Thursday, 13 June 2024
UK Charity Week 2024 - Sponsored by Sinclair Method UK
Thursday, 13 June 2024

Return rate for domestic abuse survivors slashed from 7 to just 1

Lisa Hilder, founder & director, Preston Road Women’s Centre

A woman who is trapped in an abusive relationship will leave and return to an abusive relationship before finally doing so for good. This statistic is well known in the domestic abuse sector, and much thought and care are given to identifying the ways in which women can be enabled to make those permanent breaks as soon as possible.

While complex and unique to every individual case, the reasons for going back to an abusive partner again and again centre around isolation, escalation of threats, promises of better behaviour, increased exertions of control, shame, financial vulnerability, concern for children, lack of self-esteem, lack of resources and the threat of homelessness.

There is also that overriding human emotion of hope and optimism that can be easily manipulated by perpetrators who are seeking to re-exert their authority and coercive control. The more vulnerable, unsupported and unsettled the woman feels, the more likely she is to return to the environment she knows, even if it does present a continued threat of danger.

Making that initial break away from an abusive partner is a terrifying prospect for women. Two of the universally acknowledged most stressful things a person can experience are divorce/relationship split and moving home. This choice involves both together and is compounded by the threat of harm, sometimes death.

Making this choice is imperative at the point of crisis as considerations of safety take precedence and ease the transition. Once the immediate urgency has however dissipated, doubts and second thoughts can creep in and the perpetrator can show remorse or escalate threats, the practicalities of having fled in crisis kick in and the notion of returning to the familiar, even if that is a difficult life with inherent danger, can become very tempting.

At Preston Road Women’s Centre, we have created an ecosystem in which women who are fleeing situations of domestic abuse can learn to flourish from the moment they make that decision to leave. Good quality, safe housing, ongoing support with practical and emotional considerations and endless encouragement all play their part. A woman makes a choice to leave not once, but every day afterwards until life improves and she no longer wants or needs what she left behind.

We believe that good practice based on our intrinsic values of empowerment and self-sufficiency and woven into the very fabric of all the services we run instils a real ‘can do’ attitude among women. That ‘can do’ attitude helps them to build self-belief and an overall sense of self-efficacy and agency over their own lives. What this means is that the majority of the women who come to us escape from their situation once and for all.

PRWC runs a number of services that collaborate across the organisation to provide a seamlessly integrated ecosystem in which a vulnerable and frightened woman can gently rediscover her strength and identity again outside of an abusive relationship.

At every stage, we are forward-focused. While the immediate concerns are based on providing urgent, safe accommodation for the woman and her children, we are acutely aware of the vulnerable moments a woman faces in the aftermath of her flight and how seasoned perpetrators can manipulate these moments and draw them to return to the abuse.

PRWC has been structured to support women while gently nurturing them towards independence and self-sufficiency. To this end, every individual service area that we have integrated into our overall portfolio is there to take the women from a place of need to a place of achievement, whether it is providing a nursery place to look after their children, finding a permanent place to live, or attending classes designed to help her boost her confidence and build her overall sense of self-esteem.

We are actively working with social investors and other organisations within the sector to benchmark and disseminate the good practice that has enabled us to materially shift the paradigm for women trapped in and fleeing from abuse, providing support and resources that empower recovery and enable positive life outcomes for all.

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