For Tristan Dawson-Knight, the opportunity to volunteer in Togo with International Citizen Service seemed too good to be true. But it was the project Y Care International helped him to begin in Liverpool when he returned that really fired his imagination.
Action on domestic violence against men
Like his fellow volunteers, Tristan was asked to complete an action to raise awareness of – and challenge – a social problem in his own community after volunteering in Senegal. He decided to champion a cause which is close to his heart, visiting schools, colleges and universities to raise awareness of domestic violence against men.
The response to Tristan’s work has been so positive that he now hopes to take his message further. And so he was excited when ITV agreed to work with him to create an advert and get more people talking about the issue.
The project has a particular significance for Tristan: “As soon as I heard of Action at Home, I knew I wanted it to be doing this project.
“I class myself as a survivor of domestic violence from my ex wife. When I was going through that, there was no support. I was turned down from local authorities and I couldn’t get any help and I almost died as a result of that.”
Violence against women in the home is dramatically under reported. Tristan believes that this is also the case for domestic violence against men meaning many people are simply unaware that this issue even exists. He says, “There was no support available for me. It took me a while to start seeking help and when I said I needed help, I was just turned down.”
“I do feel nervous about going on TV and talking about my own personal experiences, but feel that if I can use my experiences to help others then that’s got to be worth it.”
Taking back control
Despite the impact domestic violence has had on his own life, Tristan feels he needed a trigger to speak up and challenge it.
“I could have done this project at any point in my life but I feel that Action at Home made me do it now rather than waiting. Without Action at Home, I don’t feel I would have done it,” says Tristan.
Tristan is optimistic about the impact his project will have, “I knew there needed to be a social change to make people realise that this does happen,” he says. “Once you start raising the awareness that it does happen, you can make social change.”
“I’m overwhelmed. It’s become bigger than I imagined. It’s definitely shocked me a little bit!