A Coordinated Community Response
Ending violence against women and girls requires a whole society approach: a commitment from all of our communities, at all levels, to creating equality and enabling women and girls to fulfil their potential. VAWG causes inequality and upholds it at the same time. We want women and girls to be able to break down the barriers which hold them back, to fulfil their dreams, and to create a world in which abuse no longer happens. This might sound ambitious, but we wouldn’t be fighting for it if we didn’t believe it was possible.
There are myriad ways you can get involved in supporting women and fighting for equality. Your part to play might be as high level as commissioning services or developing policy, it might be raising awareness and funds, or it might be as simple as challenging a sexist joke or being there for someone the first time they talk about abuse. None of these things is small or insignificant. Changing the world needs all of us to take action, and we are all capable of doing something.
Change the response to survivors
The initial response a survivor receives when they first disclose abuse can have a huge impact on their confidence which in turn can hinder their ability to reach out and contact specialist services or the police. Victims of abuse experience, on average, 35 incidences of violence before they attempt to leave their situation. Survivors seek help, on average, 5 times before they receive effective support to end this abuse. Now, imagine if they received that support the very first time they reached out?
Some of our recent local research, backed up by UK-wide evidence, shows that when survivors start to talk about their experiences of abuse, they don’t always begin with authorities or specialist services. Often, they start with their communities. This means their friends, family, colleagues, or even their GP or health visitor. Influencing the way that communities respond to disclosures of abuse is absolutely crucial.
We work with partners to ensure the maximum reach of our campaigns and initiatives. One example of partnership community activism includes our work with Welsh Women’s Aid on the Ask Me ambassador program, which trains community members to understand VAWG. Ambassadors teach communities how to break the silence and challenge damaging myths and stereotypes, as well as signposting survivors towards effective support. Cardiff Women's Aid are associated providers of Welsh Women's Aid's Bystander Intervention training. We also work with partner campaigns such as Everyone’s Business, No More and White Ribbon to work in various communities.
Change the incidence of abuse
While we emphasise the importance of changing society’s response to disclosures of abuse, reducing the incidence of abuse is the other side of the coin. They are fundamentally linked - when VAWG has a higher profile and general society is more on the lookout for signs and is better able to challenge and intervene effectively, then abuse will be reduced.
The work we do with survivors helps them to understand the early warning signs of abuse and to develop their own boundaries. This prompts better recognition where a relationship may become problematic. We also work with children and young people to support them through the experiences of abuse, and to divert them from following similar pathways. Our work with community groups and skill development, volunteer campaign groups, lobbying, and research are all also geared towards these twin goals.