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Is This Love? Domestic abuse campaign encourages us to recognise the signs of abuse

A campaign to highlight the signs of domestic abuse, has been relaunched in the run up to Christmas and the New Year.

Is This Love? is an annual campaign run by Portsmouth’s community safety partnership that aims to raise awareness about the various types of domestic abuse, including emotional and financial, which often go unrecognised.

The campaign encourages individuals to recognise the signs of domestic abuse and to consider whether their relationship, and relationships around them, are healthy, or whether they could be abusive.

As well as pressures around Christmas time, the continuation of home working due to the pandemic this year has had a significant impact on many individuals living with domestic abuse, with home not likely to be a safe place.

Stop Domestic Abuse deliver support services in Portsmouth and across Hampshire to anyone affected by unhealthy and abusive relationships. A Portsmouth is helpline available from Monday – Friday, 9am-5pm. This is open to victims, family/friends, those who are abusive, violent or controlling in their relationship and want to change, and professionals.

The service also provides refuge accommodation for women and children and community-based support for victims and survivors. The team can also work with those using unhealthy behaviours in their relationships who want to change. This includes delivering Up2U, a behaviour-change programme that addresses abusive and unhealthy behaviours to break the cycle.

A refuge-based client and survivor of domestic abuse shared her story: “It all began when I became pregnant. It started emotionally and mentally then he would physically assault me. He acted very jealous that I was pregnant almost like it was because I could do something that he couldn’t. He never wanted to cuddle me and show me affection, he started to have an affair and said that this was my fault because I was pregnant. He showed no interest in my pregnancy and this made me sad because this should have been a happy time.”

The client shared that this didn’t end until she got help from Stop Domestic Abuse; now she is “so happy and so supported”.

Superintendent Clare Jenkins, Portsmouth’s District Commander for Hampshire Constabulary, said: “Domestic abuse is often a hidden crime with incidents taking place behind closed doors without any witnesses. It takes a lot of courage to report these incidents and it’s important to be working together to ensure that anyone suffering from domestic abuse knows where to get help.”

Tackling domestic abuse has been a priority for Portsmouth’s community safety partnership for more than a decade, and there is always an increased demand for support around this time of the year; more so with the continued impact of the pandemic.

Cllr Dave Ashmore, Cabinet Member for Community Safety at Portsmouth City Council, said: “We are continually working with partners city-wide to reduce and prevent domestic abuse. The Is This Love? campaign is particularly pertinent at this time of the year when we know that the number of domestic abuse cases reported increase.

“Around 40% of all assaults in Portsmouth take place in a family setting, and witnessing violence is a risk factor for perpetrating violence and/or experiencing further abuse – so it’s vital that we do everything we can to raise awareness of abusive behaviours and ensure people know where they can get help.”

Claire Lambon, CEO of Stop Domestic Abuse, said: “While Christmas has always been a difficult time for victims of domestic abuse, for those working from home or having to isolate it will only make things worse as victims are further cut-off from the outside world. Domestic abuse always increases during the holiday season as families and couples spend more time together at home. We are advised to reduce contact with family and friends in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but the daunting reality faced for many victims of domestic abuse is that this Christmas, home is not safe. If you are affected by domestic abuse, I would urge you to contact Stop Domestic Abuse for help and support and in an emergency please dial 999.”

If you need support, call Stop Domestic Abuse, on: 023 9206 5494 or email portsmouthreferral@stopdomesticabuse.uk. If it’s an emergency, always call 999.

Find out if your relationship is healthy by taking a short online quiz at www.isthislove.org.uk.