She’d punch and bite, it was getting worse and worse – I was terrified that eventually I was going to have to retaliate to defend myself…

When we think of domestic abuse most of us picture a menacing male villain being physically violent towards a helpless female victim. This idea of domestic violence is naive, because physical abuse is only part of the problem and women are not the only victims. Since 2007 the Crown Prosecution Service has extended its definition of domestic violence to include:

any incident or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological,
physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between those who are or have
been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender* or sexuality.
Family members include mother, father, son, daughter, sister, and
grandparents, whether directly related, in laws or step family.

In Cardiff Safer Wales have created the Dyn Project, which seeks to help men who are victims of domestic abuse. Count Me In Cymru spoke to Simon Borja, Dyn Project Co-ordinator, about the extent of the problem and the services available.

How common is domestic abuse towards men in Wales?

“This is a question we get asked a lot and we do not know the true number of men experiencing domestic abuse in Wales. The referrals we receive for our advocacy service, visits to our website and helpline have increased dramatically over the last couple of years which tells us that men are coming forward.”

The Dyn Project helps men who are victims of domestic abuse

What kind of abuse are men subjected to?

“There are a range of different types of abuse that men suffer which include financial, emotional, psychological, physical and sexual.  We do meet a number of men who have been involved in violent attacks from their partner both heterosexual and gay men. ”

Do we know whether domestic abuse towards men is more common in heterosexual or homosexual relationships?

“The Safer Wales Dyn project work with all men who experience domestic abuse.  Many people assume that most men who are abused are in a gay relationship i.e a male victim, and a male perpetrator.  Through our advocacy service approximately 70% of men we deal with are in heterosexual relationships, which shows a different picture in Cardiff.”

Why is so little known about domestic violence towards men in Wales?

” I would say things are getting better and we work with a number of organizations who are working with, or developing their services to work with men.  We still have a lot of work to do and the more the issue of  is raised in the public domain, the better. We find that societal pressures can make it difficult for men to come forward.  We hear many terms like; soft men, man up etc.  Men are seen to be strong and able to cope. At times it is difficult for a man to talk to friends and family for fear of ridicule, or often the abuse is disguised with humour.  Statistics show that domestic abuse happens to more women than men and at times people only think of men as the perpetrators of abuse and not the victims.”

Where can men in Wales go for help if they are a victim of domestic violence?

“Any man living in Wales can call the Dyn Wales helpline 0808 801 0321 and we can offer support and signposting to agencies across Wales.  We maintain an online resource www.dynwales.org which can offer advice and information for men.  We provide advocacy support for men living in Cardiff.”

Men from around Wales have shared their experiences with Count Me In Cymru about how domestic abuse affected them.

Feroze**:

“I bought enough pills to do it. She’d told me I was worthless so often that I believed her. It was only when I was sitting in the car on the cliff-top, staring at the sea, that I finally thought: No – she can’t make me do this. My kids need me.”

Howard:

“I’m six-four, fifteen stone. My ex-partner was five-foot-nothing. I didn’t tell anyone how violent she was, I was too embarrassed. Until she attacked me with a golf club and I had to call 999, I was bleeding so much. The police arrived; the one officer looked at her, turned to me and asked: why didn’t you just hit her back?”

Ian:

“Where did I end up? Sleeping in my car. Wearing the same clothes for a fortnight. I couldn’t work. I drank so much that I was ill. I got massively in debt. I lost my friends, I lost my sex drive, I lost my self-esteem. I lost everything.”

James

“Now, I know. I wouldn’t want anyone – male or female – to suffer a second of what I went through. What would I say to the me back then, if I could? I’d say: walk away, now. This is not love. Look after yourself. You deserve better.”

The Dyn Project offers help and advice to all men suffering domestic abuse. The helpline is 0808 801 0321 but in an emergency always call 999.

*emphasis added
**names have been changed to protect anonymity

Here are some interesting articles and blog posts found over the past seven days relating to social issues in Wales and the UK.

Racism

Following on from the last post about racism in Wales,  I want to flag up an interesting article which appeared in the Independent last Sunday.  The article, Race in Britain 2012, highlights the huge disparities that still exist between the ways white people and ethnic minorities are treated in the UK. In particular it was found that white people  compared to black people were: half as likely to grow up in poverty, three times as likely to go to a leading university, one fifth as likely to go to jail and likely to be paid 20% more for equal work. At the same time, black people compared to white people were: twice as likely to die by the age of one, three times as likely to be excluded from school, four times as likely to be murdered and three times as likely to be poor in old age. To read the article in full, click here.

