When we think of domestic abuse, we often think of scenes similar to the one in the image above. We think of physical violence being used to exert power in a relationship.

But SafeLives, a charity seeking to put an end to domestic abuse, is keen to highlight that, particularly in the case of young people, it is starting to take many forms and teenagers need to be educated fully on the topic.

Renfrewshire Council carried out a survey recently capturing the wellbeing of 85 per cent of nine to 16 year olds. But within that survey, additional questions were put to those aged 11 and over about emotional control in relationships. A quarter of them admitted they were worried about it.

SafeLives though believes those worries will not just be about control exerted through physical violence, but ways in which partners can apply power psychologically and through the use of technology.

Anna Smith is a Marac development officer for SafeLives in Scotland. Marac, standing for multi-agency risk assessment conference, is a regular local meeting to discuss how to help victims at high risk of murder or serious harm. They will talk about the victim, the perpetrator and share information confidentially, and then write an action plan for each victim. 

Anna told The Gazette the charity is keen to see kids educated more in what domestic abuse is, especially in an age where social media is changing everything.

“There are many ways people can control their partners, not just by using physical violence,” said Anna.

“Some people may think you can gain emotional or psychological control, then you don’t have to use violence, and that’s where technology can come in. 

“Social media and the concept of being constantly available has changed things. We’ve had incidents where girls have made a phone call to a male friend and that has ended up being the trigger for abuse, because that’s seen as disloyal by their partner.

“We’ve also seen girls who have been told they can’t have any male friends on Facebook. People might not see this as abuse but it is, and we always look for patterns of behaviour like this.

“Jealousy in relationships can be misread as love.”

Throughout 2017/18, children’s services at the council has undertaken engagement with young people in Renfrewshire to better understand the issues which lie behind the results of the survey.

Work is now underway to develop Youth Workers Guidance for gender-based violence, which will support those working with young people to respond appropriately to disclosures of gender-based violence or to concerns it may be happening.

Training is also being planned for key staff groups in education and residential services around identifying and supporting young people at risk.

Anna added: “Young people respond to services differently to adults.
“I know Renfrewshire has a gender-based violence strategy focusing on protection and prevention, and the council is increasing awareness about what domestic abuse is. 

“We must make sure young people know what a healthy relationship is.”
The council is expected to finalise a Gender-Based Violence Strategy this summer and is in the process of developing a ‘Statement of Intent for Domestic Abuse’ to ensure there is a process to manage and support employees experiencing it.

Council leader Iain Nicolson said: “In Renfrewshire we have made significant progress by working closely with Police Scotland and our partners, coordinating our approach to create an environment where victims feel able to come forward and this is reflected in the referrals to Renfrewshire’s MARAC.

“Preventing domestic abuse is a priority and we are putting in the measures to achieve this, training staff to help identify people at risk and respond effectively and extending specialist child protection domestic abuse training to staff working across social work, health and our police colleagues.

“It’s important we continue to raise awareness of the issues and that all our agencies speak to service users about their experiences.

 “This was also underlined in Renfrewshire’s pioneering wellbeing survey of 10,000 children and young people.

“The results informed the priorities of our children’s partnership plan for the next three years and work is underway to develop guidance for youth workers on gender based violence.”