We set up The Key in 2013 for two main reasons – firstly women in our domestic violence groups told us they wished that someone had talked to them about relationships or offered them support when they were much younger – often their first abusive relationships had started in their early teens. Secondly, because our group work in schools showed that girls and young women not only wanted to learn about healthy relationships and staying safe, but lots of them NEEDED it, whether because they were in an abusive relationship, or they witnessed or experienced abuse at home. We knew it was important to remove as many barriers to young women accessing the service as possible – we wanted to support people from across the city, so we didn’t have to turn people away if they didn’t live in a certain area. We knew we needed to provide transport – some women were anxious about making their own way there, or getting a bus, or wouldn’t be able to afford to get there themselves and we didn’t want problems with travel to stop people getting to the support they needed. At WHM we always try to provide a crèche where funding allows, because we know lots of women can’t attend groups if there isn’t a safe space for their children provided, we wanted interpreters for the same reason. Thankfully, the lovely folk at the National Lottery Community Fund completely agreed and funded the project, initially for three years.
The Wellbeing Group recently had a trip to Abbey House Museum where we learnt all about Leeds in the past, and had great fun trying on all the clothes! We enjoyed a warm drink in the café and shared stories from our childhood and how things had changed.
As you can see from the photos, we had a great day out with lots of laughter and fun! None of the women had been before and it opened up a new part of Leeds that they can explore. We are hoping to go back to look around Kirkstall Abbey in the summer and enjoy a picnic in the grounds.
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.
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!