Todays guest blog is something that is a little too close to home for me….bt in a good way. Like it or not…women need other women to rise and be free.
Let me introduce you to a friend of mine. Not only is she strong and full of fire…she now makes sure that she sets others on fire so they can rise from the ashes…..
Women’s services…..and why we must keep them
So, I had dialled the number and the woman on the other end had answered. She seemed friendly, caring and was saying its ok to take my time, but I didn’t know how to start. I put the phone down.
Trouble was I didn’t have clue what to do. I’d done the leaving, because that what everyone says you should do, but the violence hadn’t stopped. I was standing by the phone bruised & battered without my kids because he wouldn’t ‘let’ me have them.
I took a deep breath and picked up the phone and dialled again. I explained that I had gone to pick the kids up as he had been looking after them that day, and I said I’d drop him home. He said that as it was my weekend with the kid’s I wouldn’t need the car (my car) so he wanted to use it. I said he couldn’t as I was taking them to a friend’s that evening. I hadn’t asked his permission, so all hell broke loose. He ordered the kids in the house but not before they had seen him hit me. He got out of the car and I tried to lock the doors so I could drive off with them. That really wound him up! He managed to stop me and bellowed at the kids to get in the house, he had his hands round my neck, the kids got out of the car crying, he was hitting out at me. He stopped when they got to the doorstep and I managed to close the door. He told me I could pick them up the next day as I wasn’t taking them anywhere without his say so. He went into the house & closed the door.
I knew I had no chance of getting them back safely on my own, so I went straight to the Police station and asked to speak to a female officer. I was told I’d have to wait until the next day. I said I’d just been assaulted and wanted to make a statement, so the copper took me to the interview room. I explained what had happened & he explained that my ex was bound to be a ‘bit upset’ as we had recently split up and if I wanted a couple of burly policemen to barge into his house and arrest him in front of children that was my choice, but perhaps I should think of how awful that would be for the kids. He suggested I ‘cool off’ and go back in the morning to get the kids. Of course, if there was any trouble, I could call the police! To be fair this was 20 years ago, and practice is better now.
So that’s why I was calling the domestic abuse helpline. She was great, advised me to see my Doctor the next day & get my injuries recorded and to arrange for someone else to be there when I picked up the kids. She gave me a number for a solicitor and said I could call back whenever I needed to. Pretty standard advice but her just listening to me meant the world.
Over the next few years it was women that helped me get back on my feet. Women that listened to and supported me and women that made me laugh again.
Sadly, due to ‘Austerity’ and the wide-ranging cuts to the sector, women-only services are closing. Last year 41% of Women’s services surveyed for a Women’s Budget Group report noted a reduction in their income. At the same time 80% of the organisations saw an increase in demand for their services. Over three quarters of councils have reduced the amount they spend on domestic abuse refuges, with total spending on refuges reduced by a quarter (24%) since 2010.
This means we are now seeing larger generalist organisations winning the contracts to provide services. A housing association that works with all sorts of clients with differing needs now also provides the refuge. A service for women experiencing domestic abuse is provided alongside support for those who have been burgled. The specialism and the women centred services are disappearing. Local knowledge and specialist services for specific groups, for instance women with a disability or women of colour are losing out most.
It’s essential that we fight for these services as once we have lost them, they are gone for good. We know that women are more likely to experience abuse and that they would prefer a service provided by women. Considering it’s mainly men who have abused them, this is a necessary part of their healing. Women should be able to stay in a refuge, with their children if they have them and know that only women will be living there and supporting them. Women should be able to discuss their feelings in a rape support group without worrying that there could be men in the group – it seems obvious but sadly it’s no longer guaranteed.
Several years later I’ve been the one at the end of the phone, giving women time to find their voice and most importantly, listening. I’ve had the privilege of working with many women as they find the confidence and self-belief to heal from the trauma that they have been subjected to. I know it’s a long process and along that road there are many times that society will make it harder not easier. That’s why its so important that women can access services delivered by women.