Now you know more about domestic violence, what about volunteering in this field while you're at university? Why not consider working on a domestic violence helpline...
In the domestic violence helpline task that follows here, you'll be working on skills related to: careful reading of the transcript of what the caller says, thinking through problems, thinking how you might respond to the sensitive issues that are raised, showing initiative, and taking equality and diversity into account.
In the field, you'd also get involved in networking with other organisations (knowing the contact details for other organisations that might help, for instance). So why not also develop your information technology skills by looking on the Internet for organisations local to you that might be of help to the two callers?
These are all key transferable skills that would be useful in a wide range of volunteering and careers.
The task uses two fictionalised examples of situations that might occur when volunteering on a helpline for domestic violence. The callers aren't real people (we wouldn't use real cases for reasons of confidentiality), but they are presenting real problems that real people face.
The scripts were written by Deborah Lee, in close consultation with Barbara, an experienced domestic violence helpline volunteer.
In both cases, the main question to consider is: how would you respond to each caller as a helpline volunteer?
After you've considered each case, you can read a commentary by Barbara on how she would respond to each of the two callers...
If you think this might be a volunteering you'd like to undertake, then you can read an overview of what training you'd need to be able to do it. It was written by Damian Carnell from Nottinghamshire Domestic Violence Forum.
Helpline Caller 1, we'll call her Elizabeth*...
(* A pseudonym)
I'd like some advice about my husband. Can you help me?
He's working very hard. He's got a high-powered job. It's in finance. I don't really understand what he does. It's too complicated for me - I left school at sixteen and haven't done a thing since....
Anyway, my husband, he had a promotion in January and things have been getting a bit worse since then. He used to give me a slap or a push sometimes, especially when he'd had too much to drink. But he always said sorry in the morning and would bring me flowers on his way home from work. I've always forgiven him.
We've been together since we left school, you see. That's nearly ten years together. We got married three months after we first met, when I was still sixteen. It was love at first sight for me and I'd never fall out of love with him.
But now it's happening almost every day. Even when he hasn't had a drink. And it's not just slaps and pushes...
I'm trying my best not to provoke him. I do understand that his work's very stressful, so I try for there not to be any stress at home for him. I know he likes a tidy house, for instance, so I clean and clean all day. I haven't got a job; haven't got any skills except pushing the vacuum cleaner round. Well, that's not a skill! I've got plenty of time to make the house spotless.
But I seem to make mistakes. Yesterday I left the cleaning fluids in the bathroom instead of putting them away in the kitchen cupboard. He was so angry. He was hitting me and hitting me and wouldn't stop. I didn't think he was ever going to stop. I know it was my fault. I'll make sure to put the cleaning stuff away next time.
But I want to know how I can get back to how things were. How I can make the man I married come back?
We used to have such fun together when we were first married and then as he got more and more successful at work, we were able to go away on nice holidays. He was always so romantic, taking me to posh restaurants for candle-lit dinners, telling me how beautiful I looked. I didn't really mind the odd push or slap when that started, about eight years ago, because I knew it was just the drink talking. But it's happening so often now that I need to know how to make it stop.
My mum saw a bruise on my chest last week when I was trying on a new blouse in a shop changing room. She asked where I got it and I lied. She didn't believe me. She pulled the blouse off and saw all the other marks on my upper arms. She said I should leave my husband. She said he's always putting me down when we go over there, saying that I'm useless and stupid and couldn't manage on my own.
I know he says those things in a light-hearted, jokey sort of way, but he is right: I couldn't manage on my own. I've never passed an exam. I can't drive. I've never had a job. I just do the cleaning. I don't deal with any of our bills. I don't know how much we owe on the mortgage or even how to pay a gas bill. He's always dealt with everything like that.
I feel disloyal to be saying anything about all this. Perhaps it will just improve on its own. That's probably what happens in situations like this, isn't it? Maybe he's just having a really bad time at work at the moment. I should be more understanding.
Helpline caller 2, we'll call her Jennie*...
(* A pseudonym)
I need some help because I'm not sure how to do what I've decided to do. Can you give me some advice?
I'm 65 and I'm going to leave my husband.
I've stayed with him for 40 years. I've waited until the children left home. My youngest son left home to get married two months ago. He's now settled with his new wife in a little studio flat nearby. (I've got two other children, a son and a daughter, both living a long way from here; both of them have 4 children and they have very busy lives.)
They don't know what their father has done to me over the last 30 years. I'll never tell them about it. It wasn't even a crime until about 1995, but even before that I knew it was criminal even if a judge wouldn't have agreed with me. I used to cut myself a lot to try to cope with things; I haven't really stopped doing that yet.
But I have put the children first. I wanted them to have a stable home life and be able to do their best at school. I was very pleased that my daughter went to university as well - she has a first-class degree in chemistry and is a secondary school teacher now; she'll always be able to support herself financially rather than relying on a man.
I haven't got much money myself, but I have some. I have a small pension and some savings I've managed to squirrel away over the last few years. My husband and I also have quite a large house. I expect I'd be able to get some money from the sale of the house when we divorce, wouldn't I?
I don't want to stay here in the house while we're getting a divorce, though.
The only place you hear of women going when they leave is to a refuge. I'm worried about that. I'm used to living with my husband and my children, not with other women and their children. I've been worrying about being in a refuge since my son left home. I've been weighing up whether I could cope with being in one for the last couple of months. I cut myself quite badly last week when I'd been sitting worrying about it. I guess I'd just have to cope with it until the house is sold, wouldn't I? I don't really know how long that would take and whether it would be too long.
What you'd learn before working on a domestic violence help-line...
Most help-lines are staffed by a mix of volunteers and paid workers. They would all go through the same training and need the same amount of information. For the 24 hour free phone helpline based in Nottinghamshire staff and volunteers attend a 12 week training course. The training includes:
1. Domestic violence awareness - which would cover: men's abuse against women, same sex abuse and women's abuse against men.
2. Safeguarding Children - including how domestic violence impacts on children and young people and information about child and family support agencies and Common Assessment Framework procedures.
3. Housing issues and services - women's refuges and safe housing schemes like floating support and sanctuary often provided by Women's Aid Organisations or Housing Associations. Emergency accommodation and alternative housing options through local authority housing department.
4. Cultural and Sexual Diversity and Equalities issues - including Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT), Black Asian Minority Ethnic & Refugee (BAMER), information about relevant specialist services.
5. Legal and Welfare Rights - including relevant legislation, benefit entitlement information, refugee and asylum issues, information about police policy and practice and the police domestic abuse support unit, domestic violence courts and court support workers, recommended solicitors and other agencies offering legal advice such as Rights For Women.
6. Health issues - including substance use, mental health, self harm, disability issues, pregnancy and how health services are becoming more pro-active on asking about and responding to domestic violence.
7. Counselling techniques - including listening and communication skills.
8. Referrals - using the domestic violence service directory and supporting the woman to make relevant self referrals.
9. Information recording into Helpline database - including what to document and where to document during and after a call.
10. Effective supervision and support - making sure personal health and wellbeing are monitored because of the emotional impact from hearing callers talk about often distressing and horrific experiences, many of whom are in emergency situations at the time of the call.