The morning started off with our chair, Christine Grimshaw welcoming everyone. She provided an overview of the day, including the cornerstones of the national strategy: prevent, protect, support. She reminded us that victims are primarily women, but anyone can experience domestic violence; it transcends race, gender and sexual orientation. Victims experience long term emotional damage and it can adversely affect children who are victims or witnesses.
She then welcomed our first keynote speaker, Nazir Afzal OBE | National Advisor, VAWDASV.
Mr Afzal spoke very passionately about domestic violence and strongly felt that we must fight against violence against women and girls. Again, while women are proportionally the ones who experience domestic violence and abuse, men can be victims and must not be forgotten.
So, what obstacles are there preventing victims from reporting? How do we bring out change? We need evidence!
Once we have evidence, we can use it to change policy, procedure and legislation.
Mr Afzal went on to speak passionately about several cases he was involved in. The first was about a young woman named Banaz Mahmod, who was forced into an arranged marriage where she was subsequently abused sexually and physically. She left her husband, but was then killed by her father and uncle in an honour killing. He went on to outline his involvement in prosecuting the Baby P case as well as the Rochdale Grooming Gang, highlighting the fact that there needs to be a bespoke approach to working with every victim, as every victim is unique.
He concluded by reminding us that prevention and education are key. Over one million children will witness domestic violence and may learn from this behaviour, continuing the vicious cycle. The symptoms of these behaviours must be tackled in order to end the cycle of violence.
Following Mr Afzal, we welcomed a survivor of domestic violence, speaking from the SEEDS project. In this very moving and emotional presentation, she shared her experience of the cycle of violence, and trying to protect her children and dogs from the violence by taking the physical abuse herself.
When she tried to get help, she was told to go to a refuge; she felt dismissed and ignored. Her children had been traumatised, yet the system kept allowing the father to be involved and have a say.
Finally, with the help of SEEDS, Safer Wales, and Welsh Women’s Aid, she was able to get out of the relationship and free from the abuse. In conclusion, by telling stories, maybe we can eventually have a violence free society.
The next presenter was Natalie Blakeborough from Welsh Women’s Aid speaking on the ‘Change that Lasts Model.’
Given that one in three women in Wales will experience domestic violence, we need a change that will last. She illustrated a story of a young woman who had been victimised over and ov