FACING the reality of being in an abusive relationship – and taking the brave step to seek help...

It’s a situation that an estimated one in five women in Scotland will face at some point in their lives.

Latest figures show that a growing number of women – and men – are approaching police in East Renfrewshire to report abusive partners or family members.

A worrying report delivered by the area’s top police officers revealed how the number of reported domestic abuse incidents has risen, while the number of arrests – and, therefore, convictions – has dropped.

Chief Inspector Angela Carty, area commander, has said this is down to growing confidence in the force, with more people having the courage to speak out against their oppressors.

However, in instances of domestic abuse, it is rarely an open and shut case.

Regardless of the number of convictions or arrests made, the lasting effects on the mental and physical wellbeing of victims can endure longer than any jail sentence.

This is where Women's Aid South Lanarkshire and East Renfrewshire (WASLER) comes in.

WASLER provides confidential support and services to women, children and young adults who have experienced domestic abuse.

Currently working from a small centre within Kelburn Street’s Voluntary Action headquarters, WASLER is a team of workers and volunteers who can offer safe refuge to people who are too terrified to return to their own homes.

The Barrhead News spoke to WASLER team manager Christine Miller to shed light on the subject.

Christine and her team are all too aware of how daunting it can be for someone to admit that they need help.

She said: “We provide a range of discreet, confidential services, including safe refuge accommodation, outreach support to women in the community and a specialised service to children and young people affected by domestic abuse.

“We appreciate that seeking help about domestic abuse is daunting and leaving an abusive partner is difficult.

“However, we offer a supportive listening ear, emotional and practical support and information on options and services available.”

Figures from police can often appear sterile – simple numbers on a page that do not reflect individual circumstances – and offer no insight on the people involved.

But Christine hopes to remind people that anyone, from any background, can become a victim.

She continued: “Domestic abuse can affect any woman regardless of age, ethnicity, religion, ability, income or lifestyle.

“One in five women in Scotland will experience domestic abuse at some point in her life.

“One in six children will be exposed to domestic abuse.”

WASLER operates an open door policy, which means anyone can walk into the centre between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday, without an appointment.

There is also a 24-hour helpline, with a staff member available for advice.

It can be reached on 0800 027 1234. You can also visit the website at www.wasl.org.uk for further information and support.