggressive
o Lacks social skills and has few friends, if any
o Poor bond or relationship with a parent
o Knowledge of adult issues inappropriate for their age
o Running away or going missing
o Always choosing to wear clothes which cover their body.
According to charity Age UK elders abuse can take many forms, including financial, emotional, physical and sexual. Research shows that almost half a million people aged over 65 will experience some form of abuse or neglect Incidents of abuse and neglect can just be one off or multiple occurrences. Adults can be affected by more than one type of abuse at a time.
Signs to look out for:
o Unexplained injuries
o Poor hygiene
o Malnourishment or weight loss
o Anxiety, depression, or confusion
o Unexplained transactions or loss of money
o Withdrawal from family and friends.
Remember, you can always report any type of abuse to the police by calling 101. Always dial 999 in an emergency. If you can speak, call 999 and dial 55 when you hear the operator. This will alert the operator who will put you through to the police.