International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls

Today’s guest blog is from Carol Metters, CEO of Next Link Housing who provide specialist domestic abuse services for women and children in Bristol.

Today is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls and prioritising addressing violence against women could not be more important, particularly as we struggle to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. We knew before Covid-19 that domestic abuse was a global issue experienced by women and girls in every country around the world.

Covid-19 has put this into sharp focus with reports coming out of every country fighting the virus showing there was a huge spike in domestic abuse while people were under lockdown. This was echoed by the World Health Organisation saying that all types of violence against women and girls particularly domestic abuse has intensified under Covid-19 so much so they are calling domestic abuse a “shadow pandemic”.

This reflects Next Link’s experience. When lockdown ended we saw a 30% increase in referrals. Many of the women seeking help had experienced an increase in the violence, more were complex cases, most had mental health issues and many of the children were withdrawn. As Covid restrictions change we continue to see more victims contacting us for help.

I thought he would kill me and nobody would know

Quote from a woman who escaped during lockdown

With the support of our passionate staff, extra funding and the generosity of the general public we have remained open throughout the pandemic and have been able to support all the women that asked for our help. All our services continue to be up and running and able to support women to rebuild their lives free from the fear of violence.

After working in the domestic abuse field for 21 years I am retiring at the end of this year. When I reflect on the journey that domestic abuse has been during that time I can see that as a city we have made great strides in how we respond to those who need help.  When we set up Next Link in 1999 we had one safe house and no community or specialist service and victims told us when they asked others for help the were often not believed or made to feel it was their fault.  

Now there is much greater awareness of the issue and its impact on women and children’s lives and a recognition that victims need to be believed and their support has to be trauma informed and client led.

We also have a wide range of services that we can offer including:

  • Community support for those who want to remain in their home and remove the perpetrator
  • Safe housing for those that need to flee
  • Crisis support for those in immediate risk
  • Support for children
  • A 24-hour helping for women who just want to talk about their situation and know their options
  • Dedicated services for BAME women
  • Pattern changing groups
  • Access to our services through dedicated workers based at their GP practices and at A&E in hospitals

They can call us on a 24/7 helpline to talk their situation through and find out what their options are or use live chat, text or email. 

Me and the kids are laughing again, I never thought I would see that!

Quote from a woman who came into a safe house run by Next Link

As well as a greater understanding of the issue and more services being available I have seen, particularly over the last five years a real commitment from the city to tackle domestic abuse in all its forms. Being able to participate in the Mayor’s Commission on Domestic abuse has been inspiring and I feel it will produce real and meaningful change that will make Bristol a leading city in addressing domestic abuse.

We know that domestic abuse is on the increase and there is still much to do to ensure all women and children are safe and everyone has a role to play.

Over the years it’s been an honour and a privilege to work with such passionate committed people and I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to meet such courageous survivors.

If you are experiencing domestic abuse you can contact Next Link or the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247. If you are in an emergency situation please call 999. You can find more information on how to support someone who may be experiencing domestic abuse is available on the “Are You OK?” pages of the Keeping Bristol Safe Partnership website.

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