Survival takes time - a range of services is required for a range of women’s needs, says Beverley Gilbert, Cohort 4.
Cohort 4 is a women’s survivor self-support organisation in the ex-mining, semi-rural areas of North Warwickshire. Most of our women have had, or do have, mental health issues; most of our women have been affected by the criminal justice system; most of our women have had experience of isolation, loneliness and disadvantage. We run a range of craft, skills, opportunities and socialisation projects that reinforce survival after domestic and/or sexual abuse, and as a group work together to change all of that, to survive.
A stitch in time: enjoying the first knitting tutorial at Slipstitch, a women’s support group, at the Cohort 4 base in Atherstone, Warwickshire. Photo Credit: Ian Cuthbert
Cohort 4 women are afforded the time to work through their emotions, to address the complexities of their life, to form friendships and develop their own community network with women sharing similar values and lived experiences. Importantly, it is the women who are running their own organisation together, with the correct training, policies and processes required to run it safely. This is very special, as our women say they are tired of being “done to” and prefer to be the authors of their own development and goals. Many women feel that they have not been listened to or valued by statutory agencies, or those linked to them. We know that they are the experts in their own lives and know what they need to be safe and to thrive after surviving domestic abuse.
Organisations like ours rely on women volunteers to run the project safely and appropriately, but practically this is unsustainable in the long term and also limits the number of women we can reach out to in our area. We agree with WE about the importance of sustainable funding and greater accountability.
We also endorse WE in its campaign for the government to rethink how it funds specialist services, including smaller organisations, that are for and led by women. While we welcome the funding of larger organisations across the UK to end violence against women and girls, we call on the government to provide funding streams to small, user-led services like ours, especially in semi-rural locations, where there are very few services for women. There are whole swathes of the country where there are so few specialist services and even fewer in out-of-town areas. This is unacceptable.
We read of increasing frequency of refuges, services and valued women’s organisations closing due to funding changes or cuts. This is inexcusable. Women and children are losing their lives – cuts cost lives!
That's why we think the WE campaign for Theresa May to support specialist services tackling violence against women is so vital.
We call on the government to fund specialist services for women surviving abuse that are designed specifically to address the needs of specific groups of women, recognising that not all women are the same and not all women want or need the same services.
Preventing violence against women and children includes helping women survive and rebuild their lives, and this process varies according to the particular circumstances of the individual woman. The government must rethink commissioning models to ensure that specialist services are available for all survivors. Our lives and hopes for future survival are at risk.