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Solace welcomes Mayor’s commitment to prioritise tackling shocking levels of domestic and sexual abuse in London

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Solace welcomes Mayor’s commitment to prioritise tackling violence against women & girls in London as shocking level of domestic and sexual crimes approaches 95,000 in 2016

 

Over 74,000 domestic crimes, 6000 rapes and 11,000 other sexual offences were recorded by police in London in 2016 and it is estimated only a small proportion are reported to police.  The new plan from the Mayor’s Office for Police & Crime aims to combat these horrific rates of domestic and sexual violence in the capital. Solace welcomes this pledge, including the focus on improving responses to those who report to the Police and seek justice through the Criminal Justice Service and the commitment to continue funding vital Rape Crisis London services.

 

Many survivors, the large majority of whom are women and girls, do not report violence and abuse for reasons including fear and shame and concerns about the impact on those around them. Whether a woman decides to report violence and abuse or not, it is essential that she has the option to access to specialist support such as counselling, which Solace and the Rape Crisis London organisations provide.

 

Mary Mason, CEO of Solace Women’s Aid says:

We are pleased that Sadiq Khan and his office recognise just how important our services are, not only to help women through the criminal justice system if they choose that route, but also to help women recover from horrendous trauma. Solace has supported over 11,000 survivors in London this past year alone, but as we face more and more survivors reaching out, budget cuts, and insecure funding, our services are stretched far beyond capacity. We hope that the Mayor’s commitment to survivors in London leads to secure, long-term provision of Rape Crisis London and other life-saving services, so no one is turned away.

Happy International Women’s Day!

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We’d like to wish everyone a Happy International Women’s Day!

We know that women and children in London wouldn’t be able to access life-saving support if it wasn’t for our incredible supporters – whether that’s by coming along to an event, making a donation, volunteering your time or helping us raise awareness. There is still more to be done, still more women and children living in fear for their lives. At Solace we are dedicated to ensuring everyone in London has the support they need to live free from abuse – and with continued support we can make this happen!

Volunteer Newsletter – March

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Happy International Women’s day to everyone. During this month our volunteers will be attending the Women of the World festival and other International Women’s day events. Please do remember to take pictures and #solacevolunteers & #BeBoldForChange on twitter and other social media sites. Remember to take some needed time out for yourself and indulge in some self care.

Read March edition of the Volunteer Newlsetter

Thank you
Volunteer Coordinator

Volunteer Newsletter – January

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I hope everyone had a great time over the festive holiday season. There are loads of new exciting opportunties to look forward to this year. We have taken on the feedback from our volunteers and staff who support volunteers and we will be including a new self care training session. I would also like to congratulate Izzy & Amanda our volunteers who have recieved paid positions at Solace. Before I start to talk about all the new upcoming opportunties do read the volunteers newsletter and especially about the awards ceremony.

Read January’s Volunteer Newsletter

Thank you
Volunteer Coordinator

Find out about our Volunteer: Cinzia

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After a Linguistics & Literature education my interest for languages, other people’s cultures and lives including my current partner brought me to the UK, where I have developed an extensive professional career in Content/Information Management & Research. I have spend over 15 years in the corporate sector, and while I have thoroughly enjoyed my work experience there, I always knew that I needed more.

Student of the humanities that I have been coupled with my personal attitude and awareness towards social issues, have inspired me to start volunteering, to make a change in the community.

There are many causes worth fighting for but being a woman I wanted to focus my attention to helping women develop their full potential, empowering them in their fight against violence, sexism and injustice. I started volunteering with my local branch of Women’s Aid and then, in August 2016 when I saw the opportunity advertised for a “Training and Group Work Admin” based in Southwark, I have applied for the role at Solace Women’s Aid. I was extremely happy when I was selected for this volunteering opportunity as this meant that I could carry on focusing on addressing issues related to domestic and sexual violence in a more advisory role where training and counselling (the closest I can get to this is in the groups) would play a major part. Working with a different charity and in another borough increases my perspective and exposure within the field of domestic and sexual violence.

