Thank you for noticing.

She was listed for a minor surgical procedure on my list. I called out her name in the waiting area and escorted this pleasant, middle aged lady into a cubicle for her pre-anaesthetic check-up. We both sat down at right angles to each other. She had an unmissable racoon’s eye on the right side of her face. I looked again. Just to be sure. It was there in its fading pinky-blueness. She was in hospital for a totally unrelated reason but I ventured into asking, “What happened here?” pointing to the eye.

‘Oh. I had a run-in. Couple of weeks ago.’

“A run-in with what?”

‘You know … It’s okay. I don’t want to talk about it.’

“Have you spoken to anyone about it?”

‘Yes. I am okay. I really don’t wish to speak about it.’

“That’s fine. How are you doing today?”

We went ahead, staying focused on preparing her for the upcoming procedure.

I took a moment to call the Safeguarding department of the hospital. They said that it was normal for people suffering abuse, to not talk about it for a long time. They advised us to signpost her verbally. A written set of resources might make her more vulnerable, if discovered by the wrong set of hands.

Two women are killed by a partner or former partner every week in England and Wales.

One in five people suffering domestic violence will plan or attempt to take their own lives.

One in eight of all female suicides and attempts in the UK are due to domestic violence and abuse. This equates to 200 women taking their own lives and 10,000 attempting to do so due to domestic abuse every year in the UK. That’s nearly 30 women attempting to complete suicide every single day. 

Men endure domestic abuse too. This can include physical violence, as well as emotional and psychological bullying, sexual violence or financial control and abuse. 

It is living hell. An invisible prison. Isolating, with no one to confide in.

It takes great courage to speak. It’s often ignored. Many suffer in silence.

Survivors do come in contact with health and social services but disclosure is difficult.

If done right, it is life changing. Appropriate response is invaluable.

Front-line staff must recognise signs and highlight issues.

It is important to ask and act.

After her procedure, I went to see her in the Recovery room.

“Have a nice evening.” She said. “Thank you for noticing.”


Day 804

This time of the year is difficult for many families. Financial pressures, obligatory socialising with people whose affections may not be entirely genuine, a perceived time for evaluating various aspects of one’s life, overindulgence, having to revert back to traditional gender roles, the need for things to be just so…

Many women fear the festive period. Not a year goes by when there isn’t a seasonal rise in incidents of domestic violence reported to the police. Humberside Police Force reports that calls rose from 38% in the rest of the year to 54% in December 2015.

“For too many children across Ireland, being home at Christmas, is not a place of safety, warmth and happiness. It’s a place of fear, loneliness, pain and neglect,” said the ISPCC (Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children). On Christmas day more than 1000 calls were received by their 60 strong staff on Childline service from children reporting distress due to domestic violence and/or alcohol abuse.

Pangs of loneliness are more acutely felt by the elderly and floating populace at this time of the year. Age UK works steadily on reducing loneliness in the elderly, 1.2 million of whom suffer from it on a chronic basis. Their objective is : ‘No one should have no one on Christmas’.

For those of us who have recently lost a dear one, their physical absence is more visibly, painfully and deeply felt than other times. That one less present, that one less seat on the dinner table, that one less name on the card, that one less beaming smile, that one less hug …


Day 722

Yes. Here’s an admission if there ever was one – I am a fan of the ‘Archers’ (a drama series on BBC Radio 4). Each time the theme tune comes on Si says, ”Let us pray.” I love Helen. She is a woman with a clear mind. Over the past few months I have been gripped by the twists and turns of the dramatic story of Helen and Rob Titchener. I have always had serious doubts about him. Not surprisingly, he did show his true colours and caused great suffering for Helen. It was interesting how insidiously, like a slithering serpent he created a severe degree of self-doubt and confusion in her mind and took control of all aspects of her life. They called it ‘mental abuse and coercive control’.

This made me look up some statistics around domestic abuse. I was shocked.

Domestic violence:

  • Will affect 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men in their lifetime.
  • Leads to, on average, two women being murdered each week and 30 men per year.
  • 3 women take their own lives every week to escape from domestic violence.
  • Almost 30 women attempt suicide per day for the same reason.
  • There is currently no ‘liability for suicide’ law under which an abusive partner can be prosecuted for the suicide of their victim.
  • Accounts for 16% of all violent crime (Source: Crime in England and Wales 04/05 report), however it is still the violent crime least likely to be reported to the police.
  • Has more repeat victims than any other crime (on average there will have been 35 assaults before a victim calls the police)
  • Is the single most quoted reason for becoming homeless (Shelter, 2002)
  • Is witnessed by 750,000 children per year.

The charity ‘Refuge’ is campaigning for a new ‘liability for suicide’ law that would hold perpetrators of domestic violence responsible for behaviour that drives their victims to suicide. ‘Taking Lives’ is a documentary film which tells the story of ‘Gurda’ who took her own life after suffering years of violent abuse at the hands of her husband. Her brother Nav has been actively campaigning for this law to be enforced. After Gurda’s death, instead of being punished, her husband was awarded financial benefits of the mortgage being paid off and all the insurance money.

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Here are some of the myths associated with Domestic violence:

MYTH: Alcohol and drugs make men violent.
MYTH: It only happens in poor families on council estates.

MYTH: More women would leave if the abuse was that bad.
MYTH: Abusers grow up in violent homes.
MYTH: Some women like violence.
MYTH: Women ask for it. They deserve what they get.
MYTH: Abusive men have a mental illness. They can’t help what they do.
MYTH: He only hit her because he was under stress.

MYTH: He loses his temper sometimes, that’s all.
MYTH: Domestic violence is a private matter, you shouldn’t get involved.

Once again most of the work in this field is being done by charities like LWA (Living Without Abuse), Refuge, Shelter and Women’s aid. The government needs to do more.