Woman’s Trust Christmas Appeal

With Christmas approaching we are asking for support of our vital counselling services.

Woman’s Trust (WT) was formed in 1996 by domestic violence (DV) survivors and counsellors to address the substantial gap in mental health support to women affected by DV in London. In addition to the lack of specialised provision, WT identified that a different approach was needed to help women rebuild their lives since a number of mental health practices at the time left women feeling blamed, stigmatised and/or heavily medicated.

By offering women-only, client-led services, WT aims to empower women to overcome the harmful effects of DV on their mental health, re-gain control, make positive choices, care for their children, form healthy relationships and live free from abuse. We achieve these results through our free London-wide services:

  • Person-centred Counselling:  An initial assessment and then up to 18 weekly sessions of one-to-one counselling. Our volunteer counsellors offer an empathetic ear rather than giving advice. We want women to gain their voice back, feel valued and able to make their own decisions.
  • Self-Development Workshops: 1-day workshops in 6 week blocks. Women learn strategies for staying safe, getting back into work, planning for the future. They also learn about types of DV and the effects on survivors and their children. The aim is to equip women with the knowledge they need to take action to improve their lives.
  • Support Groups: 2-hour weekly sessions for women to share their stories and support each other.  Women find solidarity and friendship, helping to take them out of the extreme isolation that abuse often causes.

In 2013/14 we worked directly with 665 women:

  • 71% reported improvements in stress, 67% in depression, 65% in isolation.
  • 98% experienced improved relationships with their children.
  • 68% of women who began counselling while still in an abusive relationship left the relationship during WT’s provision.
  • 42% of those who were NEET on arrival at WT were in work, education or volunteering on leaving our services.

Client’s words: “When I began counselling I had no confidence and felt completely isolated. After my sessions, I had the energy and inspiration to cease contact with my ex-partner, communicate again with friends and family and go back to studying. Thanks to WT, I got my life back.”

We desperately need your help so that we can continue our work.

Please support us by donating online today. https://www.justgiving.com/womanstrust/

Find out more about our work on our website www.womanstrust.org.uk

December 22, 2014

Transforming Lives – Reducing Women’s Imprisonment – Soroptimist International

Too many women in the UK are still being sent to prison instead of receiving community sanctions and targeted support to address the causes of their offending, says a leading women’s voluntary organisation.

The women’s prison population doubled between 1995 and 2010. Most women in prison serve short prison sentences for non-violent offences and many have themselves been victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. In 2011 the Soroptimist UK Programme Action Committee resolved to work with the Prison Reform Trust to reduce women’s imprisonment.

Now a wealth of information gathered by 139 Soroptimists clubs across the UK has been distilled into a report that is intended to spur national and local governments into action. The report recommends the development in England and Wales of a cross-government strategy for women’s justice, led by the Minister for Female Offenders. Recommendations for improvements to the oversight of women’s justice in Scotland and Northern Ireland are also highlighted.

The report paints a mixed picture of the criminal justice system’s response to women. It profiles some excellent local initiatives whilst mapping overall patchy provision of services for vulnerable women.

Findings include:

  • There are no women-only centres in North Devon, Somerset or Dorset.
  • There are no specialist residential facilities for women in Avon and Somerset, with Elizabeth Fry in Reading the nearest approved premises for women from these areas.
  • There are no approved premises available for women in Merseyside.
  • There are no approved premises for women in Wales.
  • There are no women’s centres in Warwickshire, although probation operates a women-specific outreach service.

Soroptimists were particularly concerned by the large number of women in prison who are mothers, and found little evidence that criminal justice agencies made adjustments to accommodate women with dependents (such as childcare provision or interventions scheduled around nursery or school hours). For instance, there are no childcare facilities for Merseyside women completing community orders.

The report’s key findings include a need for sustained political leadership, the importance of stable funding for women’s community services, the scope for more effective information sharing, and the opportunity to share learning about “what works” across the UK. Differences in approach between England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland are identified whilst a number of common UK-wide themes are highlighted.

Soroptimists have already played a key role in achieving change in England and Wales by lobbying for a statutory foothold for women-specific provision in the criminal justice system. Section 10 of the Offender Rehabilitation Act 2014 requires that women’s needs must be identified and addressed in arrangements for the supervision and rehabilitation of offenders. This is a breakthrough, and will help in holding the Westminster government to account and putting an end to the marginalisation of women’s needs.

Despite commitments to reforming women’s justice voiced by politicians of every stripe, a striking degree of political consensus on the effectiveness of women-specific responses to offending and a sound social and economic case for reducing the women’s prison population, progress has been slow.

The recommendations in the report were developed by the Prison Reform Trust to reflect the evidence gathered by Soroptimists. They include improved training, protocols and guidance for those working in criminal justice agencies to ensure appropriate responses to women offenders, greater regard to the needs of children, piloting of problem-solving courts for women, the production of directories of local women’s services for use by probation and court services, and a roll-out of co-ordinated local multi-agency interventions.

