How did you get into working in the Domestic Abuse sector?
My school was one of the few, certainly in the area and at that time, to offer Sociology at both GCSE and A Level (even more of a novelty considering the working class catchment area, behavioural issues and academisation). This is where I first became a Feminist, interested in women's issues and where my initial theoretical understanding of Domestic Abuse began. This was then cemented at Uni, where I studied BSc Sociology and MSc International Development and Gender. I conducted my Undergraduate research in South Africa, studying the intersections between rape culture and the legacies of Apartheid. I then lived in a Matriarchal, Women-Only community in Nepal, exploring it's capacity to offer a safe space for women, particularly those who were survivors of abuse for my Postgraduate research. Throughout Uni, I also volunteered and worked with UK-based Domestic Abuse organisations, completed industry trainings and when I graduated, went on to working as a support worker before moving towards community and project development. I experienced consecutive abusive relationships throughout education, and studying abuse through a Feminist lens helped me understand and identify my experiences, feel less isolated (the existence of theories on this means I'm not alone) and ultimately seek formal support for myself.
How did you move on from your experiences of abuse?
Does anyone ever really "move on"? Accepting that I may never move on, and that's okay, was one of the first steps. There's a lot to with mindset, of mentally no longer being emotionally or romantically connected with my abuser which at least internally, protected me from him successfully returning once I actually left for good (like so many others, I tried to leave numerous times before finally succeeding). There was also the physical, practical element of "moving on" which at first, the emotional disconnect didn't protect me from. Rejecting a narcissistic abuser is one of the most dangerous things you can do. We know this from the statistics which show women are most at risk after leaving. The abuse continued, and after being let down by the police on numerous occasions, I fled my home town. Accepting that I'd never receive justice (and that essentially, my abuser would get away with it) was the most difficult thing to come to terms with. Since fleeing my abuser, the single most invaluable stage of my "moving on" was accessing Trauma Therapy. Recovery is an ongoing process, but I'm already proud of the progress these sessions have facilitated.
DO you have any tips on how to mental health/trauma and work/life balance?
This little paragraph is going to be filled with hypocritical advice that I definitely preach but find hard to practice. Over the years I've realised that if you don't advocate for yourself like you would someone you're supporting, you're not only doing yourself a disservice, but them too. Saying NO and enforcing boundaries is so important. Taking Mental Health days, and taking them before you reach breaking point, is imperative. Ensuring reasonable adjustments are in place. Join a union, and use them if you feel your rights aren't getting upheld. Equally, enforce boundaries in your personal life to. You're allowed to say no or "not right now". Also, don't do what I do and juggle 3 jobs that are heavily centred in abuse and activism. I sometimes have to check myself because I find myself simply living and breathing abuse. Particularly for a survivor, this is unhealthy.
Is working in the Domestic Abuse sector DIFFICULT?
It is, but it's more complex than people often think. Supporting survivors is understandably hard as your week is consumed with harrowing stories, and you're consistently in fight mode on the behalf of the service users you advocate for. However, we go into this job knowing that this is a requirement, and are mentally equipped and often professionally trained to handle Secondary-Trauma. What no one prepares you for is the political impacts of your job - how the underfunding of the Domestic Abuse sector will impact staff. I find the politics of the Domestic Abuse sector more difficult than the job itself. The hypocrisy of working within a support sector that abuses it's staff, and of being a minority voice in a largely institutionally racist sector with a legacy of problematic 'Radical Feminism', whilst advocating for yourself and your clients, is exhausting and infuriating. Creating change in the sector is something I'm keen to be involved in.
Do you offer private support?
For ethical reasons, no. However, I'm happy to signpost you to services and helplines which can support you. Here are some national helplines:
If you are in immediate risk of harm call 999
Do you offer training & development opportunities?
Not yet, but watch this space as I'm currently in the process of developing training & development packages. In the meantime, I am available for one off bookings, workshops, webinars, guest speakerships, panels, podcasts and more. Send me a message via the CONTACT page to enquire about a booking.
Who are people you recommend following if you're a survivor looking for an online community?
This isn't a shameless plug I promise, I actually believe the work we do is simply beautiful - download the Restless Network App for an entire #MeToo platform filled with resources, expert advise, podcasts, video series' and most importantly an online peer-support group for survivors (along with lots of other cool content too). A non-exhaustive list of some of my fave accounts I follow however, for both educational and therapeutic content include:
@TheMindGeek (Instagram) - @Roobs_GrlClb (Instagram) - @SistahSpace_ (Instagram) - @SurvivorsLibrary - @Docadisa (Twitter) - @JennSelby (Twitter) - @Hudzyboo (Twitter) - @MonaEltahawy (Twitter) - @MunroeBergdorf - @FlorenceGiven (Instagram) - @PaisleyGilmour (Instagram) - @GInaMartin (Instagram) - @PeopleIveLoved (Instagram) - @HelloMyNameIsWednesday (Instagram) - @KingSophiesWorld (Instagram) - @GurlsTalk (Instagram)
How did you get into freelance writing?
Very haphazardly. I often get consumed with imposter syndrome, particularly the more I work in the industry. I find myself surrounded by tirelessly hardworking writers who have studied Journalism or Communications degrees and worked through unpaid internship to get a foot in the door. I didn't go down this route. I started writing after building an expertise in a sector that is often underrepresented in the media. This gives me a unique "USP". I could tell mine and others stories from a new angle, from inside the Domestic Abuse sector as someone with both personal and professional insight. I'm proof that you don't need a Journalism degrees to be successful in such a competitive sector. An option is to find your passion, specialise in it, then write about it. Arm yourself with qualifications, skills, insights, networks and go from there. More practically, platforms like JournoResources, the Freelance Sessions and group chats for WOC journalists were invaluable in helping me find pitching templates, editor's contacts and paid writing opportunities.
Do you accept unpaid commissions?
The short answer is absolutely not - but actually, there are some exceptions that are non-negotiable.
As a Black woman, it's important I advocate for myself as I would the people I support and demand that industries and individuals don't take advantage, and perpetuate problematic narratives by expecting me to offer unpaid labour. Other than existing loyalties to Aurelia Magazine, and guest contributions in articles, radio, podcasts etc, I do not accept unpaid writing commissions.
Similarly, I will not accept unpaid work in the form of hosting, webinars, talks, trainings or workshops. With the exception of SheFest Sheffield, where I currently volunteer, and grassroots organisations, I will not consider unpaid Training and Development commissions from large organisations, businesses or governmental bodies.