When I applied for a seat on the Youth Council for the Global Elimination of Domestic Violence, I never really thought I’d get selected. By pure coincidence, I became aware of the council while browsing through Aspiring Solicitors, a brand new diversity initiative set up to help lawyers from non-traditional backgrounds enter the profession. It piqued a deep-seated interest in me. I’ve always abhorred violence in all its forms, and domestic violence has always particularly sickened me since it often takes place in an area – the home – which should be a place of peace; a shelter from the outside world, not a prison. And that tag – ‘domestic’ – means it’s often viewed as less important than “proper” violence, resulting in it being shunned and ignored by police, law and government throughout history.
I was, I must admit, hesitant to apply. Given the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I was being given – the chance to join the first youth council of a global initiative – I was sure competition would be fierce, fierce enough to beat me hands-down. Added to this, I’d had no experience of domestic violence, personal or professional. I was never subjected to abuse, whether physical, mental, financial or emotional, from any member of my family. My parents are two of the most loving people you could ever meet, and my brother always looked out for me and fought my corner when I was young (which he needed to, since autism made my childhood rather more difficult and dangerous than the average child’s).
And while I’ve always been aware of the damage domestic violence does, I’d never put this knowledge into practice before – because, bluntly, I wasn’t confident enough to do so. And the level of misinformation about domestic violence I’d become used to hearing from others – for example, that men could not be abused, that abuse had to be physical in nature, and that it only happened between so-called ‘undesirables’ – left me sceptical that anybody would actually listen to me.
But as it turned out, they did listen. I spelt out in my application exactly why I wanted to join, and I impressed enough to be invited to interview. From there, I was lucky enough to achieve the role of Research Sub-Delegate; I contribute to the Youth Council’s projects, such as our recent release of a toolkit, produced with the NUS, to be distributed to all UK universities. It aims to educate young people, particularly those at university, on what exactly domestic violence is, and how to combat it. Because unless people understand what we mean when we say ‘domestic violence’, they cannot begin to eliminate it. Since I’m in the process of applying to law firms, I also act as the council’s ‘Legal Ambassador’, letting firms know about the council and the work we’re doing, and inviting them to collaborate.
The work I’m doing – whether it’s researching speakers, proposing ideas for booklets, or informing businesses of our work – is incredibly interesting and insightful, and there’s a huge amount of variety. It’s also a council with hardly any feeling of hierarchy – though I’m a Sub-Delegate, I’m able to attend meetings just like an officer and really get involved in our decision-making process. But more than that, it’s for a fantastic cause. And it’s a cause that needs more and more voices – many, many more – if we’re going to fulfil our aim and totally eliminate domestic violence. You can help out in everyday, personal ways, like vowing to analyse your behaviour and stop yourself if you think something might be inappropriate or violent, or by resolving to speak out against others who abuse.
Or you can get involved the same way I did – by joining the Youth Council, and getting involved in the in-depth, meaningful work we do. We’re still on the lookout for new subdelegates and new opportunities - if you want to get involved contact [email protected] or the project lead Taiba Razwan ([email protected]).
It’d be a great opportunity for you, just as it’s been for me, to grasp the issues first-hand and make a real and meaningful contribution to the lives of some of the most vulnerable young people, both in the UK and overseas (news of us is spreading fast, with Youth Councils soon to be set up in Italy and Jamaica, among other countries). If you feel you’d be a valuable addition to our team, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. You might not have had personal experience of domestic violence, but neither have I – all you need to join is a desire to eliminate domestic violence and a determination to make a difference. Why not give it a go – who knows what could happen?