A short summary of the report is on this website’s “Our Work” page at http://new.ukpac.org.uk/topics/reducing-women-s-imprisonment/articles/transforming-lives-reducing-women-s-imprisonment–2

The full report can be seen viewed here http://ukpac-files.s3.amazonaws.com/a8a/840/a8a84060f8225ff3f5121e5e2fcb20d9e82fa234

Part of a longer press release at http://www.ukpac.org.uk/articles/transforming-lives-reducing-women-s-imprisonment

December 19, 2014

Refuge opposes criminalisation of coercive control

The Government has announced onThursday 18 December 2014 that it plans to criminalise coercive control. Refuge’s statement below:

Sandra Horley, CBE, chief executive of national domestic violence charity Refuge, says:

“Refuge recognises that the Government is trying to address violence against women and girls, but we do not believe that criminalising coercive control is the right solution. We already have enough laws – the problem is that they are not being implemented properly. The police don’t even arrest when there is evidence of serious physical violence, so how are police and juries ever going to understand complex concepts like coercive control?

Controlling behaviour can be incredibly subtle and isn’t always ‘coercive’. Extreme jealousy and possessiveness, for example, can be dressed up to look like ‘care’ or ‘concern’. Providing evidence of such behaviours to satisfy criminal standards is likely to be extremely difficult. Introducing a new offence of coercive control could also have unintended consequences. It could lead to police officers treating it as a separate, less serious category of crime. Serious physical offences could be downgraded and perpetrators under-charged.

“We need to get back to basics. The police response to domestic violence is lamentable – forces across the country are failing in their most basic of policing duties towards victims of domestic violence. Women and children are also let down by other state agencies. This is why Refuge is calling for a public inquiry into the response of the police and other state agencies to domestic violence. We need to understand why so many women and children are still not getting the support and protection they deserve. We need to create meaningful change in all state agencies. Until that happens, women and children will continue to die in huge numbers at the hands of violent men. Please add your voice to our campaign and sign our petition calling for a public inquiry.” http://www.refuge.org.uk/2014/12/18/refuge-opposes-criminalisation-of-coercive-control/www.refuge.org.uk/publicinquiry

For more information on the new legislation go to https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/strengthening-the-law-on-domestic-abuse

Press Release at http://www.refuge.org.uk/2014/12/18/refuge-opposes-criminalisation-of-coercive-control/

December 19, 2014

Domestic Violence Law Reform Campaign achieves criminalisation of coercive control – Women’s Aid

The Domestic Violence Law Reform Campaign is celebrating a significant breakthrough, as the Government announced a new domestic violence law criminalising patterns of coercive, controlling and psychological abuse. The announcement is designed to clarify and strengthen the law on abuse, to drive a culture change ensuring that no form of abuse can be perpetrated without criminal sanction. The Campaign by Women’s Aid, the Sara Charlton Charitable Foundation, and Paladin National Stalking Advocacy Service, has been calling for this change, to better protect women who experience domestic violence.

Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid said:

“We welcome the Home Secretary’s announcement that the Government will criminalise the patterns of coercive, controlling, and psychologically abusive behaviour which lie at the heart of domestic violence. We hope the new law will signal that a culture change is needed in responding to the abuse so many women experience. We look forward to working together with the Home Office to ensure the new law is effective as it can be, and that the police and criminal justice system are able to receive specialist-led domestic violence training so that they are able to fully utilise the new legislation.

Rhea Gargour, and Antonia Packard for the Sara Charlton Charitable Foundation said:

“We are thrilled that our campaign has been successful and that finally victims of domestic violence have a real chance to be properly protected by our legal system. We hope that this will lead to effective training of the police and a culture change where domestic violence is recognised as an unacceptable crime. We thank the Home Secretary and the Government for their commitment to helping victims of domestic violence and their children.”

Laura Richards, Chief Executive of Paladin said:

”It is important that our laws reflect the reality of domestic violence. It is about power and control and the psychological impact is significant. Too many have had their lives ruined and many women have been murdered. Victims’ voices have been at the heart of our campaign and we are delighted that the Government has listened and that domestic violence will become a crime. This will send a clear signal that domestic violence must be taken seriously”

Press Release at http://www.womensaid.org.uk/domestic-violence-press-information.asp?itemid=3361&itemTitle=Domestic+Violence+Law+Reform+Campaign+achieves+criminalisation+of+coercive+control&section=0001000100150001&sectionTitle=Press+releases

December 18, 2014

Party Leaders Split On Sex & Relationships Education: Clegg & Miliband Support But Cameron Says ‘No’ To Making It Compulsory – EVAW

Rotherham scandal & online pornography cited as reasons for compulsory Sex & Relationships Education

Campaigners who wrote to all party leaders asking them to commit to compulsory Sex & Relationships Education if elected next May have today (18 December) published responses from David Cameron, Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband and Natalie Bennett.

While Clegg, Miliband and Bennett all state that they are committed to introducing compulsory ‘SRE’ as a key measure for preventing abuse of women and girls, Cameron says that the Conservatives will leave the decision of whether and how to teach SRE to individual schools.