I am currently co-facilitating for the Arise and ABC (Assertiveness, Boundaries, Confidence) Groups, and I have learned so much from the experienced facilitator and all other colleagues in the office. I am learning a lot from the women in the groups and feel so honoured that they let me in their private life and personal experiences. When the end of the groups’ sessions approach I am the one who feels really empowered when I see how a woman grows and becomes again her own individual self, herself empowered and stronger. I know that I still have a lot to learn, and I like this. No day is like the other, always challenging and evolving. I believe that we never stop learning as learning is part of life, learning & development should be made more accessible to people.

I have taken advantage of all the training sessions made available to me as a volunteer because I want to be fully equipped with all the tools I need to help women who are survivors of domestic abuse. Soon I will be attending classes towards the NOCN qualification and I can’t wait. I am so grateful to Solace Women’s Aid for allowing me to be of assistance while at the same time I develop my own self-confidence and keep feeding the desire to working towards a world free of violence and abuse for all women and girls.

PS What you see is not a picture of me but of my beloved cat Otis.

Cinzia Fumagalli – Training and Group Work Admin Volunteer

Cinzia has been volunteering with Southwark SASS since August 2016 and has established herself as a valued member of the Southwark team. Cinzia started as an administration volunteer, but had expressed interest of working face to face with service users in an emotionally supportive role.

Cinzia volunteered to co facilitate the domestic abuse awareness programme ARISE and ABC (Assertiveness, Boundaries and Confidence) and has completed both programmes. She has grown in confidence when interacting with the women and is developing her knowledge around the dynamics of domestic abuse and how to use this knowledge to empower the group attendees.

Cinzia is a reliable, dedicated, attentive, a passionate learner and pleasure to work with. I personally wish her all the best and hope she continues to develop her skills.

Syreeta Loney – Interim Group Worker

Help a woman like Caroline today

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This is Caroline’s story. She was abused for years by her husband, with her daughter in the house. After she left the abuse didn’t end. The police referred her to Solace for support.

 

Hello,

I just wanted to take a minute to tell you my story.

I had been experiencing abuse for a few years at the hands of my husband, and after leaving him he continued to harass me. I was referred to an Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA) at Solace, and my case was assessed to be high risk. Solace helped me move to a secure house away from him, but he insisted on seeing our daughter, Katie, who was struggling with her feelings toward her dad. Solace was able to provide her with arts therapy sessions. I was referred to a woman’s resilience project; where I got to share my experiences with others from similar backgrounds and I started feeling like I wasn’t alone and that I really could rebuild our lives.

As I became closer to my IDVA and began to feel safe within Solace, I finally felt I could discuss something that I had been hiding. That my husband also raped me. Everyone at Solace helped me talk about what I had been through, they were kind and never pressured me to share more then I wanted. When I decided to go to the police, Solace supported me throughout the procedure. My husband is now spending 9 years in jail, helping Katie and I feel safe as we start our new lives.

Without all the support at Solace I would have lost all hope. Katie and I feel lighter, energised and happier and ready for the next step of our lives and I know Solace will always be there for us.

Please help Solace support more women like me, £24 could help them pay for childcare, something that meant I could attend the resilience project group. Or £50 could be used to pay for another child to have an art therapy session like Katie, to help her express her feelings about her experiences without being overwhelmed

Thanks,

Caroline

Have a voice. Lead the project. #YouthAgainstAbuse

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What is it?

A youth led project in Haringey and Islington

What’s our aim?

To improve the lives of young women & girls and help end violence & abuse

What’s in it for you?

  • Meet new people!
  • A fun weekend away with the team
  • Leadership training & AQA Awards
  • New skills & experience for your CV
  • Expenses paid, refreshments and prizes!

Get involved!

  • Are you a young woman aged 13- 25 living or studying in Islington or Haringey?
  • Have great ideas about ending domestic and sexual abuse?
  • Want to be part of a team, make decisions and MAKE AN IMPACT?

