What does it mean to feel safe?

When did you last feel safe? Where were you safe? What feelings and emotions did you experience? 

For some people these questions are difficult to answer. The topic of personal safety is an important one for everyone to consider no matter what gender you might recognise as. Each person has the right to feel safe under The Equality Act 2010. 

The core groups protected under this act are: age, gender reassignment, being married or in a civil partnership, being pregnant or on maternity leave, disability, race including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation 

In this period of human history, we are struggling. The period from the current pandemic has seen a rise in reported numbers of abuse. The Office for National Statistics has recorded an assessment from the impact on domestic abuse. In particular, domestic abuse. 

In this post:

  • Forms of abuse
  • Personal safety precautions
  • Counselling as a safe, supportive space

Forms of abuse

It can be hard to understand all the different forms of abuse as there are many. Domestic violence, verbal, physical and emotional abuse get media attention regularly. But outside this are also issues with neglect in relationships. 

When you experience any of these behaviours towards yourself, or witness it happening to others, it can be incredibly damaging to your self. And others around you can be affected too.

The government classes domestic abuse as acts that are psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional. How do you protect yourself from this? What if you can’t get away from the abuse?

Personal safety precautions you can take

Personal safety is more than just thinking about yourself in your home. It means taking precautions wherever you are, both indoors and outside. 

Victim Support3 give some excellent advice on safety when out and about which you can translate into the indoor environment. For example, you could let family and friends know your whereabouts even if you’re at home as normal. By being open with others regularly you might feel safe enough to communicate any abusive incidents if they occur, enabling greater support.

If you feel threatened, in an emergency you can use 999. Otherwise you can contact Victim Support online or by calling 08081689111 And if you’re concerned for someone else, here’s what the Crimestoppers Trust say:

As a bystander, family member, colleague or friend you may feel helpless when you know someone is a victim of domestic abuse. Whilst ultimately the victim will need to make the decision to leave the relationship themselves, we encourage you to report your suspicions. We will then pass on information to the relevant police force who, with partners, may be able to intervene away from the abuser to check the potential victim is OK4.

The counselling space: a safe place, supporting you

In the counselling space safety, non-judgement and confidentiality are core, and I always abide by the BACP Ethical Framework. This says:

We will work with our clients on the basis of their informed consent and agreement. We recognise that exceptional situations may arise where we may need to prioritise the safety of the client or others over our clients wishes and confidentiality5.

In the counselling room there’s space for you to discuss relationships. It might be that you’ve not had the time and space to explore who you are. Maybe you’re longing to look at some emotions and feelings that others don’t understand or expect. Whatever it is, the therapeutic space is where you can share what it’s like to be you. I use the integrative counselling model to facilitate positive change.

Until then, I recommend this pranayama breathing exercise. It’s a short practice to help you shift from feeling on-edge to being more relaxed. But if this type of contemplative practice doesn’t feel right for you, do seek medical advice from the NHS instead.

So what does it mean to feel safe?

This is specific to you.

While all of us can take similar precautions to stay safe (and I urge you to do so), you are unique. And there may be situations where you also need to talk things through with a professional.

Remember, counselling is a safe space where you can share anything you need to work through your difficulties.

To find out more please sign up for your free 20 minute consultation. Then we can decide together whether counselling is right for you and if we’re a good fit. If not, I’ll refer you to another counsellor, a different support service, or you don’t have to go ahead with anything at all. Sweet Mental Health is here for you.

Bibliography 

  1. Government Equalities Office and Equality and Human Rights Commission (2015) ‘Equality Act 2020: guidance’ [Online]. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/equality-act-2010-guidance (Accessed: 28.11.21)
  2. Stripe, N (2020) ‘Domestic abuse during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, England and Wales: November 2020’ [Online]. Available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/articles/domesticabuseduringthecoronaviruscovid19pandemicenglandandwales/november2020 (Accessed: 28.11.21)
  3. Victim Support (2021) ‘Help and Support – Personal Safety’ [Online]. Available at: https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/help-and-support/keeping-safe/personal-safety/ (Accessed: 28.11.21) 
  4. Crimestoppers (2021) ‘Personal Safety – domestic abuse’ [Online]. Available: https://crimestoppers-uk.org/keeping-safe/personal-safety/domestic-abuse (Accessed: 28.11.21) 
  5. BACP (2018) ‘Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions’ Lutterworth: British Association for Counsellors and Psychotherapists. Available: https://www.bacp.co.uk/events-and-resources/ethics-and-standards/ethical-framework-for-the-counselling-professions/ (Accessed: 28.11.21)

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