Hyndburn and Ribble Valley (HARV) Domestic Violence Team is a charity that has been providing services to vulnerable children and families since 1998. Amanda Elwen, Business Manager for HARV, has written an open letter to officials, calling on them to turn their attention to the urgent need within domestic abuse services and to give a voice to specialists on Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG).
In response to the demand and strain upon domestic violence services, generic victims services were established. Amanda Elwen highlights the shortcomings of such services and the importance of supporting VAWG specialists. Read Amanda’s heartfelt open letter below:
Dear Commissioners, Policy Makers and Decision Makers,
Did I do something wrong? Did I speak too loud? Did I not behave appropriately? Do I not conform to your expectations?
You see, our relationship has deteriorated recently. For the last twenty-five years, I have dedicated my life to supporting thousands of women and children who have suffered abuse. My charities have delivered hundreds of contracts and independent evaluations suggest we have done a good job.
Recently, it seems that you think that you no longer need me and I have to say after 25 years, this hurts a little bit. You had a party the other evening and you didn’t even invite me, you invited lots of your new friends. I’m no longer invited around your table and you don’t even let me have the scraps anymore.
But you still expect me to keep doing what I have always done and sometimes when you need me for something, like an equality impact assessment, you promise me, one day it will get better.
I hang on your promises in the hope that things might change. I stay a little longer in the hope that I may get invited around your table once again. But you don’t call and you leave me with very little option. To survive or not to survive. Well surprise, surprise, we chose survive. You see, when you leave a woman with nothing, you leave them in very dangerous territory. But courage calls to courage everywhere. We survived by developing businesses that generate enough profit to enable us to continue to provide frontline services to women and children.
Let me say that again. In the 21st century, specialist VAWG services have to establish businesses to generate enough profit to then provide women and children with the services that are necessary for them to survive. How many women’s charities have we seen close this year alone? And at a time where demand for our services are greater than ever. Our sector is not valued, and we are being discarded and thrown to the margins. This is about respect. Respect at every level. You see, when women are respected, they do not need protection. If you need heart surgery, you go to a heart surgeon. If you need a tooth extracting, you go to a dentist. If you are raped, violated, coerced, harassed, assaulted, abused, humiliated, forced or exploited then who would you want to help you? If you have nowhere to live and have lost your children as a result of violence who would you want to help you? If it was your sister, mother or wife, who would you want to help them?
The answer is not a generic victims service. The answer is I want the very best, I want the expert, I want the people who understand the complexity of the situation and have the experience to know how to best support me and my family. I want the people who are available when I need them, the people who will fight for justice and stand by my side.
Women and children are still coming to us, the demand for our services haven’t changed and while women and children continue to line up for help, I urge you to find ways to get the VAWG specialists back around the table where key decisions are being made.