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Who can help?

Leeds Domestic Violence Service (LDVS)
24-hour Helpline for anyone in Leeds wanting immediate advice, support and information
0113 246 0401

National Domestic Violence
24 hr freephone helpline for women
0808 2000 247

National Men’s Advice Line
0808 801 0327
Mon to Fri: 9am – 5pm

Making life safe, just and fair for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people. 020 7704 2040

Children and Young People
Childline 0800 1111 and
NSPCC Helpline 0800 800 5000

Leeds Social Services
Adult Social Care – 0113 222 4401
Children’s Social Work Services –
0113 222 4403
Emergency Out of Hours – 07712106378

Leeds Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB)

Local and National Support Agencies


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Leeds Domestic Violence and Abuse
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Get Comfortable Blog

Link: Support for families where there is domestic abuse

Link: Abuse is abuse – we should not and do not make excuses

Link: Losing a home is more than losing a roof over your head

Link: My earliest memory

Link: Just imagine, you are new to a country and have no idea where to get help…

Link: Please keep talking – this is the only way we will know when we have got it right.

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Support for families where there is domestic abuse

I am Gail Faulkner, Head of Children’s Social Work for the east of Leeds. I am also responsible for arrangements to receive calls and concerns about harm to children across the city. I am a professional social worker by background and have worked with families where there is domestic abuse and violence for all of my professional life. To work effectively with families where there is abuse it is important that we work with colleagues in other agencies. It is part of my job to plan services and strategies with others in these agencies, and a part of this is participating in our ‘get comfortable talking about it campaign’. The last year has been a good one for working together, for thinking and acting on how we can do things better and for driving the issue of domestic abuse awareness and reduction in Leeds.

Gail Falkner - Leeds City Council

I very much welcome talking and listening to all about social work and domestic abuse. Social workers work every day with families where there is domestic abuse. We work with victims and perpetrators and their children to try and make things better in their families. Social workers are trained and skilled at listening and providing support for people to make changes, sometimes by organising access to other services such as ‘Caring Dads’ to help. This is a group to help men who are violent or controlling to learn different ways of being in family relationships.

It saddens me that the huge amount of good work social workers do to help families is not known about as much as the times when we have to bring children into care. The reason it saddens me is mainly because it can make people wary of us and reluctant to have our help when it could be so useful. However, the main job of children’s social workers is to protect children from serious harm. Harm can be all kinds of things such as neglect or physical abuse; living with domestic abuse and violence is almost always harmful to children in some way. This harm can be very serious, actual violence to the baby or child, or unborn child or less so, through worry for mum (if the victim is mum). In my experience I have worked with many mums who take great care to keep their children safe and who hope they aren’t able to hear things but this is not always successful. We will work with all the family to make changes to keep children from harm. All social workers work hard to assure family members that very few children enter into care, and it is our duty to keep children in their families where it is safe to do so.

We work very closely with other colleagues such as police, schools and women’s groups to co-ordinate our responses when there is domestic abuse. We also work with Children’s Centres and school staff to ensure that people are offered support in different places, not just through social work. I know from experience that those who harm adults and children in the home often undermine the victim, and tell them they are poor mothers and even sometimes say that social workers will take their children away. This can mean that people are frightened of social work involvement with their children which means that we have to work very hard to assure people that we want to keep their children in the family.

In Leeds we are able to offer a Family Group Conference where extended family members, or friends and community members are helped to come together to resolve an issue such as domestic violence. Although this can be a little daunting at first we know that it has worked to help and keep children and others safe from harm.

I hope that the work that we are doing with our colleagues, including this campaign, will mean people feel that they can question services and professions and this will help us learn and improve if that is what is needed. We, in Children’s Social Work, are committed to children and committed to helping their parents be the best that they can be and we are keen to work with colleagues, communities and families to try and achieve this.

Gail Faulkner

Head of Children’s Social Work
Leeds City Council

Details of local and national domestic violence and abuse support services are available here (opens as a PDF)

Or call the Leeds Domestic Violence and Abuse 24-hour helpline, 0113 246 0401.

If you are ever in immediate danger ring 999.

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Abuse is abuse – we should not and do not make excuses

What we can do is give people the support they need to make things better.

