‘Don't suffer in silence’.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

‘Don't suffer in silence’. thumbnail 'If your partner is violent-don't be silent' is the message from a group of level three Health and Social Care students at South West College, Omagh, who took part in a project to raise awareness around domestic and sexual violence.

Students embark on domestic and sexual violence awareness campaign.

'IF your partner is violent, don't be silent' - that's the hard-hitting but realistic message students from South West College in Omagh will be attempting to get out into the wider community from this week onwards.

A project team made up of level three Health and Social Care students from all over West Tyrone have initiated a new public awareness domestic and sexual violence information campaign which they hope will not only highlights these issues, but become a model for tackling it going into the future.

The project is funded by the Fermanagh and Omagh Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP) and delivered by Nexus NI who offer services and support to people who have been affected by sexual violence in any form, working in partnership with Omagh Women's Aid, Fermanagh Women's Aid, and Men's Action Network.

For several months now students have availed of a series of awareness raising workshops delivered at Enniskillen and Omagh campuses. These provided information on recognising the signs and behaviours of abuse, information on local support services and the barriers to seeking support.

Facilitators worked with student forums in both campuses to create key messages and design merchandise for public awareness and college campaigns. The merchandise will be distributed in both campuses and in other venues in Omagh, Enniskillen, and the wider Tyrone area, including local pubs, community outlets and indeed anywhere students and the campaign is facilitated.

Violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence can happen to people of all ages, sexualities, abilities, cultural, social and ethnic backgrounds. Experiences can be very different; there is no one size fits all, which is why the students feel their services have been designed to meet diverse needs.

Significant The students have learned that prevention and early intervention, including community education and work with people at every level, can have a significant impact on reducing the harm caused by domestic abuse and sexual violence.

Michelle McGee, from Nexus NI, explained the students really benefited from meeting various local groups such as Omagh Women's Aid and Men's Action Network for information sessions just before Christmas. They analysed their roles, goals and support available in their areas and came up with ideas and promotional items on how these could be used to send out messages about domestic and sexual violence.

"The group here in Omagh came up with the slogan: 'If your partner is violent don't be silent' and now they will use this on 4,000 beer mats which will be distributed throughout the community.

The other side of the mat will contain five contact organisations and their telephone numbers. Another group based in Enniskillen will be distributing a safety torch with the slogan 'No Means No' and the telephone numbers too.

Ms McGee said the students will distribute both items throughout the Omagh and surrounding areas in outlets such as pubs, libraries, supermarkets, leisure centres and indeed anywhere they get permission to from owners to engage with the public.

"The aim is to get the message out there that domestic and sexual violence is unacceptable and this is the support available in your area so people know where to go for support."

She added prior to the project most of the participants would have recognised the name Nexus and Women's Aid - but not Men's Action Network or PCSP.

"I'd say they now know what those organisations stand for but they found out a whole new raft of information about services, the scale of the issues which completely shocked them. It was a learning curve and as far as I'm aware this has been the most 'hands on' project of this nature here to date."

Ms McGee said students were very aware of domestic and sexual violence in the modern world and recognized the need for action in these areas.

"They strongly felt young people needed to be educated in case they ever found themselves in an abusive relationship and that people should be aware of things like options, consent and safety."

She said it was hoped this project not only created an awareness today, but one that had the potential to see young people's ideas in dealing with these issues develop as effectively as possible.

Chairman of the Fermanagh and Omagh PCSP, Cllr John Coyle said raising awareness of domestic and sexual violence was critical in addressing issues of under reporting and breaking down the barriers to seeking support.

"I am particularly pleased that the project is led by students who have demonstrated their commitment and dedication to tackling this very serious issue," he said.

The organisations and telephone numbers on the promotional material include:

Nexus NI (028) 6632 6044;
Fermanagh Women's Aid (028) 6632 8898;
Omagh Women's Aid (028) 8224 1414;
Men's Action Network (028) 7137 7777
and 24 Hour Domestic and Sexual Violence Helpline (0808) 8021414.


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