Liverpool Hope University has launched a new fundraising campaign to help a domestic abuse charity - after it reported a surge in enquiries due to the Covid-19 lockdown.
Signa Awareness is a non-profit social enterprise which was formed in 2018 by founder Maureen Harris, a social worker with a background in safeguarding.
It offers interventions for both victims and perpetrators, finds safe ‘escape routes’ for those at risk, and is even working with teenagers to help eradicate generational patterns of abuse and change culture.
But Maureen says she’s seen a huge increase in the numbers of people contacting the charity after pandemic social distancing came into force - almost doubling since March 16th.
Now Signa Awareness and Hope are working together to provide free essentials, like toiletries, to victims fleeing domestic abuse.
And you can donate to the scheme here via Hope’s online portal.
Maureen explains: “We’ve seen a huge rise in cases amid the Coronavirus lock-down.
“We’re actually seen our referrals almost double compared to what we were typically experiencing at the start of March.
“You’ve got people at home, enjoying a drink, in close confinement, often with the pressures that come with having children around them.
“And there’s a general malaise that’s just exacerbating the issue.
“We used to be fearful of a spike after big football matches. Now it’s the pandemic which is causing huge increases in victims of domestic abuse.”
Maureen says Signa Awareness - which operates across the city and is based in Garston, south Liverpool - is now handling around 20 referrals every week - and there are waiting lists for both victims and perpetrators.
For Maureen, there’s a deeply personal drive behind the charity’s foundation.
She herself suffered abuse for a 17-year period, beginning in the mid 1980s - a harrowing experience that led to her training as a social worker to help others.
Victims can go through a 10-week intervention in a group or on one to one basis through ‘See the Signs’, the flagship programme of Signa Awareness.
The male perpetrators of domestic abuse are offered a 26-week group intervention to support them in changing their behaviour. This programme involves supporting the partners of offenders as well, with offenders joining the programme as either self-referrals or referred by the Local Authority or Courts.
Maureen adds: “It’s about making victims and offenders aware of the signs of abuse - because when it comes to coercive control, it might not always be obvious.
“You can see the physical side of abuse - the cuts, the bruises. But you can’t see the coercive control and emotional abuse, which are things that are harder to recover from."
In terms of the support given to victims and offenders, Maureen adds: “We talk about isolation, financial abuse, offenders using children to exploit and control women. We are also educating women about the effects of domestic abuse on children witnessing abuse and about the fact that more than half of the children who are exposed to abuse are victimised themselves.
“And it’s about educating people on what is, and is not, acceptable behaviour.”
Signa Awareness has an ongoing relationship with Liverpool Hope University, with social work students able to shadow Maureen’s interventions, gaining crucial insights into how the process of protection and rehabilitation might work.
When victims flee frightening scenarios, they often leave with little in the way of personal belongings.
The new campaign will see donated cash going towards the cost of a toiletries and sanitary products package, which can be give to those affected, providing them with much-needed essentials in their time of crisis.
Maureen adds: “I’m extremely grateful to Liverpool Hope University for organising this initiative.
“It’s telling victims across the city that we’re here for them for anything - and that they matter.”
To donate, go here.