Our safeguarding team provides specialist support and guidance across a wide range of mental health secondary services, helping them to be safe and supportive places for people to recover from mental health difficulties and illness. We support staff to become confident in reporting any concerns, and encourage an open and honest dialogue between clinicians and service users.

Given the growing number of people in society experiencing dementia, it should not be too surprising that a number of domestic violence concerns have been raised to the safeguarding team from staff working with people with dementia. So it’s important for our staff to be skilled in listening to people’s experience of domestic violence and abuse, and knowing where to go for advice.

We have learned that everyone’s family is different. Family can mean everything to the older generation (a cliché I know), more so perhaps given the added vulnerabilities of frailty and memory loss. It may be an older person has lived within an abusive relationship for many years, so much so it becomes the ‘norm’. I have seen victims of abuse talk about it for the first time in older age and ask for help and advice to escape from an abusive partner.

I have also met people who have lived together for many years in a loving relationship and have struggled ‘behind closed doors’ for some time trying to care for a partner increasingly frail and confused – a push leading to hospital admission and a broken arm. The partner admitted he could no longer cope and was using force to make his partner dress and look after her personal care needs. Of course abuse is abuse – we should not and do not make excuses. This admission and ask for help was an opportunity to change. The care they were receiving was assessed and their situation was made better.

Not all cases are helped by such interventions. Signs may be subtle and if a person being abused has dementia, they may not tell anyone. Abuse is not, as we now recognise, simply a matter of physical abuse. Controlling and bullying of a partner or family member often does not lead to physical assault. I remember a lady who disclosed that her grandson’s intimidating behaviour meant she lived in fear. Her house was no longer her own, she stayed in her bedroom and only came down when she had to, and took food to her bedroom to eat. Neighbours heard raised voices and were concerned. However, the lady did not want her grandson to get into trouble. Her memory was affected by her dementia but she retained a strong will that she did not want the police to speak to her grandson.

What we learned from this was to be open about the problem. There were other family members we could speak to and involve. Social services and health teams met and worked closely with Home Care to report and really understand what was going on, and neighbourhood policing were very supportive. It was a slow process but in enabling and supporting the lady, providing more choice, and helping her to get out of the house, things have begun to change. The grandson is aware of the community’s concern – the situation at home is no longer ‘hidden’.

We need to develop a supportive and inquiring culture so that we can recognise and intervene early with those who are at risk of abuse or becoming abusive. We can then support those people so that they are safe and feel safe.

Richard Hattersley

Deputy Head of Safeguarding, LYPFT

Details of local and national domestic violence and abuse support services are available (opens as a PDF)

Or call the Leeds Domestic Violence and Abuse 24-hour helpline, 0113 246 0401.

If you are ever in immediate danger ring 999.

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Losing a home is more than losing a roof over your head

Our next blog is written by Kristian Holbrook from Leeds Housing Options, about the Sanctuary scheme. The Sanctuary scheme specifically supports victims of domestic violence and abuse who want to remain in their home, to do so and feel safe.

Kristian was asked to write this blog in response to the large number of people who have been talking about domestic violence and abuse where children are involved, and who want to know more about help available for this particular issue.

Please note that the Sanctuary scheme isn’t suitable for everyone – if the perpetrator is still living in the ​home or the victim feels the safest option is to leave, other support is available.

We know from statistics that the majority of victims of domestic violence and abuse are women who have been, or are being, abused by a current or previous partner. In many cases, they have children and have shared a family home with this person for a long time, sometimes for many years. At some stage, a mother may decide to flee the home with her children, and that might be the safest thing to do.

However, we also know that women affected by domestic violence and abuse look to their support networks in the form of families and friends in and around the area that they might flee from. Children are settled into school or nursery, and have friends of their own. Work might be just a short distance away. Losing a family home is more than losing a roof over your head.

For a victim of domestic violence and abuse and their children, the impact of what they have already been through and then losing all of this, can have a huge effect on their happiness, confidence and self-esteem. The longer term impact on the children can include living in poverty, behavioural problems and low attainment levels at school.

For all these reasons, at Leeds Housing Options we work with victims of domestic violence and abuse who want to stay in their family home.

