A new campaign aimed at women who have been suffering domestic abuse during school summer holidays is being launched in Wirral this week.
Research shows reports of domestic abuse to police and support agencies increase when children are back in school.
Experts believe women delay reporting abuse in order to keep the family together during what are perceived to be “family times of year” like school holidays and Christmas.
The campaign, which is being launched jointly by Merseyside Police and Wirral Council, aims to encourage women to break free from abusive, damaging or controlling relationships by seeking help from the council's Family Safety Unit or the police.
Giant billboards promoting the helpline that women can call will line major arterial roads in the borough and posters will be put up in public places.
A focus group of women in Wirral who have survived abusive relationships were consulted about what they felt other women needed to know about domestic abuse and this focus group influenced the images and words used in the campaign.
A Wirral mum-of-two who the authorities are calling Louise (not her real name) sought help from the safety unit several years ago after a whirlwind relationship with a man she thought was "perfect" descended into controlling behaviour followed by both physical and psychological abuse.
Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVA’s) from the Family Safety Unit at the council provided Louise with compassionate and professional support whenever she needed it.
In an anonymous interview broadcast on Merseyside Police's You Tube channel from today, Louise talks about how her new husband quickly became possessive and controlling and, ultimately violent.
You can view the video here
He controlled her money and stole from her, he drank to excess and became addicted to prescription drugs.
He also stopped her from mothering the baby girl they had together, made threats to her in front of their baby and her other child, and threatened to harm himself, perceiving himself to be the real victim of the situation.
Louise kept the extent of the domestic abuse from her friends and family because she didn't want the marriage to fail and hoped she could change his behaviour.
But in the video she says she wished she had reported the abuse sooner and would have done had she realised the level of support that was available to domestic abuse sufferers in Wirral.
The 32-year-old said: "There were lots of times when I picked up the phone to report it.
“If I could turn the clock back I would have told the police or the Family Safety Unit every single time he did something.
“I was just scared of the consequences of taking that next step so I would try and minimise or play down in my head what he did. It took a lot of courage to do it but I then reached a point where I knew I had to do something for my kids' sake.
"The police arrested him and the family safety unit were brilliant all the way through, them and my solicitor. I knew I could get support from them and someone to talk to whenever I needed it.
“If it wasn't for them I wouldn't be here now, I would have had a breakdown. It was that bad.
"But my life is great now. I have got him out of my life and he doesn't have any contact with me or the children. We are settled and happy and I hope it stays that way.
“My message to any women who is suffering domestic abuse like I did is talk to someone.
Detective Inspector Rachel Wilson from Wirral CID's family crime investigation unit said it was important that women in Wirral knew who they could call if they ever needed to.
She said: "Domestic abuse and violence is still an under-reported crime and there are many people suffering in silence at the hands of abusive, controlling or violent partners or relatives.
“Because the abuse is confined to a relationship it is so much harder for the victim to walk away from the perpetrator than if they were a stranger.
“It takes great courage and a leap of faith by the victim because they may feel that telling someone will only make “My team of officers on are on hand to take all reports seriously, to listen compassionately to what women tell them and to put the perpetrators of the abuse before the courts so that it can be stopped."
Jill Barr, manager of Wirral Council Family Safety Unit, said: "Domestic abuse has no boundaries and affects women of any age, living in all areas across Wirral. We understand how frightening living with domestic abuse can be.
“The fear of not knowing what will happen next is often the reason why some women do not feel able to tell anyone about what is happening to them.
We know domestic abuse is not just about physical harm it is often the constant controlling, jealous and abusive behaviours that leaves women feeling trapped and believing it is their fault and that no one will believe them.”
Ms Barr continued "At the Family Safety Unit we will listen to you, believe your story and work with you to help you break free and live safely away from fear.
“We can support you with a wide range of options to reduce your risk. We work closely with Merseyside Police and support agencies that can offer specialist support depending on your needs.
“Take the first step and make the call."
For advice, help and support call the Family Safety Unit on 0151 606 5442.
In an emergency always call 999.