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 want 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!

Summertime and the living is….busy!

Although it already feels like summer was a million years ago, as usual it was a busy time here at WHM.  As some of our groups close over the summer holidays, we use it as a time to go on trips if we can, or catch up with women and girls for one to one appointments (and sometimes even to go on holiday ourselves!).  Here are some of the highlights of our summer.

Hannah, or Rainbow Hearts Wellbeing Case Worker supports women on a one to one basis. She fills us in on some of the things she’s been up to over summer –

“As the Wellbeing Case Worker working with women who are seeking asylum I have recently been focusing on the link between mental health and physical health. I have supported women in getting Leeds Cards so they can access reduced cost gym and swimming sessions. This has helped women to build up their support networks and get to know their local area better, as well as improving their physical health. Women seeking asylum often struggle to access gyms or exercise classes due to the cost, the Leeds Card offers women the opportunity to be able to go to the gym or go swimming at a reduced cost which makes it more accessible for all women to attend. The women who have been have enjoyed the sessions and are keen to keep going!”

Picnics featured A LOT in our summer trips, with Rainbow Hearts, Breathing Space and our Leeds Domestic Violence Service groups.

Tayba fills us in on the Breathing Space trips –

“The women and children enjoyed a picnic in Temple Newsam and a walk around the farm where they got to see a pig giving birth. This was all topped off by some cooling ice-cream and lollies. Many of us were also running away from the swarm of wasps! A great day out though.

On another trip, the women also went to Roundhay Park and had a picnic, again enjoying the greenery with the beautiful sunshine. Walking in nature is one of the things we talk about when we look at self-care in our groups.

The final trip for the Summer break was to Meanwood Farm. Again, connecting with nature and animals is very therapeutic and a fun day out with the kids.

Finally, the women expressed their appreciation and gratitude for having the opportunity to have day trips with the children during the summer break, which can be very testing for 6 weeks. Days out don’t have to cost much, kids get to run about, you get to take a break from boring chores perhaps- a great way to keep some boredom at bay!”


Rainbow Hearts also enjoyed a gorgeous day in Roundhay Park in the summer and took one of our favourite photos ever –


Lastly, our girls and young women’s project The Key went on an awesome trip to Yorkshire Wildlife Park. Some of the day was a bit rainy, but that didn’t stop us having a great day. They were filming the TV show ‘Big Week at the Zoo’ while we were there so we were able to have a bit of a nosey at that too. We had such a fantastic time, with one little boy saying his favourite animals were ‘the monkeybears’!  You can tell Sarah was on photo taking duty as, by the end of the day, we had only taken photos of otters!

Thanks to all the team, the women & girls who came along, and also the children who joined us too for making it a summer to remember.



A poem about moving on.

A woman who attends one of our group wrote a moving poem about her experience –

I have layers of pain all running through my brain
I don’t wanna feel it in my vain
He put his hands over my lips I feel him upon my hips
I just wish this was a dream but it’s all been seen
All I feel is fear
On my face there’s a tear
Don’t do it to your wrists
It will all be bliss
I wish I didn’t feel sad
Wish I could call my dad
Just throw away the key
Lock the door
Rose you’ve been here before
You’re strong
It will not last long
Don’t listen to that song
All the lyrics are wrong
Rose you can work hard if you tried
You nearly died
I need to find myself
It’s not good for my mental health
Think of the kid’s mind
Their feelings are not blind
Tell yourself why do you keep going back
Just think ‘been there, done that’
He’ll never change
He’s out of your range
Stop walking on the edge
Push him to the hedge
He is your ex boyfriend
Now that’s the end.

Breathing Space share stories and learning.

Our Breathing Space project is funded by the department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport from The Tampon Tax Fund.  It aims to support women who have experienced domestic abuse using a trauma informed approach.  This means that the project pays special attention to the ways that abuse can affect our mental health and wellbeing.  We use group work to try and address the first stage of trauma recovery known as “stabilisation”.  We share ways to improve self-care as well as exploring the ways we can stay safer in relationships in future.

Women from the project hosted a fantastic event at Leeds City Museum on 22nd March.  They have been working hard over the past couple of months, alongside an external trainer, Alison Cater, to shape the event.  The project aimed to share the learning gained through the project since it started in November 2017 and engage with potential partners for future work, so there was a lot to achieve in one event but with the women’s input everything went really well!


The group members worked to develop a programme so the order of events and tone of the afternoon was set by the women.  They decided we needed a blend of activities and presentations so we had our trauma expert, Dzmitry Karpuk, and our evaluation team from Leeds Beckett University speaking about the work from their perspectives but we also had games to play, ice breakers and a cake break (which was obviously VERY important!).


We invited people from a range of professional backgrounds to attend including statutory organisations, voluntary sector and funding bodies. The afternoon went by in a flash and it was heartening to hear so much positive feedback about this unique piece of work and amazing to see our Breathing Space volunteers in action.  They were involved at every stage, from creating a running order and playlist to designing the invitation, baking for the raffle and speaking at the event.


With confidence and warmth they really brought home how vital it is for domestic abuse services to draw on the insights and experiences of those who have lived through abusive relationships and encourage the women themselves to drive the shape of services that will exist for others in the future.  When the women themselves spoke they captivated the audience.  One person who attended told us “you got the important messages across in a very powerful way and I’m sure everyone here won’t forget it”.  Another said “the survivors stories were extremely powerful and thought provoking – such inspirational women – I wish them every success!! “

Thanks so much to all who attended, Leeds City Museum for hosting us (and the fab catering), to our evaluators from Leeds Beckett University and Dzmitry for your presentations, Alison for working with us around this event and lastly to the wonderful women of Breathing Space for sharing your skills and stories with us. It was a fantastic day!