Squatting and the homeless

A post last month by Imogen Barrer for the blog Wales Now discusses changes to  the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, which would criminalise squatting in a residential property in England and Wales. The post highlights the potential for such a law to have adverse effects on homeless people in Wales, as squatting and homelessness are intrinsically linked. To read Imogen’s post, click here.

Child poverty

Figures were released yesterday about the current levels of child poverty in the UK. An article by campaigner Anne Longfield looks into what these figures mean and calls for the redoubling of efforts to combat child poverty. To read Anne’s article in full, click here and look out for a post on Count Me In Cymru coming soon about the extent of child poverty in Wales.

 

 

Racism is something that injures us all. Whether you’re a victim of racism, you witness its evil, or whether you’re the villain remaining in a state of ignorance; racism hurts us all in some way.

Undoubtedly things are better for this generation; words like diversity and multiculturalism are everywhere. The convictions yesterday of Gary Dobson and David Norris for the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence showed a step towards a more just world, albeit a very belated step.

But the problem of racism remains, and some say it has evolved, as was highlighted by Paul McKenzie yesterday. In his article McKenzie claims that racism has become less overt and more subtle, stating: “Times have changed; the racism faced by my parents and their generation has gone, in its place is a ‘fog of racism’”.

In many ways this is true. Coming from a small town in Wales, this fog of racism is the kind I am most familiar with. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard, “I’m not racist, but…”. Prejudices seem to stem from ignorance of other cultures, attitudes of parents, or mindsets of blame – the classic one being that “immigrants are taking our jobs”.

In Wales, the main organisation dealing with racism is Show Racism the Red Card Wales (SRTRC), which uses sport as a means of combating the issue. Count Me In Cymru spoke to Jason Webber, a campaign worker for SRTRC about the issue of racism in Wales.

Wales overall is less multicultural than England, is racism less of a problem in Wales?
No certainly not. We see racism in primary and secondary schools across Wales, racism on the pitch, and even from parents watching games. It’s always been the case, it just doesn’t always get highlighted or sometimes just doesn’t get reported. There’s a lot of stuff that happens that people don’t realise is racism.

In Wales ‘jokey’ racism towards the English is common. Is this something we need to tackle if we are to put a stop to racism in Wales?
Yes certainly. We explain to young people that racism covers four areas: skin colour, nationality, religion or culture. What we need to be careful of is where it’s started off as a bit of banter, but ends up in someone being hurt or killed. I think unfortunately it’ll take a serious incident occurring from that sort of banter before people start really taking note of it. We teach that it is racism but unfortunately it is widely accepted.

Are there any changes you’d like to see in future on how we deal with racism in Wales?
I think working with young people is key. More needs to be done in terms of embedding racism education within the national curriculum. We did some research last year where we found that 80% of teachers actually had no training on anti-racism, so we delivered 14 anti-racism conferences to teachers and trainee teachers across Wales.

Sadly, the murder of Anuj Bidve on Boxing Day suggests overt racism still exists, though perhaps occurring in more isolated incidents. The fact that racism has generally become less acceptable, and people seek to hide their prejudice can only be a good thing. But the inherent difficulty of this cultural shift is that racism has become harder to pinpoint and uproot. Racism is no longer an ugly scar on the face of society, but an invisible cancer, spreading harm below the surface.

Over the past few weeks Count Me In Cymru has been looking into the issue of rape in Wales; speaking to victims, campaigners and third sector workers to see how we can stand together with survivors who become isolated by society.

So here’s the scenario.

A woman in Wales is raped. What questions do we want to ask?

Why did it happen?

A recent survey by Amnesty International showed that over a third of Welsh students interviewed thought a woman was totally or partially responsible for being raped if she was drunk, or had behaved in a flirty way. 42% said she was totally or partially to blame if she didn’t say ‘no’ clearly.

This mindset of blaming the victim is unique to violent crimes against women. If someone is mugged on a night out, no-one leaps to ask if they were drunk at the time; if they were showing off their belongings; or if they fought back. If a man is raped, no-one calls him a slut.

