“You can’t beat a woman” an evening to understand Domestic Abuse Services in Hertfordshire
The Soroptimist International St Albans Club hosted an evening focusing on a key women’s issue of our time – domestic abuse. For too long this has been a forgotten, even a taboo subject, but now it is at the top of the agenda.
Members and guests were joined by 4 expert speakers to explore the issue in detail and find out what Hertfordshire is doing to help. (Notes are at the bottom of this news item).
In the picture l to r are (front row) :
- Angela Silver, Trustee and Volunteer – Herts Domestic Abuse Helpline
- Sara Jackson, Manager – Outreach, St Albans and Hertsmere Women’s Refuge
- Liz Perry, Manager – Emergency Accommodation, St Albans and Hertsmere Women’s Refuge
- Sam Fielden, Independent Domestic Violence Adviser
The event was organised by Liz Tillett (Club Member) and Denise Powell (Club President) – pictured here on the back row.
“You Can’t Beat a Woman” – notes from the meeting
The meeting explored the topic of domestic abuse and action being taken in Hertfordshire to support victims.
Angela Silver, a trustee and volunteer on the helpline introduced the topic. Domestic abuse covers any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can include psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional abuse. 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men experience domestic abuse in their lifetime and women experience abuse 35 times on average before seeking help.
In the 1990s every Borough Council in Hertfordshire set up a Domestic Abuse Forum and a county wide helpline was established in 2002. There are 20 volunteers and 2 staff and the helpline takes about 3000 calls a year from victims, perpetrators, professionals and friends and relatives. It provides information on services available in the county, such as the Freedom Programme which helps victims develop ways to protect themselves and their families.
Sara Jackson and Liz Perry from the St Albans and Hertsmere Women’s Refuge explained how the refuge works. It has been in existence since 1982 and has developed from 4 beds to catering for 24 women and 45 children. The refuge has two outreach workers who provide emotional and practical support . It also runs its own programme for women, called “Understanding Relationships”. It does not allow alcohol or drugs on the premises and keeps its address confidential. The refuge has been supported by the St Albans Soroptimists for many years. It is funded from various sources, including the Borough Councils, Children in Need and the Big Lottery.
Sam Fielden outlined the role of the Independent Domestic Violence Advisers (IDVAs) in the county. There are 8 community IDVAs, 2 senior advisers and 2 staff based in hospitals. They work with women and men experiencing domestic abuse and provide independent support and advocacy, helping individuals with issues such as housing, benefits and civil and criminal proceedings and liaising with other agencies. Each case is assessed and if serious enough, it is referred to MARAC, a cross agency process to ensure joined up professional help. The IDVAs work for victim support but are funded by the Police and Crime Commissioner.
The main challenges in this area are funding and the patchy service across the county.
The meeting ended with a plea for more helpline volunteers. The work is interesting and stimulating and gives volunteers a real sense of achievement. The minimum commitment is only 2 hours a week and training is provided. Calls are taken from home on either a land line or mobile.