Interested? Get in touch

Find out more and sign up by emailing n.wilson@solacewomensaid.org

#YouthAgainstAbuse

How Trauma Informed Yoga is helping women recover after abuse

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Our North London Rape Crisis team talks about our weekly Trauma Informed Yoga Group for women who have experienced sexual violence/abuse. This group is facilitated by a certified Yoga instructor and helps women in their recovery from trauma.

We’d like to thank Eleonora Ramsby Herrera, an experienced yoga teacher at Yoga Alliance UK,  who volunteers her time to run the group. We’d also like to thank The Life Centre who kindly donated the bolsters and blankets to help us run the groups.

What are some of the common effects of trauma?

While each individual’s reactions are unique, there are some common effects of trauma that survivors of sexual violence or abuse can experience: disconnection between mind and body, traumatic memories being stored at a sensory level in the body, interpersonal difficulties, hypersensitivity to physical contact, difficulty identifying internal states and meeting basic needs, lack of safety, flashbacks, physical reactions to situations that remind survivors of the incident, hyper-arousal, difficulty controlling emotions.

What is Trauma Informed Yoga ?

In 2003, yoga was first used as an adjunctive treatment for trauma at the Trauma Centre[1] in Brookline, Massachusetts. Their goal was to use yoga as a way to help survivors to befriend their bodies and to look further into the possibilities of yoga as a beneficial intervention within the context of trauma treatment. After conducting several surveys, pilot studies and clinical trials[2] with a group of survivors with significant trauma history associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), complex posttraumatic stress disorder (CPTSD), and development trauma; they were able to determine that trauma-sensitive yoga (TSY) was a promising intervention that has clinical relevance for people in treatment for PTSD.

Trauma Informed Yoga is a highly regarded effective form of intervention for complex trauma that presents the possibility of reintegrating mind and body and offers a way to reprogram automatic physical responses.

What are the main differences to other yoga classes?

The main differences to other yoga classes are: client and facilitator practice together opening the opportunity for a shared authentic experience. Neither metaphors nor physical assistance are used because they may trigger flashbacks or traumatising memories. The yoga postures are offered as invitations giving genuine modifications and options so participants are encouraged to make choices – there is no right or wrong way to do them. Relevance is given to the internal/subjective practice instead of making impositions from the outside so every experience is validated and supported. There is consistency in the postures and clear and repetitive guidance creating a safe space and making clear that everything proposed by the facilitator during class is optional. If anything does not feel right participants are always invited to take a break or if they choose to leave the room then one of the facilitators will follow you out to check.

What do women report are the benefits of Trauma Informed Yoga?

The sessions have had a clear impact on the physical and/or mental wellbeing of the participants. One of the participants found that her experience of yoga was “extremely helpful for her emotional and mental wellbeing” as she was learning to observe physical sensations and increase emotional awareness. Another participant’s feedback about how it felt to practice yoga was: “I’ve never practiced this form of yoga and it was an amazing opportunity to do so in a safe environment with a very experienced teacher. Having had my own reservations I feel I am now open to this type of yoga and have felt better after each session”.

How can women join the yoga after experiencing sexual violence or abuse?

The group is open for women or girls who are already accessing any of the other face to face services in North London Rape Crisis. There is a phone assessment process before joining the group. The group is not a therapeutic group to talk and share experiences so it is suitable for women who may be awaiting a trial. If interested please contact rc.groups@solacewomensaid.org

[1] http://www.traumacenter.org/

[2] http://www.traumacenter.org/research/research_overview.php

Women’s voices: ‘I don’t want people to suffer like I did and for so long, because there is always a way out’

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Author and survivor Emetaron Tata Abuah, who was supported by North London Rape Crisis, talks about her decision to write about the abuse she experienced in the powerful and inspiring book ‘My Side of the Story’.