Stephanie Lubbock, 24, from Bridgend was attacked while on holiday but managed to escape. Stephanie shared her thoughts on attitudes towards victims:

The fact that victims often don’t know where to get support in Wales is another issue. This leads us to our next question.

Where can victims go for help?

The answer to this question can be unclear to victims. When it comes to support, there is one Rape Crisis centre in Wales. One. At least that’s how it seems.

 For a victim searching for a Rape Crisis centre, Wales looks like this:

In reality, there is more provision, albeit with considerable gaps in provision to some areas:

In North Wales you will find the one and only victim support centre that is Rape Crisis affiliated. There are other rape support agencies across Wales with other names, which offer counselling and emotional support. Additionally there are sexual advice referral centres, which deal the procedural criminal justice aspects of rape prosecutions. The lack of clarity over which centres provide which services can cause confusion for victims.

Linda Thomas*, from South Wales, who was raped many years ago, said: “Looking for the well-known name Rape Crisis doesn’t help. There is another name, which I forget now, Pathways? Something like that. How the hell does it help not to have a recognisable name of a great service to be able to turn to? Rape Crisis I believe is in North Wales. I’m in South Wales, and this Pathways thingy was miles away too. Forget it. Where could I go?”

Jackie Stamp, Chief Executive of New Pathways rape support agency, explained that the decision not to include the word ‘rape’ in the names of their centres was a conscious one:

Val Lunn, National Development Manager for Rape Crisis (England and Wales), said Rape Crisis is aware of the lack of services in Wales:

With large gaps in facilities for rape survivors in Wales and confusion surrounding the types of services each centre offers, there seems considerable room for improvement.

What happens next?

On November 25 Rape Crisis launched its new National Service Standards, which aim to guarantee the same levels of service to rape survivors, no matter where they live in the UK. This initiative will have little effect in Wales, as only one centre is rape crisis affiliated. But such an approach might help survivors to identify where the services exist and to know what to expect.

When it comes to attitudes towards rape and rape victims, these are ever-changing.  In October an old campaign poster from 2008, which read: “Don’t be a victim. Drink Responsibly” was found displayed in South Wales and caused an outcry. This shows how far attitudes have come in three years that police are no longer attributing instances of rape to the behaviour of the victim. Rape Crisis Scotland has recently flipped this mind-set on its head and created a tongue in cheek campaign entitled ‘Ten Top Tips to end rape’.

This campaign has had mixed responses. Some have applauded its ballsy and sarcastic tone, while others feel that rape is something that should never be joked about. Whatever your opinion, campaigns like this get people talking, and the more we talk about rape, the more we can challenge negative attitudes. Sadly, we can’t make rape go away overnight, so we need to speak up and keep the conversation about rape ongoing.

*Names have been changed for legal reasons

I have a friend called Josh.

Josh joined the army aged 17. Every so often I worry about him. Not just because he’ll go out and fight for our country and put his life in danger. But also because of what might happen when he comes back to the UK. Back to ‘normality’.

On Sunday many of  us will have attended armistice services all over the UK to remember those who have been killed in action. But what about those who lived? All too often war veterans can slip through the net and be forgotten by society.

At the moment there are estimated to be 250,000 war veterans living in Wales.  Many ex-service men and women will struggle to adjust back into civilian life when they are discharged from the armed forces. A joint study done in 2002 by Shelter and the MOD indicated that 25% of the 20,000 people leaving the armed forces each year experience homelessness at some point in their lives. A study done by NAPO in 2008 showed that 8.5% of the prison population in England and Wales had armed services record. Another NAPO study in 2009 showed that 12,000 former armed services personnel were under supervision of the Probation Service in England and Wales; either on community services or on parole. Since the Falklands war – in which 255 soldiers died –  a further 264 veterans had also committed suicide by 2009.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) plays a big part in these statistics. The MOD estimates that 4% of soldiers will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. However, American sources find this figure to be much higher, more like 20 or 30%. As Fraser Nelson shrewdly pointed out “Either Americans are five times as vulnerable, or Britain has some way to go in assessing the scale of the problem.”

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

It means we’re not taking enough care of our soldiers.

Ken Hames, former SAS major and founder of the Forces Self Build Scheme, said in a Big Issue Cymru article last week: “…the separation between the forces and society – that gulf – is as great as it’s ever been. They are deployed constantly, so the military’s chance to interact with society the way it once did is small. Soldiers aren’t coming back to cohesive communities, aren’t coming back to places where employment is reliable.”

