nia started out as Hackney Women’s Aid. We became the nia project to reflect the organisation’s move to an approach which integrated provision to women who have suffered any form of sexual or domestic violence. That doesn’t mean that we provide the same service, irrespective of a woman’s experience but that we recognise the connections that run through all forms of men’s violence against women.
Our services now include East London Rape Crisis for women and girls who have experienced any form of sexual violence - including rape, sexual assault and child sexual abuse - regardless of when it occurred, who it was perpetrated by and whether or not it was reported to the police; and The Emma Project, a pioneering refuge and outreach service for women with problematic substance use who have experienced any form of domestic or sexual violence including prostitution; as well as a range of other services.
We started running The LEA Project to support women in prostitution and facilitate exit this month. It was developed by our sister organisation Eaves before they closed down due to loss of funding. We’re currently raising money to buy back the van that was used for night-time outreach work as it was seized by the administrators. Without it, there are women who will not be able to access support.
Times are hard for women’s services, much of our funding for the next financial year is unconfirmed, insecure or reducing. It’s now forty years since 1975, when a group of feminist activists and survivors of men’s violence started Hackney Women’s Aid. It was also the year that Peter Sutcliffe killed the first of at least 13 women in West Yorkshire and the year the BBC1 launched Jim’ll Fix It, presented by Jimmy Savile who is now known to have sexually abused hundreds of women and children.
40 years later, men are still abusing, raping, beating, exploiting and killing women. Research shows that women want, value and benefit most from specialist women only services and while men’s violence against women continues, we will fight to support women.
Karen Ingala Smith is CEO of nia