Citing public concern at the Rotherham ‘grooming’ scandal, high levels of sexual assaults on young women and the easy availability of online porn, the End Violence Against Women Coalition and the Everyday Sexism Project launched an online petition in September asking party leaders to pledge to introduce compulsory Sex & Relationships Education (SRE) if elected next May. They also wrote directly to all party leaders asking their views.

Sex and Relationships Education which deals with consent, equality and respect is not currently compulsory (1) despite being overwhelmingly popular with the public (2) and being recommended as a key abuse prevention measure by every expert in the field (3).

Everyday Sexism Project founder and writer Laura Bates said:

“While we warmly welcome the Liberal Democrat, Labour and Green recognition that compulsory SRE is an absolutely essential measure for trying to stem the tide of abuse of women and girls in our society, we are obviously disappointed that the Prime Minister appears not yet able to match this commitment.

“Daily entries to the Everyday Sexism Project reveal a great deal of confusion and misinformation amongst young people about issues such as sexual consent. The Prime Minister’s response about existing PSHE and SRE guidelines belies the reality that current provision is patchy and inadequate. When the UK Youth Parliament surveyed almost 22,000 young people about SRE, 40% said theirs was either poor or very poor, and 43% said they hadn’t received any at all. We would urge David Cameron to speak to young people about their lives – from daily encounters with misogynistic and explicit sexual material, to routine sexual harassment which schools don’t know how to deal with. Ask them what they think the solution is and they will tell you that they need time and support in school to talk about sex and respectful, healthy relationships.”

EVAW Coalition Director Sarah Green said:

“There is a clear public consensus that recognises the time has come for sex and relationships education for all young people in school, and that it must talk about respect, consent and equality. Experts and those who provide services for survivors of abuse all agree this is the key long term prevention measure that we need – in order to tackle attitudes that make excuses for abuse before they set in, and to empower those at risk of abuse to seek support.

“We hope to see this issue feature prominently in the election debate next year, and we hope to hear some new thought and resolution from the Prime Minister David Cameron, from the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan and from senior colleagues around them. We note that the Prime Minister’s letter acknowledges the impact of new technology on young people’s lives, and that his Government is taking action on this in other policy areas. We hope his party might make connections between these and look at SRE as part of child protection, child safety and anti-bullying where it is already agreed that schools should not have an opt out.”

The Labour Party and Green Party responses are both full and considered and clearly situate the need for compulsory SRE in the context of abuse of women and girls and the need to give young people space to talk about consent, respect and equality between men and women. Both parties have made MPs vote on the issue over the last two years by putting motions and Bills before Parliament.

The Liberal Democrats response is shorter but very clear that they would require all state-funded schools to teach age appropriate SRE, including free schools and academies.

UKIP also failed to respond to the campaigners’ letter asking for their commitment to compulsory SRE and their party policy has recently been revealed to be in confusion.

The campaigners want to see SRE made part of Personal Social Health and Economic education (PSHE). The full petition calls for:

  • All schools, primary and secondary, to teach SRE including sexual consent, gender stereotypes, healthy and respectful relationships and the harms of online pornography
  • Teacher training and statutory guidance to back this up
  • A wider programme of work to prevent abuse of women and girls as part of the Home Office-led Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy.

The petition is at www.change.org/srenow and campaigners are tweeting it with #SREnow. More than 35,000 people have signed the petition and it includes high profile supports like Mumsnet. Hundreds of people have shared their experiences of poor sex and relationships education experiences on this hash-tag which can be read here: https://storify.com/EverydaySexism/srenow

  1. While young people must be taught the biological basics of human reproduction by the age of 15 (and schools can teach it within whichever subject they choose – including science, RE and PSHE) there is no guarantee they will receive lessons covering ‘relationships education’ ie what non-abusive, healthy relationships look like, the law on sexual consent, the harms of pornography, and equality and respect in intimate relationships.
  2. For example a 2013 YouGov survey for EVAW found that 86% of UK adults believe that sex and relationships education “which addresses sexual consent and respectful relationships” should be compulsory in secondary schools.
  3. A 2010 YouGov survey for EVAW found that almost one third of 16-18 year old girls in the UK had been subjected to unwanted sexual touching at school and 71% of all 16-18 year olds hear sexual name calling such as ‘slut’ or ‘slag’ towards girls at school at least a few times a week. NSPCC and Office for the Children’s Commissioner research has found that ‘sexting’ is often coercive and non-consensual, with girls far more likely to be pressured to share explicit images of themselves as boys seeking a trophy. It was recently reported that over 1,000 alleged sexual offences in schools, including 134 rapes, were recorded by the Police in 2013 (Freedom of Information request by the Independent, published 22 August 2014; more than half were committed by other children). Women’s organisations and support services, the NSPCC, the Children’s Commissioner, Alexis Jay in her Rotherham report, and many others have all called for compulsory SRE as a key abuse prevention measure.

Press Release at http://www.endviolenceagainstwomen.org.uk/news/184/party-leaders-split-on-compulsory-sex-relationships-education

December 18, 2014