Thursday, 23 April 2009

A victim's world

Sitting on the train on a return journey to University recently, I found myself thrust into the vicinity of domestic abuse.
Wishing I had sat in the quiet zone, my late-night journey became corrupt by a male, whose constant abuse towards his girlfriend was as shocking as it was anti-social. Threats, vile language, demeaning comments and an overwhelming sense of a controlling attitude caused me increasing concern and aggravating annoyance.

Upon witnessing this sort of behaviour first-hand, it led me to think about the growing nationwide trend that is domestic violence. Many may believe that domestic violence comes only in the form of physical abuse, but verbal threats warped with condescending comments fall under the category as much as any form of actual bodily harm.
Alarming as it is, domestic violence is a fact of life in many households in Britain. The key to help is to speak out.

One in four women are affected by domestic violence and two women per week are killed at the hands of a partner or ex-partner. These figures are extreme and the realisation of them immediately sends minds into over-drive about the amount of women known to you and the number of which could experience domestic abuse, relative to these figures being true.

The police receive one call per minute from a victim of domestic violence, but the statistic that less than half of cases are not reported through fear of the consequence still stands. The vast majority of victims are women and children. One victim is likely to experience repeated assaults at the hands of their abuser. One of the main resonating reasons for domestic violence is that the abuser thrives for control.

The motive of male domination is a large part of why domestic violence may occur. As a consequence of inequalities, many males feel that they have the right to instigate the actions of a woman by controlling what the woman does, where she goes, who she socialises with and what she wears. However small the aspect of control may seem, it is control nonetheless and it must be treated as unacceptable. Criticism of appearance and weight are the smaller things that, emotionally, hurt the most. Belief in oneself is key.

Sexual jealousy and possessiveness are the most common factors relating to serious domestic problems. A male might feel that a woman cannot wear certain clothes or go to certain places at the risk of attracting other males’ attention. This often resides back to the abuser’s own insecurities rather than anything else. On the most part, the male seeks to gain authority. Even when women officially did not have the same rights as men, men never had the right to exploit their partners. One factor of society that has never altered.

With disregard to the standard stereotypical definition of domestic abuse, such action can be in many forms. The violence can be psychological, physical, sexual or emotional. It can include 'honour-based violence', female genital mutilation, and forced marriage. It spans the range of cultures and is not isolated to one type of person or one area of the world. However, women under the age of thirty are considered to be at greater risk than those older. Not surprisingly, domestic violence is a mass problem and one that is often kept quiet.

Bullying is usually surveyed as something which happens in the playground, but physical, verbal and emotional abuse behind the closed doors of the home is just as frequent. There are many organisations which a woman can turn to for help. The first step is admission to what is happening being wrong. Admittedly, the most challenging part of getting help is the first step to escape. The empowerment from the moment aid is sought should ease the remainder of the journey back to true self-discovery.

For the males who entangle themselves in the world of a domestic abuser, there is often no change. The moment an action of domestic violence occurs, the male is tarred with this brush and a true revelation is rarely a feasible preference.

Although you should rarely judge a book by its cover, whoever said that first impressions count, created a worthwhile philosophy for everyone to take note of. My short-lived experience of domestic abuse on the train is nothing compared to the experiences of thousands of women who suffer at the hands of their partner. A snippet into the life of a victim was enough for me, not to mention more than enough for the young girl who reluctantly became a victim of domestic violence.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Notes on the medical profession.

I am a healthy person. Someone who rarely gets ill. A person who rarely gets injured. So it came as a surprise to find myself in A&E twice in the past four months. That's two times more than in as many years. Why you ask?

The injuries weren't anything major. Small injuries. Only one of which was mine. The other belonged to a friend.

Since then I have come to the conclusion that accident and emergency is not a very nice place. I'm not a person who necessarily hates hospitals. Before I wanted to be a journalist, my dream career was to by an obstetrician: a doctor who looks after babies. Big difference to a writer, I know. But, apart from the obvious reasons why a person might not like the hospital, I have found my own.

