International Women's Day: 10% of our profits to Solace Women's Aid this March
It is a sad and uncomfortable truth that there are hundreds of women across London experiencing domestic and sexual violence - and numbers are rising. Solace Women’s Aid has been supporting women and children to build safe and strong lives free from male abuse and violence for over 40 years. It provides front-line services to help women make that first daunting move towards a life free from abuse – be it temporary accommodation, advice or an emergency phone call - and helps equip them with tools to build a strong, independent life going forward.
But the good news is, you can help fund this brilliant work! For the second year running we’ve partnered with Solace to donate 10% of our online proceeds in March, to mark International Women's Day.
We caught up with one of Solace’s Independent Sexual Violence Advocates to hear a bit more about the work she does at Solace.
What’s your role day-to-day?
I work for the Southwark SASS team, I am an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) here. As an ISVA I support anyone over the age of 13 who has experienced sexual violence in the borough of Southwark. On a day to day basis I guide service users through the criminal justice system (from reporting to support at court) whilst also providing emotional support and safety planning around sexual violence. Additionally I help survivors understand the causes and impacts of sexual violence (such as rape culture, rape myths, sexual health and trauma) along with assisting with problems survivors can face such as housing options, immigration status and support regarding social care.
How has your role changed (if at all) over the last few years?
I have worked as an ISVA for nearly a year so am still very new to the role, however I have learnt that the ISVA role is very diverse and challenging – I don’t think any day is the same.
What’s the most pressing issue that Solace Women’s Aid is seeking to address at the moment?
The most pressing issues that we find at Solace is that although we can support women through the journey we struggle to provide long term therapeutic support for all the women. Our North London Rape Crisis waiting list has been closed for almost a year, not being able to accept any new referrals for women wanting counselling as a result of sexual violence due to lack of funding. The same applies for our domestic abuse counselling service where referrals open for about 2 weeks before they close again. This means that women cannot access one on one support when they need it. Recent reports from the Mayor’s office shows that domestic violence reports in London have climbed by 63% since 2011 and women need more avenues for essential support. At Solace we are working to address access to therapeutic support in our 2019 campaign.
How did you come to work at Solace?
During my time at University I volunteered a lot to build my experience and work out what sector of charity work I wanted to be part of. I volunteered as a caseworker at a refugee and asylum seekers women and children’s group in Liverpool, I was a Childline counsellor, I was on the committee for Help the Homeless Society and I volunteered at the Liverpool Domestic Abuse Services office. I also went to Greece and Bangladesh to aid refugees (particular women) in 2016 and 2017.
After University I moved to Bristol and was lucky enough to get a job at a domestic abuse charity as a duty worker, this involved processing incoming referrals and giving advice to survivors and professionals. I felt I was best working with survivors of sexual violence and became very interested in that specific area. When the ISVA job in Southwark came up I applied and got the job!
How can we as a society contribute to better gender relations and less violence towards women?
I think the best way to target violence towards women and to better gender relations is through education, we should have healthy relationship workshops, sex education and consent classes in schools. Society needs to have open discussions (which include all genders and survivors of violence) about issues the regarding violence and gender relations in order to combat these.
What initiatives have you currently got running that people could get involved in?
It is worth looking at everything happening on our website or social media as we are contributing to the larger conversation about housing and domestic violence services for survivors of women and girls in London.
If you want to directly support us you can sign up for a challenge event such as the Royal Parks Half Marathon or Ride London, or commit to giving us £4 a month which will help us to reopen our waiting lists for women trying to access counselling as every regular donation means that we know how much money we have monthly building flexibility into our service provision.
Head to www.solacewomensaid.com to find out more.