Ex-soldier Clive Hawkins spoke about his experiences after leaving the army of coping with PTSD.

Welsh Charity Healing the Wounds are raising money to build a residential treatment facility for PTSD sufferers in Wales; the only UK nation which doesn’t have such a facility. To find out more about PTSD visit: http://www.combatstress.org.uk/

Homelessness in Wales is a problem.

Statistics released in June show it is a growing problem. From January to March 2011, compared to the same quarter last year; the number of Welsh households accepted as homeless rose to 1,655 ( a 13% increase) and the number of households in temporary accommodation grew to 2,640 ( a rise of  6%).  In Swansea, Carmarthenshire, Newport, Merthyr Tydfil, Cardiff, Wrexham, Gwynedd and Anglesey the proportion of people accepted as homeless was above the Welsh average.

These statistics do not include those classed as intentionally homeless (homeless by their own act or omission), so the actual number of homeless people will be far higher. Clearly there is a need to tackle the problem of homelessness head on; sooner, rather than later.

Count Me In Cymru interviewed Keri Harris, Chairman of social inclusion charity Street Football Wales, to learn about how they help homeless people get back on their feet.

How does Street Football Wales help those who are socially excluded?

“In a nutshell Street Football Wales is all about creating opportunity for people of all different backgrounds and playing football in a safe and fun environment; changing lives for the better. For example; for those who are homeless, they can really interact with the other players and feel included. And for those with substance misuse issues, it gives them one day they know they have to stay clean. As a result that sends the message; if they can stay clean for one day, why not two days, why not a week? ”

Chairman Keri Haris and coach Paul Scarfi with Welsh dragons team, courtesy of Street Football Wales

How did Street Football Wales start?

“In 2003 I was working for Big Issue Cymru. Our director came back from a conference and asked me to start up a football team. I wasn’t really keen on football, I’ve always been more interested in rugby to be honest!

The first homeless world cup was going to be held in Austria in 2003. We took a team over , not really knowing what to expect and it was a life changing experience, not just for the players but for myself too. Seeing the positive impact it could have on people was incredible.

 We came back wanting to continue it but there was nothing we could really join. The team wanted to stay together but with the various organisations we looked into joining people being judgemental towards us and clearly it just wasn’t going to work. We needed a project on its own for people who are socially excluded. That’s how it was set up in 2004 as an eight team project.”

In action, image courtesy of Street Football Wales

Is it common to see people turn their lives around while playing for Street Football Wales?

“There’s been many many success stories. To name a few; Chris Stockwell is now living independently, he’s working and he even wants to help volunteer to coach with Street Football Wales. Terry Fitzpatrick is someone who’s seen he can really achieve whatever he wants. He’s now in university in Carmarthen, and has passed the first year of his social work course with flying colours. A lot of the boys from the group we took out to the Milan Homeless World Cup in 2009 have now become fathers and are in stable relationships and it’s fantastic to see them get back on their feet.”

Street Football Wales is just one of the many charities in Wales which seeks to help homeless people, but with homelessness on the rise the government must play its part. On October 24th the Welsh Government announced a review into homelessness legislation following research completed in May (downloadable here). Criticisms emerging from the research included:

  • Resources are often wasted
  • Homelessness legislation should address more than just housing
  • Earlier intervention is needed
  • Young and vulnerable people should be exempt from the intentionality test
  • More guidance is needed

The review will be launched led by Dr Peter Mackie, lecturer in Housing at Cardiff University.

Keep your coins I want change Banksy image, courtesy of Michael Pickard at http://www.flickr.com/photos/pickard/6363045/

A brief introduction.

Posted: November 3, 2011 in Uncategorized

It’s just not fair.

My name is Emily, I’m a trainee journalist at Cardiff University. I have started Count Me In Cymru as a blog that will cover social inclusion and social deprivation issues,  and any examples I find of injustices in Wales.

I chose this subject because I’m often shocked at how certain groups in society are overlooked and forgotten. Unfairness angers me, so I want to expose it where it exists and highlight those incredible people who are fighting for equality.

I’m interested to communicate with likeminded people, and if there’s anything that angers you, or if there are any groups you think are worth knowing about, don’t hesitate to get in touch.