Through our Sanctuary scheme we work with victims to look at their individual circumstances and work out what’s best for them and their family. We treat them with sensitivity and compassion, and their safety is at the heart of our work.

For those who do want to stay in their home, we help them to be safe and feel safe. We provide a range of security measures, at no cost to the victim. Measures such as change of locks, extra locks, reinforced doors and windows, pyro boxes, door and window grills and a safe room are just some of the options offered. The scheme is available across all types of tenure – owner occupied, private rented, council housing and housing association tenancies.

The Sanctuary scheme is run by Leeds Housing Options, working in partnership with West Yorkshire Police and Leeds Domestic Violence Service. If you’d like to get in touch, please phone 101 and ask for the police safeguarding unit.

Please do share this so that more women and children affected by domestic violence and abuse get the help they need to remain living in their home, and be safe and feel safe.

Thank you

Kristian Holbrook

Leeds Housing Options

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My earliest memory

Please be aware that you might find some of the details upsetting, but we hope that by sharing this we raise awareness of the wider and longer-term impact of domestic violence and abuse, and encourage more people to speak to someone and get help – whether they are being abused, are experiencing or witnessing abuse, or have been affected by abuse in the past.

I’m writing this blog anonymously as it affects others who may not wish to be identified.

A few years ago I suffered with bad depression, a basic mental shutdown and no will to carry on with life. I wasn’t suicidal but I could easily have given up and crawled into a bottle or gone to ground. I didn’t understand why, and had difficulty explaining my situation to others. At the time I was a 38 year old successful manager working for one of the biggest companies in the UK – a job I subsequently quit as a result of my depression. I couldn’t handle life anymore so gave up on that element of it.

Eventually, after breaking down like a sobbing child in front of my GP, I was diagnosed with depression. Yes, me – this big, strong grown man had been beaten by this illness that I didn’t understand. Long story short, after months of suffering I was sent to see a psychologist. The first thing he asked me to do was to write down my earliest memory. Here it is…

At the age of three I knew something wasn’t quite normal in our little family unit. We used to live in an atmosphere of fear and tension. The few moments of happiness were wiped from my memory by many hours of fear and violence. The violence was aimed towards my mum – a beautiful, gentle person who has never recovered from her experiences at the hands of my father, and would go on to never trust another man. Even to this day, at the age of 72, she doesn’t trust men. Perhaps she doesn’t even trust me, although I do know she loves me and without her I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Anyway, my father (I use the term father as that is what he is. He doesn’t have the mental capacity to be a dad as that takes hard work and dedication – values that seem to have escaped him) was a large man in stature and build, a very imposing man with a booming voice that, when raised, would leave myself and my two siblings quivering with fear. To this day I can’t tolerate raised angry voices and the feeling of fear that floods back in these situations, although I now know how to deal with people raising their voices and being aggressive.

My earliest memory consists of me sitting with my baby sister in my arms, my brother and my cousin. We were all watching TV when suddenly the back door of our little terraced house was flung open and a shouting father came bounding into the room towards my mum, shouting and swearing. My cousin ran out of the open door and it wasn’t until later that I realised that she ran for three miles to get help. My mum instinctively picked up my sister from me and held her in her arms. My brother was sitting in a chair by the window which overlooked the garden. I remember vividly the décor of the room, the colour and fabric of the settee and the carpet, the TV in the corner, the china cabinet, the lot. I also remember the fear welling up as we all knew what was about to happen. That could be the worst thing about it, the fear of what was coming and not being able to anything about it, totally out of control knowing that my mum was about to be beaten and there was nothing we could do about it. Remember, I am three years old at this stage (I can actually feel anger in me now whilst writing this – why, oh why?)

Then it began. My father grabbed my mum (still with my sister in her arms) from the front, dragging her towards him and raising his fist at the same time. He began punching her hard and frequently in the face. She kept hold of my sister throughout this. He then went behind her and started to strangle her. I remember trying to scream for help but not being able to breathe. She struggled and tried with all her might to fight back. He pushed her and her head hit the window smashing the glass. It was a sash window with flimsy glass and wouldn’t have taken much breaking. My brother was screaming for him to stop hitting her. I was crying and feeling very confused and helpless. At this point I saw my brother climbing out through the broken window and running. I thought he had left me to deal with it. I was terrified and wanted somebody to come and help. All the time my mum was being beaten up by this vile excuse for a man. My brother ran to the neighbours’ house and one of the neighbours came into the room and my father let go of my mum and fled (oh yes, very brave when somebody else came on the scene).

