Their safety is our priority – Shine volunteer advocate

September 12, 2019 posted by


My first obligation as a volunteer
advocate is to make sure that the victim is all right and that they’re safe. Sometimes they might be by themselves and going through that kind of
experience is really hard. It might be the first time they’ve ever talked about
it, so they’re carrying a lot of emotional weight. They’ll tell me their
history and the relationship behaviours and how they’re feeling and I use that
information to do a risk assessment. For some clients, it might be the first time
the police have been called or even the first time it’s ever happened. So there’s
a series of questions we have that we ask in order to determine their level of
risk. Often the conversation is so organic that they just end up answering
them anyway. Some clients are aware of their options so they’ll say to the
police, ‘I need help with this’ or ‘I want a protection order’ and in those cases they
they know what they want, and they know what they need information on. But for
others, they don’t know what they want, they don’t know what they’re going to do,
and they don’t know what choices they have. Once the risk assessment is done, we
talk about a safety plan and that covers what they’d like to do, what they have in
place for their immediate safety. We talk long term what they’d like to do, we give
them the options, and we make them aware, but we don’t push them into making any
decisions, which I think is the point of difference for Shine. The client has
no obligation to make any decisions, and that’s a massive help because they’ve
already had so much pressure from so many different places – people telling
them what to do. The next day, a Shine advocate team member will get in touch
with community resources because we want them to know what’s out there. We’ll send
somebody around and make sure that a) they’ve got somewhere to stay for the
time being and b) that the new environment security system is adequate. We want them to know that their safety is our
priority. I’ll also talk to clients with children about KIDshine and what
KIDshine offers, trying to emphasise the effects that domestic abuse can have on
children. Sometimes, people think that the children who are most affected are those
between the ages of five and ten years old, but actually it can have a really
profound effect on the brain development of a baby. So once you leave a
relationship, the physical trauma should be over, but the emotional impacts
can take months, if not years, to get over. I know for myself that not seeing that
person even for a long time doesn’t take away from it affecting your day to day
life. So for example, people making loud noises next to me or touching me when
I’m not expecting it, it’s all still there, and that can take years to rewire.
When someone’s being emotionally abused often it may not be recognisable, and I
think we normalise it now, which enables it. You know, friends say things like, well
that’s just how it goes, you’re always going to have fights. But it’s the constant picking away, it’s the gaslighting. All that manipulation, you end
up believing it, and it gets to the point where it’s just about survival pretty
much. You know, you’re so exhausted all you can do is wait out every day. For me, it was like, For me it was like, what day is he going
to kill me because that’s what would have happened. But I’m a survivor and I’m
really proud to be able to volunteer for Shine and help others escape domestic
violence. So please support Shine and help people like me leave violent
relationships.

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