Westward Housing marks 16 Days of Activism against Gendered-Based Violence

Nicki Spear, 25 November 2021

Rarely has the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign seemed more poignant than this year, with the high-profile cases of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa highlighting the issue of violence against women and girls in such a tragic way.

A lesser-known fact is so far in 2021 there have been at least 122 women killed by men which account for almost three murders each week. These women were mothers, sisters, daughters, nieces, aunts, and friends. The consequences of these tragedies are devastating for everyone who loved them.

Domestic abuse accounts for around half of all women murdered in the UK each year and for those of us working in the housing sector, this is an area we can make a real and lasting difference.

The National Housing Federation (NHF) has created a National Domestic Abuse Group that brings together representatives from housing associations across the country to improve the sector’s identification and response to domestic abuse.

At Westward Housing this is something we feel passionately about and we are currently in the process of working towards DAHA (Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance) accreditation, to ensure that we have the best possible response to helping victims/survivors both living in our properties and working as our staff.

Raising awareness

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an annual international campaign that kicks off on 25 November and runs until 10 December. It aims to raise awareness and call for the elimination of gender-based violence with a focus on women.

To mark this year’s campaign Westward will be raising awareness with our customers and employees this includes demonstrating how we and partner organisations can help anyone impacted by domestic abuse. We’ll start by marking White Ribbon Day, where our male staff and contractors will wear a white ribbon to show their support to end violence against women and girls. This will help highlight all men can make a difference to force societal change and we hope our customers will find it reassuring to see solidarity and support shown by a range of male employees including repairs operatives, housing officers and surveyors.

Our domestic abuse policies for colleagues and customers at Westward are centered around three central principles – we listen, we believe and we do not judge. This informs everything we do and will be central to our message throughout the 16 Days of Activism against Gendered Based Violence campaign. Our approach is very much that every victim/survivor is individual and will want and need different help from us.

One area we feel strongly about is the importance of enabling victim/survivors to stay in their homes if that’s what they decide is best, and day eight will focus on our Sanctuary Scheme, which is provided by a charity called Safe Partnership. Safe Partnership specialise in helping domestic abuse victims/survivors and when a referral is made they will visit the victim/survivor, risk assess their property and install any security measures needed to make the property as safe as possible for that individual. Alongside our policy of ensuring that any emergency safety measures, such as lock changes, are completed within 24 hours, this provides reassurance for the victim/survivor that we will do all we can to keep them safe if they choose to remain in their home.

Another area we will be highlighting on the final day of the campaign is the impact of economic abuse, which affects so many victims/survivors and is often a reason for staying in an abusive relationship. A high proportion of victims/survivors will have rent arrears, either through current partners or as post-separation abuse. We will be highlighting the help available for this and how we can help deal with these issues. For members of staff affected by this issue we offer short-term financial help, as well as working on longer-term solutions with them.

At Westward we feel the 16 Days of Activism against Gendered-Based Violence campaign is so important in raising awareness of domestic abuse and highlighting the social housing sector's response. By identifying and addressing domestic abuse with our residents and our staff we can save lives. The number of women being killed by men is increasing each year. Let’s make 2021 the year we make a difference and start to force change to end violence against women.