The neighbour stayed with us and my mum ran to get more help. She has since told us she went to the house of a lady who lived close by. She knew that she had a telephone. My Mum was unrecognisable, not just as my mum but as a human being. She was severely beaten, with a broken nose, teeth and jaw, and black eyes, but the neighbour didn’t know as she was blind.

So that’s my earliest memory. I now needed to deal with it. I had put it to the back of my mind for many years, almost blocking it out, but there was always something there. I just didn’t want to bring it back up so it stayed locked away in a bad memory bank and never really got dealt with.

Mum always brought us up in a loving environment and protected us from any other violence. She taught us right from wrong and, more importantly, how relationships should work. She is a very strong person in this respect. A lot is also down to the choices I have made, I was determined never to grow up like my father and never to intimidate a woman, child or another man for that matter. I am in a very stable relationship and have been married for 26 years. I have two wonderful children and I bet if you asked them they couldn’t tell you of one occasion when they have seen their mum and me argue, let alone get violent.

I work as a practitioner and also own a thriving business. I apply my energy to work and family and not to dwelling on negativity. My message to anyone affected by domestic violence is to rise above it. Do not become the person you most despise and do not allow them to affect the rest of your life. I use this methodology and this is one that I live by…

There’s a reason that your windscreen in your car is 30 times bigger than the rear view mirror. You must always look forward and plan ahead. The past is always there but cannot be changed. By looking forward through the windscreen of life you can plan your own destiny. By looking to the past all the time, eventually you will crash.

Try to remember that it’s not an easy battle but it’s not unwinnable either. The choices you make shape the person you are now.

If you are a child or young person reading this, and are experiencing domestic violence and abuse in the home or in your own relationship, to talk to someone call the Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0113 246 0401, or Childline on 0800 1111.

Or for details of other support please click here

If you are an adult being abused, or have been affected by past experiences of domestic violence and abuse, find out who you can get help from here

Or call the Leeds Domestic Violence and Abuse helpline, 0113 246 0401.

If you are ever in immediate danger ring 999.

Choices – the West Yorkshire domestic abuse perpetrator service

The service, supported by Together Women Project, works with the perpetrator and victim to ensure positive outcomes for the victim and their family. Find out more on the Choices website

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Just imagine, you are new to a country and have no idea where to get help…

Pria Bhabra talks about her work with the Migrant Access Project, and how they support people who are new to Leeds and experiencing domestic violence and abuse.

Leeds is an amazing city, and the most diverse outside of London where over 140 ethnic groups live. Many people continue to arrive in Leeds to find work, to flee war and persecution, or generally in the hope of a better future.

Pria Bhabra - Migrant Partnership

For those of us who live here, we have the advantage of understanding how things work and where to go for help – but what if you are new to a country, new to a city and new to an area? Imagine not knowing what to expect from the weather, the roads, the people, the shops, the police, the health service, the menu in the local café. If, on top of all this, you are experiencing domestic violence, the challenges and barriers to help must seem endless.

Leeds City Council has made a commitment to support new migrants and recognises in turn, the skills they have to offer to the city. The migrant third sector services also play a role in supporting new migrants. So, how is it safeguarding those who are experiencing domestic violence?

For anyone experiencing domestic violence and abuse, help and advice can be found at leedsdomesticviolenceandabuse.co.uk

This includes help in seeking advice on immigration status and safety planning. In addition, we have services which are set up to help asylum seekers, refugees and Eastern European migrants. These services can also help signpost people to help if they are at risk from domestic violence and abuse, providing people with advocacy and information about their rights and entitlements so people can at least access life’s necessities. One example of these services is the Migrant Access Project (MAP).