The A&E doctors that I have recently experienced leave much to be desired where bedside manner is concerned.
Yes, I am a young woman and a student, but by no means am I an idiot.

Student. Along with many stereotypes to this term, came the one from a lovely nurse who I had the pleasure of meeting on my trip to the hospital. "you've got intelligence, but no common sense" is what she told me. Charmed, I'm sure.
Not the kind of treatment I was personally obliged to experience by any means. A bit of respect please. Surely it comes in the job description. Treat people the way you wish to be treated, as they say.

My second excursion to the emergency department of the NHS facility wasn't much better. Again, young woman, student, must mean that any injury or ailment is due to excessive alcohol consumption. An ideology so immersed in contrived stereotypical views that I would be surprised if it ever changed.

The treatment was standard, medically, probably good practise, but the attitudes of the staff was something else: rude.

I am not tarring all NHS staff with this view. I am faithful that there are some fantastic medical staff out there, ones which have the bedside manner to coincide with their impressive skills in their remedial practises.
The National Health Service is a great facility in Britain. Health care at no extra cost. Something which many countries should aspire to.

Complaints may be made, myself included, but when it comes down to it I approve greatly of the service. Hopefully my approval will span to the conduct of the staff in future.
NHS associates take note.

Spring/Summer: It's showtime.

As an aspiring writer, it has come to my attention that this whole blogging thing is something that I actually really enjoy doing, something that I am proud of and something that I wish to continue for a while. So far, my posts have been few and far between and the topics have been as varied as a box of Nestle Quality Street. This is going to change. Well the topics may remain spur of the moment rants or subjects of discussion, but I am pledging to make my posts more regular.
Not only does it give me something enjoyable to do, but I feel that it also helps to mould my writing skills into something which is hopefully ever-improving.

A Spring/Summer resolution if you like.

Now that lent is over, chocolate is again my friend (to much enjoyment) so my chocolatey-filled days can have some creative company in the form of Blogspot. This is my pledge and I will do my best to keep it so. My relatively new-found entrance to the blogespere awaits my complete arrival. Say hello, I am in for the long haul.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Better than new shoes? I'll get back to you...

Life isn't measured by how many breaths you take, but by how many times life takes your breath away, according to yet another item of clothing which has recently found its way into my wardrobe anyway.

It may be a cliche, but this phrase has had an imminent lasting effect on me over the past week. This may, in fact, have something to do with throwing myself out of a plane last weekend suspended only by a parachute, which I endlessly prayed would open itself successfully.
It might sound bizarre, as I rarely imagined myself succumbing to this sort of activity, but I have learned recently that there is more to a person than meets the eye.

If you'd have asked me a couple of months ago what I would have been doing on the 4 and 5 of April, the answer would most probably not have been "Oh, you know, I thought I'd clamber into a plane and at 3,500 feet jump out of it... just for laughs".
Having done exactly that, it still has not really registered what the hell I did and why I came to do it. Crazy, I know. My new T-shirt is only one of the memoirs remaining from the event.

After a day's worth of training at The Black Knight's Parachute Centre near Lancaster, I was relatively familiar with how to get into the plane, which on first impressions was a pretty sight of green and baby pink stripes, how to jump out of the plane, how to land and most importantly: how to open my reserve parachute, if my main one failed to do the job (gasp!).
I think it is fair to say that at this point, my confidence levels were not high. Truthfully, I was frequently asking myself why I, a girl with a fetish for shoes and all things "girly", was becoming a member of extreme and hazardous sports.

However, as the day went on I psyched myself up as much as possible ready to do my first solo skydive. My first skydive at all.
Weather permitting, my first day at the parachute centre ended with disappointment as the heavy winds meant it wasn't safe to jump. Tired and still nervous, I waited rather patiently till the following day when I would finally do the crazy deed. The weather was much better second time round you'll be pleased to know.

Over the tannoy came my name and I was escorted off to a short refresher training brief to make completely sure that I was ready to take the plunge. My sense of embarrassment and indeed dignity had been lost the previous day after hanging from a not-so-flattering harness and shouting at the top of my voice the safety drills. Modesty lost, I was ready for the off.

