Every week at least two women in the UK are killed as a result of domestic abuse.

That was the shocking statistic revealed at Rise’s open day. Dozens of women and men – some survivors, others who work with survivors – attended the day to talk about the issue.

Domestic abuse survivor Madelaine Hunter, 31, of Brighton, volunteers for RISE and was there to share her experience of an abusive relationship.

She left her ex-partner in 2010 after ten years of emotional abuse.

She had been kicked by him once before, but a physical attack where he attempted to throw her down the stairs was the real wake-up call.

Madelaine said: “He would say things like, ‘you’re a terrible mum’, and he was controlling in the sense that I would feel really guilty if I did something which didn’t include him.

“He was very traditional, dinner on the table when he got home, kids behaving, which I put down to cultural differences. I justified everything he did, until it just became too much.”

Madelaine went to the police and spent three hours telling them what had happened to her over the last decade.

Her ex-partner was charged with two counts of assault, forced to carry out community service in a charity shop and also given a restraining order.

Madelaine said the journey has not been easy.

“The children’s tax credits were in his name, which meant that I had no money,” she said. “I have a running joke with my current boyfriend about tomato puree because I had to eat it for lunch when there was nothing else in the fridge and I had no money.”

Thanks to the involvement of social services, the police, and Rise, Madelaine and her three children are re-building their lives again.

Madeline said: “I needed to turn all this negative energy into something positive. I initially wanted to be a support worker; I just wanted to do this for someone else.

“The key thing is for people to learn how to pick up the signs of emotional abuse.

“One of the reasons I wanted to be named was because I was so fed up of his friends thinking he was amazing. I wanted to show them, look at this man and look at what he has done.”

James Rowlands is the violence against women and girls strategy manager and commissioner for Brighton and Hove City Council, and attended the Rise open day. He said: “The open day is an excellent opportunity for RISE to showcase the range of services they offer to support women and their children – as well as LGBT people – to help increase their safety. It also shows the work they do in the community and schools to raise awareness about healthy relationships. The range of people attending shows the impact that Rise has on the lives of their service users, as well as the interest in their work.

“The priority in the city is to ensure domestic abuse is core business. We have some excellent partnerships in the city, ranging from the police, the council to health services and charities like Rise.

The challenge is to sustain and develop this in a difficult financial climate, while continuing to support those experiencing domestic abuse to navigate things like changes to benefit entitlements and access to legal aid.

“It is more important than ever that people experiencing domestic abuse can access support at a time and place of their choosing.

“Domestic abuse can affect anyone regardless of their social background. Any public discussion is positive, so people experiencing abuse – as well as their friends and family – know that help and support is available. It is also important to remember that violence and abuse is not acceptable, and that people who use it in their relationships can be held accountable."

Although the topic of domestic violence towards women is now very much in the public’s thoughts, violence towards men is still somewhat of a taboo topic.

Madelaine said more must be done to help men who are in abusive relationships.

She said: “There needs to be something for men.

The conversation about men isn’t as loud as violence towards women is, and I think the more it is talked about in society, then there will be more demand for help.”

Gail Gray, CEO of Rise, said Rise would offer men support where they could.

She added: “Aside fromtheLGBT service, there is no particular service for men at present.

“If a male domestic abuse survivor approaches us, we would signpost them to appropriate services that can help. We’re currently working with local services to develop a men’s domestic violence service.”

Heinous crime is not a ‘playful tiff’

The Argus:

Katy Bourne, Police Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Sussex

Katy Bourne, Police Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Sussex said she hopes a positive ending will come from Nigella’s ordeal.

She said: “What happened to Nigella was absolutely awful to see but it is great to see awareness of this terrible issue come from it. Everybody is talking about it.

“You wouldn’t wish this on anybody and for it to happen to someone in such a high profile position means it is in the public for discussion.

“He had his hands around her throat he cannot brush it off a playful tiff – that is not a loving caress.

