What made you want to work supporting victims of DA?  

I didn’t actually intend to want to do that if I’m honest. I think I’ve always wanted to work in an environment that helps disadvantaged people or people that have suffered in some way. 

I first started as a trustee so I didn’t know much about domestic abuse if I’m honest. It sucked me in because when you start to find out the information and understand more about victims – it just makes you want to make a difference and be able to help them in some small way.  

I was already volunteering with Open Road, so working with addicts and ex-offenders. When I knew we was looking at the complex needs refuge as well it was just a perfect fit for me. I was really keen to become a trustee and once I got in there I never left.  

 

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

My job is slightly different to the practitioners, so taking it from my own job I think you need to be tough, brave and able to challenge people/things. Also sticking with what is right and not what is the easiest thing or what everybody else thinks you should do. 

I often feel like we’re fighting for are clients all the time and challenging the norms I suppose. I think you have to be non-judgmental; you’ve got to be compassionate, and you have to like people. You’ve got to really like the people and want to understand them and see beyond the label and see that person. When you see that person, you’ve got to really want to help them do something better to help make a change.  

That as well as all the practical things that you need, but for me it is that passion and being a bit of a rebel. Just keep banging at the door even when you know you’re being a right pain for people – just not caring about that because you know you’re doing the right thing and you’re sticking with it.  

Also, in my role you’ve got to get other people on board and to see it from our eyes and our clients' eyes. You can’t go in there wilding a big axe and shouting at everybody and getting on their nerves. You’ve got to win them over and I think I’m quite good at persuasion. You hear of an issue and I won't start shouting about it, you have to be quite balanced and get all your facts and then make a decision based on everything you know rather than your emotion and your gut.  

That can sometimes lead you down a path and you can lose your creditability – you have to back things up and you’ve got to be able to speak from a position of knowledge. I've learnt over the years to do that, because I probably didn’t do that at the start.  

 

Who is your role model?  

I think from a work perspective, the consultant psychiatrist that I worked for in the past – he and she (there were two different ones), grabbed me right from the beginning with their compassion. They were dealing with really high risk difficult mental health clients and those patients were treated amazingly well by them.  

They fought for them, because they were unable to fight for themselves for whatever reason. They taught me a lot about actually getting to know the person, it’s not the illness - don’t be blind-sided by the thing they present with (like the condition, illness, addiction or behaviour) get to know the person behind all that before you make any judgements. That taught me a lot which has seen me through.  

And actually, some of our clients, they never fail to sometimes hit you between the eyes with their ability to perhaps forgive and despite all the really awful things that might have happened to them, how they can still have a really kind soul. You wouldn’t blame them for being a bit bitter and angry, but a lot of them are able to get past that.  

I often think if they can do it, I can. The clients help me every day keep things in perspective. When you hear people on the TV moaning that they can’t got out at the moment socialising because of covid – I think you want to see some of the people I work with, they have something to moan about! They don’t to be fair, but it does help you keep in perspective of life and I think they are role models for us in different ways.  

 

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

 

*Name changed  

For me it’s probably Danielle* because she has had so much trauma in her life and such hideous horrible things have happened to her and yet she still has in her that little bit of fun and cheekiness. She is a rebel, but her first thought is always other people – to be kind and help someone else, she would put any of that before anything for herself.  

She amazes me every day because she would do right to grow up not trusting anybody and hating everyone. If someone has something lovely or it looks beautiful, I would’ve understood if she felt a bit narked about that, but she just doesn’t. She’s got so much kindness in her and just a genuine loveliness about her that just amazes me. She has also taught me the most about understanding from someone else’s perspective and how it can feel.  

Her ability when it all goes wrong just to pick herself up and try again and keep going, she’s come close to not quite a lot, but she brings it out from her boots somewhere and manages to sort herself out.  

Other residents that have been in refuge and really struggled but managed to survive. They are so inspiring because that ability to just survive and keep going when it's all going wrong around them. Again, it’s about perspective because when we are having a bad day and thinking “this is going wrong” - you just think that it’s nothing compared to what someone who is living out on the streets or not knowing where their next meal is going to come from, and they function reasonably well – I couldn’t!  

They have a survival instinct in them which I think people should really celebrate and yet those people feel like they’re rubbish because they can’t see that actually they are amazing.  

 

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

You can change it. It doesn’t have to be this way and if you want to change it you can. You can be supported, there are services out there that can help and walk alongside you all the way.  

That’s the key thing, for victims to really believe that there is an alternative – because that’s a barrier. They feel trapped and like they haven't got a voice, and I understand why that is, but to explain to them they absolutely do and they’re not alone. We understand that they can’t do it on their own but actually we can help (us and other services out there).  

I would give them a few examples of people who have been in their situation and give them practical examples of where those things have changed and that it can be okay.  

Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, one day at a time. Don’t try and plan the end result, break it down into small steps so what needs to happen and gradually make your way through it so that they are in control. They can make the change because it's not us that does it, it’s them.