Kitted out in a jumpsuit that was more practical than Prada, a parachute that I am sure will have done my back more damage than good, a fetching red helmet and a comfort blanket that came in the form of a radio, which hopefully would have an instructor on the other end, aiding me in directing my parachute, I was as ready as I would ever be.

I was nominated second to jump. The plane took off and within minutes (which seemed more like seconds) it was at its destined height. The door slid open and all I could see was fields, fields and more fields. Buildings were mere specks and the only people I could see were those in the plane with me. The air suction was phenomenal and worryingly I could hardly hear a thing.
It was my turn. I sat on the edge, terrified, swung my feet out of the plane and waited for my command to go.

"GO!". And there I went. I pushed myself off saying goodbye to sanity and fell at more than one hundred miles an hour. Seconds later I looked up and my parachute was beginning to open. I thanked the Gods, took many deep breaths and enjoyed the ride.

My landing was less than graceful, but at this point the fact that I had landed in the designated landing zone and wasn't suspended up a tree was a mere luxury. I had done it. Done one of the most unnatural things known to man and really felt what it was like to live on the edge - no pun intended.

It has now been a few days since I done the unthinkable and I have already started planning my next descent. Amazing isn't the word and at the risk of again sounding too cliche, I will refrain from using it.

I would say I have definitely got the skydiving bug, even possibly found myself a new hobby. I am sure I could spare a few pennies on skydiving instead of a new pair of shoes here and there. Well, maybe not too many, a girl's got to get her priorities straight after all...

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Democracy: A Student's Perspective

Walking through the Students Union in recent weeks is a far cry from the scene that usually meets the eye. Banners, posters, flyers and a hefty load of determined campaigners have been endlessly waiting to promote their electorate messages to the masses of un-be known student passer-bys.

Now that the elections are over, the final votes have been cast and the winners claim their new titles within the SU, the question that is on many students’ lips (journalists and others alike) is; have the elections really been a success?
The short walk through the SU is only the tip of the elections iceberg, if you like. Many don’t really understand what the candidates do on a day-to-day basis and what the individual campaigns have really meant to the candidates and their campaign teams as well as the mass of attractive voters that is the student body.

This year’s elections were voted for online. The second year using this method proved to be a success as many people took time out of their day to vote. Results showed that this new-age voting system reached out to many people, with the Education Officer post being the only one that had to be taken on to a second stage in order to define a winner.
The Chief Executive of the SU showed his enthusiasm for the still relatively new voting system. He said: “If you’re going to have a properly conducted election that is fair, which enables potentially 30,000 people to access it, you can’t do that for nothing”.

Many students did, in fact, use their vote, including Matt Richardson, 20, a second year Product Design student. Although he didn’t vote till late on in the process he still managed to ensure his voting voice was heard. He said: “I think it is extremely important to hold the elections, we live in a society where every person has the right to vote and we need to make sure that every person can voice their opinion and make themselves heard”.

First year student in Public Relations, Antonia Murray, 19, also got involved in the elections by casting her vote to good use. She experienced much of the campaigning first hand whilst around campus. She said: “I wanted to get involved and I wanted to hear what everyone had to say”.
“If everyone voted it would be fairer, people who don’t vote might complain [about the outcome]. I think everyone should be made to vote so that it’s fair” she added.
It seems that the responses from those who did vote, are mostly positive. However, for those who did not vote, the importance of the elections did not fall to the way side, the priorities of university life were simply elsewhere. Kirsty Hunter was one student who didn’t vote. She explained that due to a large workload at this time of year, there is not much time for much else. However she expressed that the elections are an important part of life at the University of Central Lancashire.

The democratic structure within the universit’sy elections was easily seen both in the Students’ Union and all around campus. The idea that every student matters and every vote counts encouraged many to have their say in the future of the SU. There is no doubt that the elections were a great success, socially and politically.
Student Union Chief Executive’s enthusiasm for the event shined through as he said: “People will learn a lot from it and develop skills from it and getting involved can be a life changing experience for people”.
“It’s fantastic”.