“You are enough and you are not alone” - Kent charity working to break myths around domestic abuse

Members of the Rising Sun team, left to right: Chrisi Hatfield, Alex Clifford, Fran Ellis
-Credit: (Image: KentLive)

“The most frightening part is admitting ‘I need some help’, realising that this isn’t right and that enough is enough”. These are the brave words of a domestic abuse survivor hoping that her experiences can help and inspire others to get the help that they need.

Rising Sun is a Canterbury-based charity working to support and empower women and children around Kent who have suffered at the hands of domestic abuse. Proudly helping those between the ages of five and 105, Rising Sun offers a range of support networks and services, from assistance at the moment of crisis to recovery through counselling, mentoring, group sessions and work with other agencies.

Chrisi Hatfield has been a part of the Rising Sun team for around two and a half years and is the leader of the Project Liberty team, which specialises in support for young women aged 16 to 24. “Domestic violence and abuse is a spectrum, it’s starting from something as simple as using misogynistic language all the way through to violence and possibly murder,” she explained.

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“I think that people need to understand that the smaller things, like misogynistic attitudes and language, are part of the bigger problem, of a culture that accepts violence against women and children, and potentially perpetuates it. There’s also work to be done to increase the wider population’s understanding of what is healthy and unhealthy, what is acceptable and what’s not.”

Grace is a mother and a survivor who has received ongoing support from Rising Sun and has shared her experiences to shed light on the reality of domestic abuse. She began: “We were married for about seven years and together for 10.

“I first reached out to Rising Sun when I realised I couldn’t do it anymore, I couldn’t go on being made to feel like it was my fault. I was told by my ex ‘you’ll be nothing without me, you need me’ so when I left the relationship, I was determined that I didn’t need him and that I could do this myself.

The charity offers a range of support for Domestic Abuse survivors, including counselling, mentoring and group sessions
The charity works closely with domestic abuse survivors, offering a range of support including counselling, mentoring and group sessions -Credit:Lisa Bretherick

“With the courage and support that the Rising Sun has given me throughout, I have realised that it is possible. I’ve done several courses with them, I’ve been put forward for counselling which I have started, the children are now getting help as well.

“I go to their ‘café’ group, which is a community of women like myself who have already gone through or are still going through it where we can talk freely and support each other. They really have become like an extended family.

"Since working with them, it’s given me a purpose because if what I can say being a survivor can help just one more person get that courage to make that first move, whether it’s today or a year down the line, then it’s worth it. For anyone else going through it, you are not alone and you are enough.”

Similar sentiments were shared by fellow survivor Enola who sought help from Rising Sun during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the gruelling lockdowns. “It’s literally like a family,” Enola began. “There’s constant support, I even had check-ins through lockdown. It’s really reassuring to know that if you need any kind of support or any advice, they’re always there.

“Learning to not self-blame was one of my big steps because before I was thinking ‘have I done something wrong? Is this my fault?’ You’re brainwashed so much when you’re in that situation, so to actually be told and learn that you’re not to blame, it wasn’t your fault and that there are people and groups out there who have been or are going through the same thing and there is support, that really helped.

Rising Sun recently netted the prestigious GSK Impact Award, an accolade given to just 10 charities a year
Rising Sun recently netted the prestigious GSK Impact Award, an accolade given to just 10 charities a year -Credit:Lisa Bretherick

“To know that you can do it yourself when before you’re being told ‘you can’t do this, you can’t do that, you’re nothing without me.’ Knowing that I’ve been able to come out on top, it’s such a confidence boost.” In recognition of their hard work, Rising Sun recently landed the coveted GSK Impact Award, an accolade given to just 10 charities a year for their contributions to the UK’s health and wellbeing.

Fran Ellis, Chief Executive at Rising Sun, reflected on the win, saying: “It was wonderful to be recognised for our work and a real morale boost to have that award granted to us. The funding has really helped us to think about what we can do to further that work in prevention and recovery.

“It’s helped to raise our profile as well so we’re hoping that will help us reach more survivors as time goes on.” She went on to discuss the current perception of domestic abuse and the issues that still need addressing.

“The conversation around domestic abuse is definitely moving in the right direction," Fran said. "COVID and the Domestic Abuse Act both helped raise awareness around what survivors are going through. More needs to be done to raise awareness around the challenges that women and survivors are facing in domestic abuse and how difficult it is to navigate those and how it impacts every area of their life.

“It’s important to challenge the myths around domestic abuse and victim blaming language so that people recognise that it’s not okay. Women who are experiencing domestic abuse need to feel empowered to seek help.”

Rising Sun prides itself on offering support for survivors of domestic abuse aged five to 105, and has done much to raise awareness on the issue while challenging the myths and misconceptions that surround the subject.
Rising Sun prides itself on offering support for survivors of domestic abuse aged five to 105, and has done much to raise awareness on the issue while challenging the myths and misconceptions that surround the subject. -Credit:Lisa Bretherick

Fran finished by offering advice to anyone who is currently experiencing domestic abuse and is unsure how to get help. She said: “Speak to a trusted professional or a trusted friend about what you’re going through. In a way that’s safe to do so, if they can reach out to a domestic abuse service that’s great, if not then perhaps through their GP, social worker or school to talk about what they’re experiencing.”

Chrisi added: “There’s also the importance of people being an active bystander, and when it’s safe to do so, challenge those misogynistic comments and stand against the flow as it were. We know that one of the tactics that is used by perpetrators is to isolate a person. So for anyone out there who feels like they are on their own, that no one would believe or understand them, you are not alone. There are lots of people who want to support you.”

That National Domestic Abuse Helpline operates 24 hours a day and can be reached on 0808 2000 247. You can learn more about the work and support on offer from Rising Sun here.

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