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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 May, 2004, 05:54 GMT 06:54 UK
Helpline tackles domestic abuse
Domestic violence
Figures indicate around one in four women experience domestic abuse
People experiencing domestic abuse will be able to call an all-Wales freephone helpline from Thursday.

The Wales Domestic Abuse Helpline will offer bilingual support and advice to women, men and children.

A woman who spent seven years in a violent relationship in north Wales has told BBC News Online of the ordeal.

"I had never witnessed violence before," said the woman, who has been involved in setting up the service, but cannot be named for legal reasons.

"It started with emotional and mental abuse and became physical as well - the physical aspect was easier to get over as it was visible.

"I lived on a farm - it was very rural and I felt very isolated.

I knew if I didn't get out, I would be seriously hurt or worse
Woman who experienced abuse

"My partner was well-known in the community and seen as a popular person.

"For me, the abuse tended to happen late at night, when there is no-one you can access.

"I was taken to hospital twice - the worst was broken ribs and a broken arm.

"It built up and was getting worse every time."

The woman had two children from a previous marriage and said she left her partner because of the effect on them.

"I knew if I didn't get out, I would be seriously hurt or worse.

"I did leave several times - about four times prior to the final time, but he kept finding me.

It is not all about breaking up relationships - there are times when something can be done
Woman who experienced abuse

"You get more confident each time and get to know what your rights are."

The woman contacted Women's Aid eventually, but it took her time to build up the courage.

"For a lot of women, it is just talking to someone and get moral support and change things before it gets too bad.

"Some men are abusive and won't change. But if it is caught early enough, some might be able to work it out together."

"It is not all about breaking up relationships - there are times when something can be done."

The fact the service was bilingual and for people in Wales made it more relevant.

Men can suffer abuse too - I think the number of people coming forward is growing.
Woman who experienced abuse

"As a first language Welsh speaker, it is a lot easier to speak Welsh when in an emotional state.

"But because it is a service in Wales, it will help English speakers as well, as they can speak to someone on a local level.

"People on the helpline will know what the situation in the area is, and what options are available - and give information like names of solicitors to get legal aid."

Men and children should call the line if they were in a domestic abuse situation, she said.

"Men can suffer abuse too - I think the number of people coming forward is growing.

"And children have their own problems, and can be witnessing violence of their parents."

The helpline is open from 8am-2pm and 8pm-2am all-year round on the freephone number 0808 80 10 800.

Launching the service in Caernarfon on Thursday, Assembly Business Minister Karen Sinclair said: "Too many people suffer the devastating impact of domestic abuse.

"It's important that people don't feel they have to suffer in silence and that help is available."

The service, which is being run by Welsh Women's Aid, is being funded by the Welsh Assembly Government, the Community Fund and Comic Relief.

A UK-wide helpline was launched in December.




SEE ALSO:
Domestic violence rates 'high'
01 Mar 04  |  Health
Breaking domestic violence stereotype
01 Mar 04  |  North East Wales


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