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Cheshire domestic abuse charity launches ground-breaking initiative

Cheshire-based domestic abuse charity, My CWA (formerly Cheshire Without Abuse), has launched a brand-new programme to educate teenagers on domestic abuse and its warning signs.

There's been a 73% rise in referrals to the Cheshire East Domestic Abuse Hub from young people aged 18 and under (2020/21 vs. 21/22). Police in Cheshire East have also seen a 10% increase in the number of domestic abuse incidents where the victim was aged 13-17 (April 2021-Mar 22 vs Apr20-Mar21).

My CWA and Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, John Dwyer collaborated to create the pioneering early intervention programme ‘Reset’ to empower teens with knowledge of what makes a healthy and happy relationship, promoting self-identification of harmful behaviours and equipping them with the skills to make healthier relationship choices.                                                     

John Dwyer, Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire said: “I’m really pleased to be working with My CWA and to see ‘Reset’ already making a positive difference to people’s lives. If we’re going to break the cycle of domestic abuse then it’s vital to reach young people and educate them at the age where they are beginning to explore relationships. If they can have these open discussions with their peers now and stamp out harmful behaviours, then it creates a safer environment for generations to come.

“Protecting vulnerable and at-risk people is key to my Police and Crime Plan, and people living in fear of domestic abuse and in coercive relationships are among the most vulnerable in society. Preventing it from ever taking place is crucial and that’s why I’m so glad that My CWA is delivering this essential training for young people in Cheshire.”

‘Reset’ was officially launched at a premiere of ‘The Wheel’ – a short film produced and written with the help of people with lived experience of harmful relationships, and used in the ‘Reset’ programme – held at Cinemac Cinema in Macclesfield on Wednesday 13th July. ‘The Wheel’ follows the story of a teenage romantic relationship between protagonists Abby and Nate, and has been edited into ‘bite-size’ sections for ‘Reset’ sessions so teenagers can discuss each portion, dissect unhealthy relationships and spot red flags.

The screening of the new film was followed by a panel Q&A, hosted by Actor Kane Allen, with panellists including My CWA CEO Saskia Lightburn-Ritchie, Emma Storey (Domestic Abuse & Sexual Violence Development Lead Advisor at Cheshire East Council), Karen Porter (Manager, Cheshire East Information Advice and Support [CEIAS] and Safeguarding Children in Education Settings [SCiES] Manager), Anne-Marie Scragg (Writer & Director  ‘The Wheel’), Ellie Morris (‘Abby’ in ‘The Wheel’) and Charles Dubois (‘Nate’ in ‘The Wheel’).

Commenting at the event on the need for educating teens on healthy relationship behaviours, Emma Storey said: “Locally, we’re seeing an increased number of referrals for young people experiencing domestic abuse in relationships - it’s a huge problem. We’re also seeing increased referrals with young people becoming abusive in their relationships with their parents or adult carers, which is another area of need. Although ‘The Wheel’ focuses on a romantic relationship between two young people, it shows how unhealthy behaviours can translate to other relationships: friendships, family, peers. By educating and empowering young people with the knowledge of what constitutes a healthy or unhealthy relationship, we can prevent future harm and hopefully reduce domestic abuse across our local area and see less referrals as a result.”

Karen Porter commented, during the panel Q&A, on the need for programmes such as ‘Reset’ to support vulnerable teens across Cheshire: “There are so many issues young people in our area are dealing with – including substance abuse, gang exploitation, sexual exploitation and domestic abuse. Every child’s experience of abuse is individual to them and ‘The Wheel’ and the ‘Reset’ programme as a whole give us a valuable opportunity to connect with young people and show them a breadth of abusive behaviours; encouraging them to speak up – whether for themselves or a friend - or change their own unhealthy behaviours.

“We need to listen and learn from young people and their issues and experiences so, the fact the film has been contributed to by young people who have experienced abuse, and features young actors, will hopefully resonate with those watching it in schools”, Karen concludes.

‘Reset’ encompasses twelve one-hour interactive sessions delivered by professionals working with young people and assesses attitudes, beliefs and perceptions about relationships and domestic abuse before and after participation. The interactive programme features group activities and opportunities for discussion throughout in order to give young people space to share their thoughts and feelings on various relationship-related topics.

Saskia Lightburn-Ritchie, My CWA CEO adds: “Many perpetrators (75%) and victims (65%) have experienced domestic abuse in their early relationships and in their childhood family environment; and many participants of our perpetrator behaviour programmes have shared how much they wish they’d been taught healthier relationship behaviours in school. One perfectly summed up the need for action with his statement: ‘Time out is more useful than algebra. Why didn’t we learn that in school?

“When working with the PCC and looking at crime data across Cheshire and reports of abuse from young people, it became apparent that the age bracket of 13-16 needed critical attention; especially given the level of peer-to-peer abuse we’re seeing.  ‘Reset’ offers an early intervention approach to unlearn unhealthy behaviours before they become imbedded and we’re very encouraged by the impact this is having amongst local teens in its pilot stage.”

The ‘Reset’ healthy relationships toolkit should be delivered by professionals working with young people. Visit:

http://www.ActonitNow.org.uk/Reset

ActOnItNow is a site created in 2015 by My CWA to help teenagers and young people learn more about healthy relationships.

...or call My CWA on:

01270 250390

My CWA supports anyone affected by domestic abuse. The charity runs counselling and recovery programmes for victims and perpetrators of domestic violence and offers temporary crisis accommodation to people who need to leave their homes urgently.  My CWA has a clear vision – a healthy community where adults and children can live free from the fear of domestic abuse. Please visit the My CWA website for more information: 

www.mycwa.org.uk

About Act on it Now

Act on it Now is a website developed for young people, by young people. With sections for teens & young people, parents & carers and professionals, the site is packed with resources to help young people learn more about what healthy, unhealthy and toxic relationships might look like. Find out more here:

www.actonitnow.org.uk

Pictured - Karen Porter (Manager, Cheshire East Information Advice and Support and Safeguarding Children in Education Settings Manager).

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