We are two of the newest members of the community outreach team - Domestic Abuse Practitioners (DAP’s), both of us coming from different backgrounds and experiences so we thought to write a blog on our thoughts and feelings as we came into the world of supporting survivors of domestic abuse.

Hello, my name is Lesley, I am a Domestic Abuse Practitioner with The Next Chapter. I have worked with children and families for over twenty years supporting them through times of crisis in their lives.

Working for The Next Chapter has opened my eyes to the many different forms of this crime. Yes, it is a crime. ‘Domestic abuse is physical, psychological, emotional, sexual or financial abuse that takes place within an intimate or family-type relationship and forms a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour’.

It is a criminal offence to treat another human being in this way.

Too often we hear “but I wasn’t hit, just pushed.” Or “It was my fault because I knew he was in a bad mood.” One thing that we here at The Next Chapter make clear.  Any of the above is abuse and most importantly it isn’t your fault.  You did nothing wrong.  How many times do you hear yourself say “I’m sorry”?

As you saw in Zara’s blog the abuser comes in all guises. Age, creed, social standing none of these apply to an abuser or their victim.

If you are reading this, or thinking about getting help, then you, could well be on your way to a life without abuse. Here at The Next Chapter you will find all the support and guidance you need, with an amazing team who are dedicated and work tirelessly to help victims of domestic abuse live the life we all have the right to live. Free from abuse.

I’m Tianna and I have been part of the amazing Next Chapter team for nearly two months now, previously working in a foyer for young homeless parents it meant that I had some experience with supporting survivors of domestic abuse but I had a lot to learn.

When I was job searching, this job caught my eye for many reasons; firstly, domestic abuse is something that will always be close to my heart, I loved how dedicated the company is to their clients and when reading through the website and looking at people’s stories I knew it was something I wanted to be involved with.  I went to the interview, it was a bad hair day (didn’t realise how useful plaits were until that day to hide frizz) and before I sat down I spilled coffee all down myself, good start hey.  Within seconds I was made to feel comfortable and as I walked out, I had a brilliant feeling about this job and it cemented the fact that I knew this is what I wanted to do.

I was filled with nerves on my first day, wanting to make sure that I could support my clients with the best advice and support.  Straight away I could see how domestic abuse presented itself in many different ways, there was no clear black and white situation and as Lesley mentioned above, unfortunately it was very easy for the victims to believe it was their fault.

Before starting the job, I had the idea that my cases would be very similar to each other, and that the majority of my job would be talking about what my clients had been through.  I look back now, after lots of learning from information, advice, and guidance and lots of time spent reading then re-reading different websites so that I knew I was confident in the information, and I can see how every case is different...

There are different tell-tale signs and triggers for the perpetrator, for example, one client may know that things are going to escalate by the way the perpetrator grinds their teeth whereas others may know weeks in advance because they are going to the pub to watch their team play football.  The role also involves a lot of building up confidence, being an ear to listen, and a friendly voice.

As much as we are here for emotional support, speaking about past experiences and understanding that it was abuse, we as a charity are also focused on that next chapter, supporting our clients to make those positive steps, however big or small to lead the happier life.  That is the main thing that made me love my job,  knowing how deserving the survivors are to feel confident and happy again, understanding that they never deserve to be treated with anything but respect and kindness.  I felt so lucky to be part of that journey and still feel lucky.  I am really looking forward to my journey and being able to learn more as everyday I am inspired by the women I work with and the survivors by their positivity for the future.

Both of us have learnt so much in such a short amount of time, we are delighted to be part of the team.  We can already see that the journey is tough, and a room will seem empty at the start without your perpetrator around but it’s possible to find comfort in those lonely days.  Just like you have potential to feel happy on the sad days and most of all, in time, giving yourself the strength to grow its going to allow you to feel worthy and empowered in everyday life, even if you don’t feel like you can remember what that feels like today. We are here, we are ready and your next chapter awaits...