How does MAP work? We train Migrant Community Networkers (MCNs) who are from different national, ethnic or language backgrounds so they can tell new arrivals about life in Leeds. We want communities to access the right service at the right time. The MCNs help and empower people with accurate, up to date information about how to access the services they need. This not only benefits migrants but also helps services to provide support effectively and reduces the number of people going to the wrong service or not accessing any at all. For victims of domestic violence, the MCNs are an invaluable opportunity to talk to someone about what is happening and to be signposted to support.

There are over 90 MCNs trained and over half are actively volunteering for MAP. They spread important messages to their communities to help integration and active citizenship, and host interactive information sessions with their communities.

I love my job; no day is ever the same, and I learn so much from so many different people – their lives, their stories, their struggles, their cultures, their food, their country’s history, their resilience. Even how they can make a pound go such a long way! What amazing and resourceful people.

It’s a slow process. It’s challenging but it’s rewarding. If anyone would like further information on MAP please contact me at pria.bhabra@leeds.gov.uk

Pria Bhabra - Migrant Partnership

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Please keep talking – this is the only way we will know when we have got it right.

My name is Samantha Millar and I am a Superintendent in West Yorkshire Police. My role in Leeds is to head up the city’s Community Safety Partnership, which means key agencies like the police, the council, health partners and others working on some common agendas together. None of you will be surprised to know that domestic violence and abuse crosses all our working lives and as such I am involved in a wide range of initiatives across the city to try and bring about a step change in firstly how we all view and understand DV, but also what we are going to do to tackle it, when we know about it.

Sam Millar - Superintendent, Safer Leeds

I am a police officer and as such have seen domestic violence and abuse incidents happen all throughout my period of service. Over 14, 000 reported incidents last year, nearly half of them have some involvement with children, and a repeat victim rate sometimes upwards of 30 per cent. When I was interviewed to take on my role in the Leeds, I told my Chief Constable that the issue which keeps me awake at night is domestic violence and abuse. So many women have lost their lives in our city over the last few years, at the hands of their partners. I told the Chief that I needed to come to Leeds to try and make a difference to this.

So the last 12 months, myself and colleagues from Leeds City Council have tried to break the mould as to how we prevent domestic violence and abuse in the first place, in how we identify and encourage victims to report it, how we take victims seriously, how we get the right person to see victims as soon as possible, but most importantly how do we respond when we know domestic violence and abuse is happening.

One of the things we are doing is getting people talking about domestic violence and abuse… to make it something which people know more about, know how many victims there are, and to ask ourselves as a city – what are we going to do about it?

We recently launched our media campaign, ‘Let’s get comfortable talking about it’. Lots of feedback has been received, and we’ve has lots of conversation on social media, and stories and thoughts from victims about their experiences. It is evident, that when victims have the courage and opportunity to report domestic violence and abuse, the response from services has not always been good enough. Some victims feel that police still do not take this crime seriously, the criminal justice process failed to protect and support them, and support services failed to help perpetrators deal with some of the underlying causes behind their abusive behaviour.

We have listened and I wanted to tell you of a few changes we have made in policing in Leeds over the last year, aimed at exactly the points raised.

We know that when you dedicate specialist officers to domestic violence and abuse, the service is much better. Officers gain great skill in knowing how and when to look after victims. We have set up our first dedicated Domestic Violence Teams and these have recently grown in size and status and this is all in line with a change in focus which West Yorkshire Police has towards keeping people safe. We have set up the ability to manage risk every day, which victims face. We recognise that the earlier services get to victims, often the greater the chance of a successful outcome. During my period of service I have attended many incidents where I have known that the last professional that a victim often wants around is a police officer, so our focus is on getting the right services in at the right time. Your feedback tells us this, and this is what should drive how this city delivers a service for victims.

I recently spoke to a group of women who were part of a support group. I thought I was going for a nice chat and a cup of tea. I came away humbled by the strength of the people in the room, saddened by their experiences, but absolutely clear that everything we are trying to bring in is needed and is what victims are saying they want. We do not get everything right all the time, but I do want to provide a re-assurance from my partnership, that all victims need to know we are trying to put them at the heart of the service, to get it right for them.

Please keep talking – this is the only way we will know when we have got it right.

Thank you

Sam Millar - Superintendent, Safer Leeds

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