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Norfolk domestic abuse network celebrates training more than 800 ‘champions’ to spot signs of violence

PUBLISHED: 06:00 29 November 2017

Norfolk County Council domestic abuse change coordinators, (L-R), Zoe Harding, Paula DeVaux, Christen Williams, and Tabitha Breame, holding a sign for the White Ribbon Campaign, to end violence against women, at the conference in Swaffham. Photo: Archant

Norfolk County Council domestic abuse change coordinators, (L-R), Zoe Harding, Paula DeVaux, Christen Williams, and Tabitha Breame, holding a sign for the White Ribbon Campaign, to end violence against women, at the conference in Swaffham. Photo: Archant

Archant

Kicking off your shoes and making a cup of tea after work.

Speakers at the conference shared their stories of rebuilding their lives after experiencing and/or witnessing domestic abuse. Photo: NCC Speakers at the conference shared their stories of rebuilding their lives after experiencing and/or witnessing domestic abuse. Photo: NCC

Simple pleasures most of us take for granted.

But for one woman, not being allowed to do these things in her own home was a warning sign of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse that would last for 22 years.

The survivor, who wished to remain anonymous, shared her story with 200 people who have been trained to spot the warning signs of domestic violence, at Norfolk’s first domestic abuse ‘champions’ conference.

She said: “I knew I should never have married this person.

A display at the conference which featured a butterfly for every trained volunteer, or domestic abuse champion. Photo: NCC A display at the conference which featured a butterfly for every trained volunteer, or domestic abuse champion. Photo: NCC

“I was petrified of him. He ground me down with mental, emotional, and sexual abuse.

“He became violent, and threatened to tell everyone I was mentally unstable.

“The council couldn’t help and I was too scared to go to the police.”

After finding the strength to leave her now-estranged husband, she was diagnosed with PTSD, and received counselling from Leeway.

She later became a qualified domestic violence advocate.

Speaking to the EDP after her talk, she said: “It’s about being able to have a voice.

“I want people to feel they will be listened to and supported.

“I got married in the late 1980s, and so much has changed now.

“There are organisations victims can go to that don’t involve the police.”

She encouraged people to sign up to become a domestic abuse champion, and said: “The wider the audience, the more help there will be, and more people will recognise the signs.”

Norfolk’s domestic abuse champions network is funded by organisations including Norfolk County Council (NCC), Norfolk Police and Crime Commissioner and the Home Office.

The conference was held at the The Green Britain Centre in Swaffham, on Tuesday November 28, to celebrate reaching the milestone of 800 domestic abuse champions completing training.

828 champions have been trained since the program was launched in July 2015.

The event was attended by Dr Louise Smith, director of public health at NCC, and the Lord Mayor of Norwich, Councillor David Fullman, who both thanked the volunteers for all their work.

One of the champions, Emily Catling, 29, is a community outreach worker with families.

She said: “Its about understanding how to help people.

“It can happen anywhere.”

Anyone interested in becoming a domestic abuse champion can find more information and sign up for training on Norfolk County Council’s website.

If you are experiencing domestic violence, or have been affected by any of the issues discussed, information, support, and help are available here.

Domestic abuse through the eyes of a child:

“You have to get out of this relationship or you’ll end up dead.”

These were the words spoken by a counsellor that prompted James Stephens’ mother to leave her abusive partner.

Mr Stephens, 32, an NHS business administrator, spoke to a group at the domestic abuse champions conference about the impact of abusive relationships and domestic violence on children.

He said: “She [my mum] tried to shelter us a lot, but as kids you paint the most awful pictures in your mind.

“I suffered acute panic attacks that caused blackouts and nosebleeds as a teenager - but I was never asked what my home life was like.

“Its a prime example of how more awareness is needed in the health sector.

“We need better, more streamlined systems.”

Mr Stephens volunteers with domestic abuse charities and said: “I always say to the kids: ‘Would you want to make someone feel the way this is making you feel?’ and they always say ‘No’.”

The EDP has launched Kerri’s campaign, our appeal to raise £10,000 for domestic abuse charity Leeway.

Read more about Kerri McAuley here, or click here to make a donation to the campaign.

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