What made you want to work supporting victims of DA?  

It’s a strange one for me because I don’t do the frontline support for victims of domestic abuse. There are times when it’s easy to feel a little bit disconnected with the stuff at the front end, particularly when I’m doing more strategic stuff and business continuity plans.  

I’m not sure that I ever had a specific desire to work with victims of domestic abuse. I’ve always known that I’ve needed to work in a profession that is about helping people, in whatever form that is. I’ve always had a really strong burning in me about social injustice, inequalities and deprivations – lots of my drive comes around that feeling of needing to be in a job where I feel like I make a difference.   

So, it hasn’t always been a desire around domestic abuse, but actually lots of things that sit around the outside of the kind of people who experience domestic abuse is where my drivers come from. That inequality and wanting to work for an organisation, however directly or indirectly, that make a difference is really where I come from.  

 

Have you always wanted to do this and if not, what did you want to do when you were growing up?  

I remember being at school and they done lots of career stuff and I remember there was a thing called ‘JIGCAL’ (no idea what it stands for) – you filled out this little form which had a series of questions and you had to colour in little boxes either 1-5 or A-E. It was then fed it into a computer and it would take all your answers and suggest what they thought you would be most suited to.  

What it came out with is that I should either be a teacher or social worker – I was really surprised and I remember reading it at the time and thinking “that’s nothing like me” (I was only 15/16 at the time). But actually, that whole social work side of things, that driver to work with people who were disadvantaged and who had inequalities in their life – it’s about being a voice for people who don’t have their own voice. It has been a real strand that has come through all my working life, it’s funny isn’t it how these things work out?  

It does feel a bit full circle because whilst it’s not something that I consciously felt like I wanted to get into particularly I have a real driver around gender equality – I always have done even before I thought about domestic abuse.  

When I’ve been in a mixed work places it was always me speaking up about use of language about equal opportunities, pay, feminism and supporting women out in the community who didn’t have the same voice as other people. There has been strands of it all the way through, I just haven’t consciously thought about domestic abuse.  

The funny thing is now that I am here, probably like lots of people, it feels like coming home. I can’t imagine doing anything else and the more you get to know and the more you see what we do the more it just makes you want to be part of it.  

It isn’t the sort of job that you can do as a job, it can’t be because it’s too difficult. I see from the number of amazing women that work for us and when I hear about what they talk about, the cases of who they support and the things they are having to fight for on behalf of their client. They have to give so much of themselves that you couldn’t do that on a daily basis if you didn’t dig way deeper than it just being about the salary that you take home. It has to come from that passion inside you that taps into something that is you and not just your job. 

 

What personal qualities do you think you need to do this job?  

From my perspective to do the job that I do I think you need to be a little bit political, you have to think really carefully about how you say things so that you show the organisation in the best light and don’t alienate other organisations in the same area that are working alongside you.  

I think the ability to see things from others perspective as well, the success that I’ve found recently is absolutely knowing what we need, what we do and how we contribute and then almost trying to take a step outside of that to see it from the other person’s perspective. Even when we are talking to our commissioners, I know what we do is absolutely brilliant and when they are asking a question I always try to step back and see it from their side.  

By political I don’t mean for it to sound contrived, it’s not political in terms of local politicians and MP’s. It comes down to managing relationships, a lot of what I do is managing relationships and keeping those lines of communication open and understanding things from other perspectives.  

But position ourselves in a way that people don’t feel intimidated by us and want to support us and see how we work in partnership because actually what we do is solve their problem – whether it be by picking up somebody they are worried about in a safeguarding perspective or whether we just purely save them money because we take those most vulnerable people and we stop the touch points into other organisations. It's all about relationships and people management. That’s the skills I think for my job.  

What I see in terms of our organisation and what you need to do the job of the frontline practitioners is bravery, tenacity and with the biggest heart possible. I think that empathy and compassion is absolutely critical – when I see the stories and the journeys of the people that our staff work with, it is just unbelievable what people hear.  

That ability to have empathy and compassion but also a real strength within yourself because if you deal with that all day every day there’s a real danger that it can affect you. So, I think you have to be really strong and have boundaries but be fierce and passionate as well. When you are faced with that injustice there are times when dealing with other organisations or statutory bodies can be difficult and you need to fight for that person. They have to be brave because you have to work alongside these women and brave enough to know you can cope with what they tell you.  

But also brave in that there is always a perpetrator associated with the victim that you are supporting and it takes a bravery to step into that relationship and walk alongside that client when they’ve got somebody who is potentially that dangerous around them as well.  

 

Who is your role model?  

I don’t think I have one person, I’ve had so many different role models throughout my life and they’ve all brought different things to me.  

Through life there has been other people who you would admire for not only who they are but what they do to you as a person. There’re all sorts of people in the public eye that you look at and think “wow, you’re magnificent, you are so inspiring” people like Michelle Obama and it just makes you think about how she is and how she holds herself from the messages that she gives with such a public voice. 

Through to the women who are in our field who are so knowledgeable and speak so passionately. They share so much knowledge out there and are so willing to stand up and be counted, influence and change so they are real role models to me.  

The staff in our organisation, the way that they go about their job, the passion that they have and their ability to affect change for their clients also makes them role models.  

 

What is the most inspiring thing you have seen with someone you have been supporting?  

I don’t support people directly, but I do read lots of case studies and I have seen lots of women come in and out of refuge. I don’t think there is any one person that necessarily I have been inspired by, but generally the sense of the women that have been in refuge that I have physically got to know and seen – it’s just that strength that they have about them.  

Particularly going into refuge, I’ve seen so many women and their children arrive with barely more than they stand up in. That ability to pick themselves up, rebuild and put their lives back together again is amazing. They’re strength is incredible and their bravery to just pick it up again and re-start their life, and their hope for the future because some of the stories of what they have been through and lost is so devastating and the energy that it must take to rebuild your relationship with your children and then start again in a new home and location.  

That determination and bravery that we see so many times is inspiring and you have to think it’s all relevant because it does make me think sometimes I’m moaning about something that I’ve got to deal with – there’s a moment where I think “have a word with yourself, seriously have a word – don’t moan about this, of course you can do this”. We have an expectation with the women that we work with to pick it up and rebuild it because that’s how they are going to move on.  

If we have that expectation that they have enough within them to pick themselves up and to move on and recover than whatever I’m moaning about is so small in comparison.  

 

What would you say to your best friend if they were experiencing DA?  

If I thought one of my best friends was experiencing domestic abuse, the first thing would say is “I believe you” because the whole impact on somebody in terms of the messaging that they might not be believed, that they might feel stupid or embarrassed. I would give them a massive cuddle and I would “I’m here for you and I believe you”.  

I would encourage them to contact Next Chapter because I’m not the best person, I couldn’t support somebody because I don’t know enough about it. But I do know that we have an organisation full of amazing people who can help so I would encourage them to make that contact.   

I would also suggest having a look on our website to find out some more information. For a lot of victims there’s that whole piece about self-denial so I would encourage them to do a little bit of exploration and testing how does it feel. Regardless of what you’re told or what you believe – how does it feel to you, does your relationship feel right?  

And actually, if it doesn’t feel right then generally something isn’t right. I’d suggest having a read around and a look to seek a bit of validation for how they are feeling from information. I would then encourage them to share and seek some support. I would tell them the different things Next Chapter can do to support.