How can bars raise awareness of domestic abuse?

By Emily Hawkins

- Last updated on GMT

Provocative campaign: licensed venues can help to raise awareness of domestic abuse
Provocative campaign: licensed venues can help to raise awareness of domestic abuse

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Licensed venues should get involved in raising awareness of domestic abuse, according to the organisers of a initiative that saw bar staff wear black eye make-up.

Pubgoers might have had to do a double take when they ordered a drink, but staff at a host of Mansfield pubs used the make-up to start conversations about a ‘no stigma, no secrets, no shame’ campaign.

Fifteen bars and pubs took part in the scheme, which was centred round a message that abuse is not just physical.

Asking the questions

The idea came from the Mansfield Association of Licensed Venues (MALV) after being approached by the Nottinghamshire Independent Domestic Abuse Services (NIDAS).

Men and women behind the bar sported the make up
Men and women behind the bar sported the make up

NIDAS project manager Sue Ready said the service wanted to encourage the view that there is a collective responsibility to raise awareness, including the role of businesses.

She said the campaign message came from survivors​ who used the service and added: “Their hope is that we raise awareness far and wide, and that support should be available at the earliest opportunity. Victims don’t always know they’re experiencing domestic abuse until someone asks the question.”

NIDAS ambassadors also visited the pubs and bars involved on the nights of the initiative and spoke to customers.

Jonathan Edwards, chair of MALV and the operator of four bars in the town, said there was positive feedback on social media after the event on the weekend after Valentine’s Day.

He said: “We just tried to do our bit to raise awareness around domestic violence because we understand that any social environment could be a situation where domestic violence may start.

“We also have posters in the toilets with tear-off slips so people can access the services really easily.”

What services can you point customers to?

Women's Aid and Refuge - 0808 2000 247 24

Respect UK, for male victims - 0808 8024040 

No excuse

Ready said although there was a link between abuse and alcohol, it was not an excuse and licensed venues have a positive role to play.The aim of the campaign was not to blame licensed venues for abuse, the service said.

She said: “The link between domestic abuse and alcohol is a contributing factor in a lot of individuals we are coming across.

“A clear message from us is that alcohol should not be used in that way – as an excuse, essentially. There is no excuse for abuse.

“We want to really push the message that alcohol can be a positive thing, you go out for a drink socially, it doesn't mean that everyone will adopt abusive behaviour.”

Pubs can help campaigns reach out to different demographics, including men, the charity believes.

This includes having policy to support staff, helping the team manage any disclosures or signs from customers and how to respond if someone is in trouble.

These campaigns can be carried out with the police, including Ask Angela​ where customers can discreetly ask for help escaping a dangerous or uncomfortable situation.

Sue Ready, project manager for Nottinghamshire Independent Domestic Abuse Services, outlines what pubs and bars can do about abuse issues.

1. Support your own staff and where issues arise have discussions at team meetings. This could be by having a regular 'circle time' after shifts to discuss any incidents that came up.

2. Have policies in place to support staff. This could involve an addition to your staff handbook in a similar way to how many businesses have introduced company-specific mental health and wellbeing policies.

3. Put policy in place that could include training and awareness-raising to support staff manage disclosures. You can work with the police on this, with initiatives like the Ask Angela​ campaign and having a safe area designated for vulnerable or distressed customers.

4. Ensure customers or staff in distress know their local specialist service and even connect with them. Posters in the toilets and behind the bar can be an effective way to signal this information.

5. Support your local services with any local charity and fundraising events​ – this is a great way to get involved and reduce stigma and shame.

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