Domestic violence is a heinous crime and it is so easy to keep it secret.

“When the woman is a victim, they don’t always want to press charges. Nigella must have her reasons for not pressing charges and she probably didn’t even know that picture was being taken.

“Some people don’t even know they are a victim and just think it is the norm for them.

“Addressing domestic violence was in my manifesto when I got elected.

“I think the rights have always got to be with the victim, it has got to be the victim’s decision.

“Sussex police, certainly in Brighton and Hove, have a really, really good unit and support for victims. They are very strong and I am keen to see this expand across the whole county.

“We have new technology coming in to make it quicker for officers to input data surrounding domestic violence and whole internal review into how we handle domestic violence cases.”

Where’s Nigella?

The Argus:

Gail Gray, CEO for Rise

As the Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson story plays out, we were asked to believe it’s OK to “hold” your wife by the throat not once, but four times if you need to emphasise a point.

In the words of Charles Saatchi it was just a “playful tiff”. We are told it wasn’t what it looked like.

On Monday he accepted a police caution as “it was better than the alternative of this hanging over all of us for months”.

So far missing from this story is Nigella’s voice. I hope she is getting the right support and advice.

If she came to RISE, we would listen and not judge her. We would make sure she and her family were safe.

We would advise her on her legal rights, and signpost her to appropriate legal support, if that is what she wanted. We would work with her to support her in a way that met her, and her family’s needs.

So why did the photographs resonate so strongly? Many RISE service users regularly report their abusers strangling them, sometimes until they pass out.

Can you imagine what it feels like to be strangled?

To have powerful hands around your throat, cutting off air?

There is no point in struggling in that situation – it’d just make things worse.

You can’t scream for help, you are utterly powerless.

Strangulation is one of the key risk indicators in assessing whether a survivor is at risk of death or serious injury.

The pictures put some back in the room with their abuser, feeling the same fear, reliving the nightmare.

Domestic violence and abuse is about one person wanting power and control over another. What is more powerful that having someone’s life in your hands?

Domestic abuse can happen to anyone, it doesn’t discriminate and is woven into the fabric of our society.

Until we can all, hand on heart, take the White Ribbon pledge to never commit, condone or stay silent about domestic abuse, nothing will change.

If you are affected by domestic abuse call Rise 01273 622822 or visit riseuk.org.uk. You are not alone.

Domestic abuse facts and statistics

  • Since April 2012 Sussex Police has recorded approximately 4,500 domestic-related crimes and 12,500 domestic incidents across the force – an average of 40 reported a day.
  • Two women every week are murdered by a partner or ex-partner. Domestic abuse is the single biggest cause of female homicide.
  • A woman is at greatest risk of death or serious injury at the point of leaving and up to a year after having left an abusive relationship.
  • A third of all women who attempt suicide have a history of domestic abuse.
  • 70% of all female psychiatric in-patients have a history of domestic abuse.
  • 60% of all female mental health service users have a history of domestic abuse.
  • Nearly three-quarters of all children on the ‘at risk’ register come from abusive homes l 750,000 children every year are in the same or next room when violence occurs.
  • The annual financial cost of domestic abuse in the UK is estimated at £23 billion. Of this over £120 million is spent prosecuting domestic violence homicides – approximately £1 million per death.
  • The cost to Brighton and Hove has been calculated at £30-32 million. When you add human and emotional cost this rises to £118 million.

All stats from Rise How to get help l In an emergency, call 999.

  • RISE operates through Brighton and Hove and across West Sussex. The helpline number is 01273 622822.
  • People in Lewes, Eastbourne and Wealden can call the East Sussex Domestic Abuse Service on 01323 419 340, or in Hastings 01424 716629.
  • Men affected by domestic abuse can call the Men’s Advice Helpline 0808 801 0327 or they can call the Anti-Victimisation Unit 01273 665 657.
  • For LGBT people there is the Brighton & Hove LGBT Switchboard on 01273 204050.