 

Why I decided to write this book

I decided to write this book simply because it is only now at the age of 47 that I have finally found my voice. For many years I was controlled, exploited and abused due to being from a family dynamic which after years of counselling and working on myself I deemed to be highly dysfunctional. I was part of a culture where intrigue, deceit, lies and secrets were normal and a way of life. Healthy, open, communication and discussion were not at all allowed or initiated. Instead dialogue was tense, sterile and stifled.

For many years I did what I was told and was not allowed to ask questions such as, “why is this happening? Why must I do this? Who says this is right? Is this not wrong? This is wrong!’’ I was met with anger, discord and ambivalence. After a while I reasoned that the discord was designed to perpetuate the abuse and make sure that the perpetrators were able to get away with it and keep that cycle of abuse going. This was to make sure that the truth would never be given the opportunity to reveal itself and in doing so allow them to face justice.

I therefore saw it as my moral duty to share my story and bring awareness to a wider audience in every part of the world that abuse, family dysfunction, violence and corruption should not be tolerated especially if the end goal is to build a world that is ideally safe, fair, just and friendlier. I understand that this will take time, and change takes time but by being one of the voices that can speak out it is at best a good start.

I don’t want people to suffer like I did and for so long, because there is always a way out, there is always something one can do but it takes courage and fearlessness.

Even though I suffered a great deal, I was able to learn many lessons. I know that one of the legacies of abuse and its consequences is that it will pass from generation to generation if care is not taken to weed out the abuse and address why it is happening. By speaking out and writing my story I want people to understand how abuse can start, as well as how it can infiltrate every aspect of one’s life until it has total control of one’s life and then escalates into a living nightmare. I don’t want people to suffer like I did and for so long, because there is always a way out, there is always something one can do but it takes courage and fearlessness.

I suffered in silence and there was no way I could end it until I eventually came back to London, England where I was able to receive a tremendous amount of available help and support. However I had to help myself. I was very lucky. Not many people who have had similar issues to me have been as fortunate.

I wrote this book to give something back to the system that was able to help me and to be a voice for the many silent voices and untold stories of abuse and injustice, which we rarely ever have the opportunity to hear about.

I also wanted to share and reveal my insight regarding the fate of women particularly, women of colour and those from ethnic minorities. Many especially from developing countries do not have the convenience and luxury of a welfare state system, which women who are resident in Europe can access very easily. Therefore if their marriages break down they are left with no, or virtually no, support be it financial, or emotional support from their friends and families, simply because on a cultural level, when situations reach breaking point it is rare that people stick around for the long term and continue to offer assistance. After a while this begins to cool off and people back away from any involvement. However if the woman in question has the privilege of being in meaningful employment where they receive a salary and are therefore in a position to help and support themselves then they will fare better than those that don’t.

Women need to help and support each other first, regardless of race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or economic status.

However, this is not usually the case and most of them find themselves ostracised, undermined and expected to do nothing. As women we need to support and acknowledge each other when this happens, instead of pretending it is not really happening and dutifully mind our own business, just in case people presume we are being too sympathetic. At times help is not offered simply because some women in question automatically assume that if they show interest and get involved they may face the same fate and injustice. This is very unfortunate. Women need to help and support each other first, regardless of race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or economic status. Nothing will ever change unless we make a commitment to lead the way for change on a grand scale especially concerning women’s rights and nuanced cultural rigid abuse malpractices.

Finally my mother’s story is an example and warning to all women particularly in the developing world where the achievements and contribution that women can make are not recognized or encouraged. I believe that it is far better in the long run to speak out and confront the abuse and the abuser. Dutifully keeping quiet within a culture that imposes harsh penalties for confronting the issues at large verbally serves very little purpose, in most cases it will eventually backfire and create more problems and trouble for you. I encourage anyone who is having a hard time deciding how to proceed to firstly share and discuss the issues with trusted friends or family if one feels comfortable doing so with them.

