Creating a step change in society’s response to domestic abuse

The Change That Lasts Ask Me scheme was developed in partnership with Women’s Aid and Welsh Women’s aid. It was designed to create a step change in society’s response to domestic abuse. Today our team focuses on the Ask Me project which is being run in Cambridge by Cambridge Women’s Aid as part of our 16 Days of Activism spotlight on good practice.

“One of the most concerning misunderstandings about domestic abuse is “if it was that bad, she’d leave”. But where do you go if when you first disclose your experience no-one listens or believes you? What next?  

How many times have you heard: “She shouldn’t have married him” “Some people choose abusive partners” “She was drunk” “She provokes him….”  

Instead, we should be asking: “Why does he abuse her?”  “Why do some people choose to abuse their partners?” 

We know that survivors are most likely to tell their friends and families about their experiences, and communities are likely the first to know of abuse. We also know from Women’s Aid research with survivors that they often feel judged, silenced, or isolated by the people around them in their communities.  

We also know that victim blaming and a culture that accepts joking about violence against women, not only enables perpetrators to carry on with abuse, but it creates a barrier to survivors when seeking support from services and police.  

Cambridge Women’s Aid is changing that through the Change That Lasts Ask Me scheme, developed in partnership between Women’s Aid Federation England and Welsh Women’s Aid.  

The Ask Me project equips the Cambridge community with an understanding of domestic abuse and how to respond to survivors, but also how to challenge the myths and stereotypes that shape societal responses to domestic abuse.  

Cambridge Women’s Aid deliver free online training courses to anyone from the community where they learn about domestic abuse; its gendered nature; how to challenge stereotypes; and how to listen, believe and direct survivors to specialist support. Anyone with a connection to Cambridge can become part of the Ask Me community, although it is aimed at community members, rather than professionals.  

Anyone can experience domestic abuse and the Ask Me project is open to everyone regardless of your identity (Race, gender, sexuality, disability).  When a survivor discloses, we all need to be prepared to offer an answer that becomes a gate opener and therefore, we need everyone to be part of the solution.  

After the training, participants are given resources and support to share what they have learnt and are encouraged to start conversations around domestic abuse.  

Getting the community talking about domestic abuse helps others to better understand the barriers that survivors often face in talking about their experiences and seeking support.  

You can give as much or as little time as you can, and you can raise awareness doing what you are best at. Over 150 people have joined the Ask Me community in the Cambridge area!  

The Ask Me community have set up all kinds of wonderful group and activities; they have a walking group, some others chosen to start a blog and they also host a book group at the library. They also organise one off events, where members of the community have used their skills to share their knowledge, like a creative writing workshop to deal with trauma. We all have different skills, and Cambridge Women’s Aid are very happy to hear your ideas and provide you with an opportunity to make them happen.  

This scheme enables the Cambridge community to play an active role in ending domestic abuse, and lets survivors know that when they share their experiences, they will be believed, and they won’t be on their own considering their ‘what next’.”  

  Ask Me Project (