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    How To Help A Friend

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    How To Help A Friend


    We often get asked, what is the best way to help a friend or family member? Here is some advice on how to approach someone if you think they are being controlled or abused:

    Approach them sensitively:

    It’s never going to be an easy conversation but approach the subject with kindness and sensitivity. You might say something like, “I’m worried about you. Is everything okay at home?” If they don’t want to talk, let them know you are there if and when they’re ready. DON’T criticise or slag off their partner, even if they do. They may come to resent you, especially if they are hoping that things will change.

    Believe them:

    However unlikely their story sounds, or however much you like their partner, the fear of not being believed holds back hundreds, probably thousands of people from disclosing every year. Imagine summoning the courage to tell someone and not being believed.

    Remain non-judgemental:

    Never blame them or ask them what they did to trigger the abuse. Don’t make them feel guilty or stupid for putting up with it for so long or not being ready to leave.

    Don’t tell them what to do:

    In your desire to help, remember not to take the place of the controller. People need to come to their own conclusions in their own time. Making such big decisions can be frustratingly slow for friends and family but try to move at their pace.


    If you think that an adult, child or members of the public are at significant risk of harm, please share this information with someone. This might feel like a breach of trust, but remember adults and children are assaulted, hospitalised and murdered every week. You can contact your local social services, talk to the police, or report anonymously to CRIMESTOPPERS on 0800 555 111.

    Help them plan:

    A good plan can make the difference between someone leaving for good, and someone who gives up and returns to the abuse. Help them plan, in small steps, what they need to do, where they can go, and who can help. Be part of their plan. National or local domestic abuse helplines can offer advice. The most dangerous time is when someone is planning to leave or just after leaving.

    Leave the door open:

    People accept help in their own time. If they are not ready to take action now, let them know they can come to you in future when they are ready.

    Be a friend:

    Most importantly, be a friend and never give up on them, even if they try and push you away.

    There are local and national services that can help. Try searching domestic abuse on your county council website. NCDV can obtain an emergency civil protection order if this is required. Please see our website for contact and referral information


    Charlotte Woodward

    National Training Manager

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    By Fiona Bawden, Times Online (8th May 2007)

    “Steve Connor, a student at City Law School, is a man on a mission. Six years ago he was a fairly directionless 27-year-old. Today, as well as taking the Bar Vocational Course, he is chairman of the National Centre for Domestic Violence, a ground-breaking organisation that he dragged into existence after a friend could not get legal help to protect her from an abusive partner.

    Connor’s route to the Bar has been circuitous. In 2001 he returned from a year in Australia (he says that he would not dignify describing it as a gap year), and took a job as a process server in South London. The job (“I just saw it advertised in the paper”) was not quite as dull as it sounds. On one occasion he was threatened with a machete, on another, he was nearly stabbed by a man he had arranged to meet on Clapham Common to serve with a non-molestation order: “He’d seemed really friendly on the phone…”

    The turning point in his life came when a friend, who was being abused by her partner, turned to him for support. Connor went with her to the police. She did not want to press criminal charges so the police suggested that she visit a solicitor to take out a civil injunction. “We must have seen 12 solicitors in a morning. We just went from one to the next to the next to the next. Everyone was very eager to help until we sat down to fill in the forms for the legal aid means test,” he says. The woman, who had a small child, did not qualify for public funding. But, Connor says, her financial situation as it appeared on paper did not bear any relation to her financial situation in reality. “She had a part-time job and she and her partner owned their home. Yet she didn’t have any money. Her boyfriend was very controlling and controlled all the money; he kept the chequebooks and didn’t let her have access to the bank account.”

    The injustice of the situation got under Connor’s skin. “I just couldn’t believe that there was no help available to people who did not qualify for public funds but could not afford to pay.

    I just kept feeling that this must be able to be sorted if only someone would address it.”That “someone” turned out to be him.

    In 2002, thanks entirely to Connor’s doggedness, the London Centre for Domestic Violence was formed. It started out with him and a friend, but is now a national organisation, covering 27 counties, and has helped approximately 10,000 victims last year to take out injunctions against their partners.

    NCDV now has nine full-time staff, 12 permanent volunteers and has trained over 5000 law and other students as McKenzie Friends to accompany unrepresented victims into court. We have also trained over 8000 police officers in civil remedies available regarding domestic violence. The National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV) has branches in London, Guildford and Manchester and is on track to have branches in 16 areas within the next two years.

    NCDV specialises exclusively in domestic violence work and could be characterised as a cross between McDonald’s and Claims Direct. The high degree of specialisation means that its processes are streamlined: clients can be seen quickly and the work is done speedily and cheaply. “Sometimes, we will have one of our trained McKenzie Friends at a court doing 10 applications in one day,” Connor says.

    Clients are not charged for the service. NCDV staff take an initial statement: clients who qualify for legal aid are referred to a local firm; those that don’t get free help from the centre itself. It runs on a shoestring, heavily reliant on volunteers and capping staff salaries at £18,000 a year.

    Steve expects to qualify as a barrister this summer and hopes that having a formal legal qualification will give the centre added clout. “We are already acknowledged as experts and consulted at a high level, so I thought it would be helpful if I could back that up by being able to say I’m a barrister,” he says. He is just about to complete a one-year full-time BVC course at the City Law School (formerly the Inns of Court Law School) and, all being well, should be called to the Bar in July. Although Connor sees his long-term future as a barrister, he says that he has no immediate plans to practise. “I want to get NCDV running on a fully national level. Then I may take a step back and have a career at the Bar.”