New crackdown against Wigan's domestic abuse scourge

A ground-breaking Wigan Council campaign highlighting the warning signs of domestic abuse has been developed alongside victims.

Wednesday, 19th May 2021, 11:51 am
Updated Wednesday, 19th May 2021, 11:54 am
The campaign launch featuring representatives of the council, emergency services and victims or their families

Love Is Not Abuse, which will also guide residents to vital support services, focuses on the emotional and mental aspects of domestic abuse as well as the physical.

Informed by brave male and female victims, the campaign’s posters, animations and videos use real-life examples to show how different forms of abuse can be identified.

It will develop through the next 12 months, focusing on the experiences of different age groups and emphasising that domestic abuse can take on many forms.

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The tough message from the campaign

Coun Paula Wakefield, lead cabinet member for equality and domestic abuse, said: “This new campaign has victims of domestic abuse at its heart and we would like to thank everyone who has helped shape it through bravely retelling their experiences.

“We know domestic abuse isn’t just physical, it can be a wide range of behaviours that make victims feel controlled, intimidated and isolated.

“It is our priority to ensure our residents can access the right help and support and understand the options available. This campaign will resonate with many people and we hope will help them to feel able to come forward and seek help.”

The campaign follows on from a dedicated helpline being relaunched last year in Wigan borough as part of a partnership between the council, the DIAS Domestic Violence Centre and the Well Women Centre.

It provides a central point of contact for people that may be concerned for the safety of someone living in the borough.

One of the residents to have helped council officers create the Love Is Not Abuse campaign is Claire. The 27-year-old was subjected to emotional and physical abuse over a five-year period.

She said: “You get so conditioned to their actions and because it becomes so often you begin to doubt yourself and what is wrong or right.

“I felt so weakened by incidents that are happening and I was desperately searching for reasons.

“If there is no reason then it’s a lot scarier and you can feel a lot more trapped, that’s why you fool yourself and believe there is an excuse like they are just having a bad day, it’s the alcohol or they are struggling mentally.”

According to official statistics, reports of domestic abuse increased last year, particularly during lockdown periods.

In Wigan, data collected by DIAS (which is now part of the Wigan Borough Domestic Abuse Service) showed 3,090 calls taken by a team of 16 between March 23 and October 11 2020 – a 272 per cent increase compared to the previous year.

The council hopes the campaign will encourage even more people to come forward as it is recognised that many incidents go unreported.

The campaign has been created with the Wigan Borough Place and Community Safety Partnership - which includes the council, Greater Manchester Police, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service and other partner agencies - with grant funding received from the GM combined authority.

Claire has explained that she was so scared to tell anyone of the abuse she was subjected to and says campaigns such as this one would have helped her at the time.

She said: “If I had seen this campaign and the messages that will be shared then I wouldn’t have been able to deny what I was going through, it would have rung a bell and forced you to face it head on.

“The warning signs of domestic abuse are for everyone to observe so increased communication is vital, I wish my family and friends could have seen something like this in year one or two of my relationship before it goes out of control.”

Love Is Not Abuse will feature scenarios such as text message exchanges reflecting real-life scenarios that highlight controlling behaviour.

Posters, billboards and signs will also be displayed throughout the borough to help highlight access to support services.

If you are affected by domestic abuse, call the dedicated helpline on 01942 311365 between 7am and 7pm, Monday to Friday.

For more information, visit www.wigan.gov.uk/domesticabuse

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