I would also say that it is worth the risk. Living in fear, isolation, and being silenced is designed to intimidate, shutdown and coerce you into being small, cowardly and without a voice.

At times acquaintances can fit this remit, especially if they seem understanding and approachable, it may be worth the effort and time. I would also say that it is worth the risk. Living in fear, isolation, and being silenced is designed to intimidate, shutdown and coerce you into being small, cowardly and without a voice. As a result nothing will ever change. The cycle and machine of abuse continues which damages you, your children and the relationship you may have with them. Even if they may not be able to help, there is a possibility that they may know someone who can. If not find a counsellor, therapist or psychotherapist depending on what feels right for you. Often third party can work well as they will be impartial, it will be in most cases a confidential scenario and they never tell one what to do, give advice unless one is in danger of harming another or themselves.

DO’s

If you are a victim of domestic abuse, share this with someone. As difficult as it may seem, take action. Again, let me quote Oprah Winfrey, “people who love you, don’t hurt you. Love does not hurt”.

Recommended reading for survivors of sexual violence

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Our North London Rape Crisis team have recommended 5 books that can helpful for survivors on their recovery after sexual violence and abuse.

The Courage to Heal (Ellen Bass and Laura Davis)

Based on the experiences of hundreds of child abuse survivors, The Courage to Heal profiles victims who share the challenges and triumphs of their personal healing processes. Inspiring and comprehensive, it offers mental, emotional and physical support to all people who are in the process of rebuilding their lives. The Courage to Heal offers hope, encouragement and practical advice to every woman who was sexually abused as a child and answers some vital questions.

The Body Keeps the Score (Bessel van der Kolk)

What causes people to continually relive what they most want to forget, and what treatments could help restore them to a life with purpose and joy? Here, Dr Bessel van der Kolk offers a new paradigm for effectively treating traumatic stress.

Neither talking nor drug therapies have proven entirely satisfactory. With stories of his own work and those of specialists around the globe, The Body Keeps the Score sheds new light on the routes away from trauma – which lie in the regulation and syncing of body and mind, using sport, drama, yoga, mindfulness, meditation and other routes to equilibrium.

Trauma is Really Strange (Steve Haines)

What is trauma? How does it change the way our brains work? And how can we overcome it?

When something traumatic happens to us, we dissociate and our bodies shut down their normal processes. This unique comic explains the strange nature of trauma and how it confuses the brain and affects the body. With wonderful artwork, cat and mouse metaphors, essential scientific facts, and a healthy dose of wit, the narrator reveals how trauma resolution involves changing the body’s physiology and describes techniques that can achieve this, including Trauma Releasing Exercises that allow the body to shake away tension, safely releasing deep muscular patterns of stress and trauma.

The Courage to be Me (Nina Burrowes)

How do you rebuild your life after sexual abuse? Join a group of women as they share their stories of courage, self-compassion and hope. Find out how meeting each other and learning about recovery helped them find the courage to be themselves. The courage to be me combines science, storytelling and illustration to send a message of hope to the millions of people who are living with the impact of rape or sexual abuse. Written by psychologist and researcher Dr Nina Burrowes

My Side of the Story (Emetaron Tata Abuah)

Author Emetaron Tata Abuah, now in her forties is ready to tell the story of her difficult and unhappy childhood. She was one of six children of Nigerian parents; her father was a successful diplomat who became Nigerian Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

Her parents’ marriage was unhappy and abusive, with her cold and violent father having numerous affairs. After living in luxurious surroundings in London, Tokyo and New York, when her parents finally split up she found herself living with her mother in poverty in Onitsha, Nigeria.

Spells in Kenya and England at boarding schools did little to improve Emetaron’s life, which was blighted by physical and sexual abuse at the hands of both family members and people to whom she turned for help and advice.

My Side of the Story, My Perspective and My Truth is a powerful but harrowing account of Emetaron’s early life and her struggle to break free of the cycle of abuse to build a secure life for herself.

COVER YOUR TRACKS