Just in time to celebrate our work!

A week before the Corona virus starting keeping us all apart, we brought almost a hundred women and girls together!  Each year we have a big celebration of our work, the women and girls who attend all of our projects come along, we invite funders and other professionals that we work alongside from across the city.  It’s always an emotional, inspirational and fun event, and this year was no different.

                                       

 

The event took place at the Leeds City Museum who were kind enough to host us.  There was a big display of bunting that the women from each of our groups had been working on in their sessions.  We started off hearing from Rachel our Chief Exec with a bit of an overview of our year.  She told everyone about the projects that were coming to an end, but also about exciting new pieces of work like Your Space, our partnership project with Touchstone and Holbeck Together.  We than had a fantastic performance from incredible Leeds poet Khadijah Ibrahim who inspired and entertained us all.

 

Next Lucy introduced the video Breathing Space have made which shows women from the group giving tips to professionals on how to support people who have experienced trauma, which included being aware of triggers, not judging and thinking about eye contact.  One of the things people always tell us they love about our celebrations is hearing Rainbow Hearts sing, this was next up and as usual, it was incredible.  During the performance Sally read out messages from some of the women about what coming to Rainbow Hearts has meant to them.

 

                                      

 

 

Sarah followed this with an introduction to the animations that some girls and young women from The Key have worked on with Children & Families Services.  The young women were asked what it was like growing up as a girl in Leeds and they talked about whatever was important to them.  We watched the animations on healthy relationships, mental health and abuse.

 

 

Finally, and most importantly, we heard from women and girls from across our projects about their stories and what coming to their group has meant to them.  There are always some tears around the room during this part of our celebration, but a lot of uplifting messages too, and it often means a lot to the women and girls to have their voices heard.

“Coming to these groups helped me come to terms with what had happened in my past wasn’t my fault. Being around women who were like me helped build my confidence and self-esteem.”

“My mental health has improved a lot…I feel a lot safer and a lot less lonely. I don’t make friends at my group, I make family and it just keeps growing.”

“Today I stand alone this strong because I am no longer a victim, but a survivor. I survived what I went through to live & protect my children, that along takes strength & courage like no other. I’m at the stage in my journey where I realise I will never fully recover from what I went through, because sustained trauma affects every aspect of a person’s life, whether it be living with the aftermath with Social Care, or battling through depression & suicidal thoughts. But I can and I will heal because of the determination I have in me to show my children it’s never ok to be alone and fighting silent battles.”

“Group has made my confidence grow and improved my mental health. I have overcome most of my fears and I can now see a change in myself, so thank you for helping me be a better persona & believe in myself when no-one else did.”

“I came into this project feeling desperate for somebody to speak to & listen to me, not just judge me for being a ‘stroppy teenager’. (Workers) made me the woman I am today and I am grateful for that, so thank you.”

 

                                        

 

At this point, we all needed a little break, so it was time for lunch and for the relaxing part of the day to begin!  We had a couple of henna designers, a fantastic photo booth from Getaway Girls that was VERY popular and creative types could have a go at making memory boxes with The Key’s Moving on Group and paint a section of a community canvas with Amareen from Your Space.  We were so very thankful to the staff and students from Leeds City College’s hair and beauty department, who offered hand massages, braiding and ‘hair up’ styling for anyone who fancied a bit of pampering.  Finally, after having some gorgeous cake baked by our very own Bridget, it was time to head home.

The celebration is always a highlight of our year – looking around the room at such incredible women and girls, seeing them face their fears and tell their stories, then being able to just spend some time enjoying themselves together.  Massive thanks to everyone who made the event happen, particularly Ranstad for the crèche, Leeds City Museum for the venue and Leeds City College for the pampering.  Lastly, as always thanks to the girls and women from our projects who came along, opened up and showed what Women’s Health Matters is all about – women supporting women.  Same time next year?

                                     

More endings – goodbye to Breathing Space

Breathing Space Project has been providing domestic abuse support for women in Leeds for the last two and a half years, ending on 31st March 2020.  The Department of Digital, Culture, Sport and Media funded the project through the Tampon Tax Fund.  We have been working towards the project ending but the Corona Virus has disrupted the last few weeks of delivery as we have had to replace group work with telephone support.  It is hard to finish a project at a time like this, and all the more important to celebrate the achievements of the women that attended.

We know that abusive relationships can take a toll on how we feel and act day to day, so the project developed a strong focus on the way we can look after ourselves and how we can take control back in important areas of our lives.  It has been a really special project with amazing women who have enjoyed the sessions and learnt about the importance of self-care during the most difficult times.  We worked on stabilisation with the women for the first 6-8 weeks.  These sessions looked at how to cope in difficult situations, how to improve sleep, dealing with nightmares and flashbacks; food and mood, breathing and guided meditations as well as understanding depression and anxiety.  Once the women completed these sessions they would move onto looking at issues related to abusive relationships.  This included thing like the impact of domestic abuse on children, why it can be so difficult to leave an abusive relationship and how to communicate more effectively with friends, family and professionals.  Women also helped us shape the project by letting us know what they wanted to explore in more depth.

We owe a huge thank you to Krissy, our yoga teacher who would come into the stabilisation sessions and teach us all how to use breathing to ground ourselves.
The women we have worked with have done some fantastic work and have gained an immense amount of confidence through Breathing Space.  Women from the groups co- produced (helped plan and organise) an event last March which aimed to tell people about the project and what it involved.  The professionals who attended told us they really enjoyed it, especially because the women helped run it.

This year women have co-produced a training video for professionals, sharing their skills and insights, to help the workforce be more trauma aware.  Our first screening was at the Women’s Health Matters celebration event where it went down really well.
Corona virus stopped a planned conference going ahead, where women from Breathing Space were going to be sharing their experiences and showing the film to qualified social workers.  It’s a great shame but looking forwards, the film and the voices of these women will be around after the current pandemic has passed.  Our team will be waiting to pick up the threads where we left off and take the legacy of Breathing Space forward wherever possible.

We are incredibly proud of everyone who attended Breathing Space.  Thank you all for helping us build such a warm and friendly environment so we could achieve so much together.

Exciting new video project with Breathing Space

Some of the women from our Breathing Space project are working with Tee Hogan of Teevision to create a film around their experiences.  We have two aims for this piece of work, firstly that other women going through domestic abuse will hopefully feel like they are not alone and are encouraged not only to get help and support, but are also able to work out what support is right for them.

The film will also be a training tool for professionals. The women were reflecting on what it feels like to be properly heard, or not, and what it’s like to have been through trauma and then have to work with someone you don’t know, such as a new Social Worker.

Some of their messages to professionals were;

  • Remember that we feel isolated and anxious
  • Please pay full attention to the person you’re trying to help
  • Professionals should work together when needed
  • Women would like full feedback from MARAC (Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conferences), they felt they were being spoken about, but don’t know what is being said.

Group members also said that they felt professionals didn’t always understand how complicated being in an abusive relationship is, that saying ‘just leave’ or ‘just call the police’ isn’t always helpful.

One woman said –

“I couldn’t call the police to my house if he was violent because I knew people who would make you disappear.”

They also talked about the fact that in multi-agency meetings, women and men were often held to different standards. So, if the child’s dad attended one meeting, they felt he was really praised, but if mum attended all of hers, but then missed one, she was judged much more harshly.

“He’s treated like a prince in meetings.”

The film is still in its early stages, but we’ll keep you posted and are looking forward to showing it to the public!