Your silence is their greatest weapon: 16 days of action against domestic abuse

The 16 Days of Action commences on 25 November, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, running through to 10 December, Human Rights Day. Linked to the 16 Days of Action, the 25 of November is also White Ribbon Day – a campaign that seeks to end male violence against women. The campaign spans these 16 days in order to highlight the link between abuse and violence against women and human rights.

Anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, race, sexuality, sexual orientation, disability, religion or socioeconomic status. However, domestic abuse is a gendered issue; women are much more likely to be victims than men, and are far more likely to experience repeated and severe forms of abuse, including coercive and controlling behaviour, sexual violence and violence which results in injury or death.

During the pandemic, we have heard of increased calls to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline and have had to acknowledge, that for some of us, home is not a safe place. Over 2.4 million of us are affected by domestic abuse each year, and 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime.

In the summer, I virtually attended the Government’s Hidden Harm Summit, at which domestic abuse was a key theme discussed throughout, which signals the growing national awareness and priority given to this agenda.

We heard of the landmark Domestic Abuse Bill, which, for the first time, will provide a statutory definition of domestic abuse. As well as importantly including coercive control in its definition, it also recognises children as victims of domestic abuse.

NHS England and NHS Improvement have been working with lived experience survivors of domestic abuse to develop our internal domestic abuse policy for staff. We have engaged with safeguarding system leaders and HR colleagues over the last 18 months to prepare for the launch of this policy which clearly sets out the roles and responsibilities the organisation has to recognise and support victims and survivors of domestic abuse.

Never before has it been more important to ensure that safeguarding remains everyone’s business to support us all to focus on health and wellbeing in a way that keeps individuals and communities safe.

Please keep engaging via Twitter using the #teamCNO #NHSSafeguarding hashtags where you can follow the 16 Days of Action.

If you need support you can speak to your line manager or can contact:

  • The National Domestic Abuse Helpline for free and confidential advice, 24 hours a day on 0808 2000 247. Visit the helpline website to access further information, a contact form and the live chat service.
  • If you are in immediate danger, call 999 and ask for the police.
  • If you are concerned that you or someone you know may be an abuser, there is support available. The Respect Phoneline is an anonymous and confidential helpline for men and women who are harming their partners and families: 0808 802 4040.
Hilary Garratt

Hilary Garratt CBE, BSc, MSc, RGN, SCPHN (RHV), PGCE is the Deputy Chief Nursing Officer NHS England and NHS Improvement.

Hilary leads the implementation of a range of national programmes that focus on safeguarding vulnerable people and programmes that support the professional development and leadership of the nursing profession.

Hilary is a registered Nurse and Health Visitor, with 36 years’ experience of working in clinical, public health and Executive leadership roles in the NHS. Hilary has held a number of Executive Director posts across both commissioning and provider organisations in addition to holding and Deputy Chief Executive post for both. Hilary has been working at National Director level for the last 7 years.

In addition to her professional life, Hilary enjoys volunteering at the front line and also for the third sector. From 2013 – 2017 Hilary worked for BBC Children in Need as a committee member that undertook grant making for the North of England. Hilary also engages in hands on volunteering, working with the homeless and other vulnerable groups in her home city.

Hilary received a CBE in the 2017 New Years Honours for services to Nursing and her national work to safeguard some of the most vulnerable people in society. In 2018 Hilary was nominated as one of the country’s 400 Women of Achievement and Inspiration.

Follow Hilary on Twitter: @HilaryGarratt.