In 2006 I became a volunteer at a women’s refuge, for women and children fleeing domestic abuse. This was something I was very passionate about as I am a survivor of domestic abuse. It took eight years of my life. I was bullied beaten and belittled. It is not easy to get out of an abusive relationship as it becomes your way of life and you do not know anything different. You start to think that everything is your fault.
After working at the refuge for a couple of months I was offered a job, I was delighted I loved helping the women and children.
The refuge I managed was a self-contained refuge, this means it’s a second stage refuge my refuge had five flats I was responsible for five women and twelve kids. When you first come into a refuge, you go into a communal refuge which means you have a room but have to share all the other facilities. This can be scary and daunting.
What was a typical day like for me?
My first task of the day was normally to check the CCTV to see if there had been any incidents or men brought into the refuge. It is against house rules to bring any man into a refuge. I would also check with the on call worker if any of my women had had to contact them during the night.
My role was very varied on different days I did different duties. On a Monday I had to collect rent and do my rent sheets and stats. These had to be sent to management.
I would also normally begin with a health and safety check of the building and flats to ensure there were no safety issues.
A big part of my role was to support the residents each resident had an individual care plan tailored to meet their needs which I drew up we would look at issues like housing, further education getting children into a school. Some women had to leave their home with nothing, my role was to get them rehoused or get an occupation order to remove the perpetrator in some cases from the matrimonial home. This took up a big part of my time. This was not a desk job I spent most of my day chasing up different cases, or going to court.
Once a week I would call a house meeting for all the residents to attend, to discuss any issues of concern. A shortage of appropriate housing is one of the main problems facing women moving on from a refuge. My role was to support them to bid for local authority accommodation.
It was clear that if a women refuses a property she runs the risk of the council discharging their duty, then the only option would be private rented accommodation.
Another part of my role was to ensure that when an appropriate property is found that I helped them set up their new home. When I was a refuge worker you were able to get a crisis loan for furniture, this is no longer available you have to approach the council for these items now and you have to meet a certain criteria. I often had to approach furniture banks.
As a refuge worker I also used to take referrals, do risk assessments to ensure it was safe for a women to come into refuge, some women have specialist needs e.g. disability etc. and where possible they would be accommodated.
I also went to court with the women and attended the one stop shop, this was a service where women can walk in and talk to myself, the police, housing, or a solicitor about any issues. It was a very useful service and played a vital role in assisting women.
My last task of the day was to do a handover I would discuss the actions of the day with the on call worker.
Unfortunately I had to give up this job due to ill health.
If you or someone is experiencing domestic abuse there is a 24hr helpline in England 0808-2000-247.
- 1 in 4 women experience domestic abuse here are just some of the signs.
- In 2015 a new law was brought in on coercive control this is intimidation, isolation.
- Physical or sexual abuse.
- Emotional abuse.
- Financial abuse e.g. withholding money, not giving you money.
- Online or digital abuse
- Accusing you of flirting with someone else.
- Two women each week are killed due to domestic abuse.
Claudette is a passionate campaigner and activist for mental health stigma and domestic abuse. She believes that everyone should be treated equally regardless of their disability or gender. She has diagnoses of Bipolar Disorder, endometriosis, Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia. Claudette has a certificate in Management studies. Her interests include beauty, makeup, animals politics, current affairs and social networking.