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Latest News

Donate a gift today to support a woman and child fleeing violence this winter

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Around the festive period – when we see even more women fleeing abusive partners as the violence and threat escalates –  Solace needs your help to provide for the most basic of needs.

Many women and children will be arriving at our refuges this winter with nothing but the clothes they’re wearing; Alone, their confidence destroyed and traumatised from experiencing horrific abuse. Solace offers them a safe space, support and something of their own.

A gift of £14 could pay for an essentials welcome pack with food and toiletries for a mother and child arriving at one of our refuges this winter

For the same amount as a small present, making a donation of £14 could make those first steps to safety and recovery that little bit easier this winter.

Click HERE TO DONATE NOW or text SOLA07 with the amount (£4, £14, £40) to 70070 e.g. SOLA07£10

 

Milena’s Journey

Last year Milena found solace at one of our refuges. Read about her journey towards recovery:

Surviving abuse…

Milena’s husband was initially charming and confident, but he quickly became increasingly controlling and abusive. He decided what she could wear, what she could eat and who she could see. He would demand sex and rape her when she refused. Milena was abused physically, emotionally, financially and sexually for five years. The violence continued to escalate and on one occasion he violently pulled her around by her hair and tried to choke her.

The first steps to safety…

After several attempts to leave, which can often be the most dangerous time for women and children, she was finally able to escape.

But getting away, and finding solace at one of our refuges was just the first step towards safety and recovery. Over the next few months she got specialist help and access a range of our holistic services.

Rebuilding and recovering…

Attending the Solace ARISE domestic violence awareness program helped Milena understand the dynamics of abuse and rebuild her confidence and self-agency and build resilience to further abuse by recognising early abusive behaviours. Weekly 1-1 emotional and practical support meant she had consistent support to work through her experiences and also start to stabilise her financial situation. Participating in a Solace parenting programme vitally helped rebuild and improve her relationship with her daughter.

The journey continues…

Having accessed a foundation of specialist support through the refuge, Milena has now been referred to our counselling team to help work through more of the emotional scars inflicted by abuse and she will also get practical support and further independence through our Leap into Work scheme.

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Solace celebrates remarkable volunteers who help run the North London Rape Crisis Helpline

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Solace is proud to announce that seven dedicated Solace volunteers, who are now working on the North London Rape Crisis helpline, have been awarded with the OCN ‘Award for Professionals Working in the Sexual Violence Sector’.

All volunteers who work on the helpline take part in a 10-week training course to enable them to support female survivors of sexual violence by developing non-directive listening skills and getting the necessary knowledge and awareness to provide information to survivors, their supporters and other agencies. The training covers key areas relating to working with survivors of sexual violence and abuse including; childhood sexual abuse, rape and the legal system, self-harming, coping strategies and myths & stereotypes around rape and sexual abuse.

Since the helpline opened in June 2015 it has received over 700 calls from women and girls who want emotional support following abuse or from professional and family supporting survivors. We spoke to one of the amazing Solace volunteers about their experience of training and providing support on the NLRC helpline.

 

What motivated you to sign up to volunteer with Solace on the NLRC helpline?

Sexual violence is something which we as women live with every day. You see it on the news, and you experience it on the streets, for many it’s also within their own home. And pretty much every day, I’d get angry about what was happening. But volunteering with North London Rape Crisis is a place where you can direct that energy to something more productive and more positive. The training course helped me to understand the different experiences and coping strategies of women affected by sexual violence. And working on the helpline, I have the amazing privilege to speak with brave, strong women. Each call reminds me of how resilient women can be, and really reinforces my passion for the Rape Crisis movement.

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Tell us about the training course to become a helpline volunteer?

Training within a group of women was incredible. This was the first women-only learning environment I’d ever been in, and it was really eye-opening. It was great to be surrounded by women as passionate about equality and feminism as I was. And it was really reassuring to know that there was a supportive group around you, and a group who understood just what you were going through, because they were going through the same. Some sessions were really tough – we’d be discussing child sexual abuse or self-harm – but it felt like a safe space to say ‘this is affecting me, this is something which upsets me’. You didn’t feel judged or excluded, but rather like a team-member. I’m really proud of how far we’ve all come since that time and it’s great to receive the certificate to mark that.

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Senior Manager, Stephanie, presenting the OCN ‘Award for Professionals Working in the Sexual Violence Sector’

How was your first experience on the helpline?

I remember being terrified when I was about to answer the phone for the first time. But as soon as the voice came over the line, all of those worried thoughts just calmed down, and that natural human connection kicked in. We’d talked a lot about the importance of empathy – but it wasn’t something that we had to remember to do, it was something that you just have to bring to the line. The act of listening is such a simple thing really, but it’s powerful.

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What kind of support do you get to help you do this work?

The role can be difficult, but it’s good to know that there’s always someone there who will support you after a difficult call. Monthly supervisions are also a good space to let go of certain things and discuss the way you might be feeling. Solace is aware of the importance of self-care, and because it’s so fundamental to the way they work, you never feel like you should just “get on with it”. Instead, you feel understood and supported. If you need a moment, or a walk, or a cup of tea, that is what you need at that time, and the people around you will understand that.

How do you feel about volunteering to help fight against VAWG?

Sometimes it can feel like a bit of a battle. It’s just us against one enemy which seems to be everywhere: sexual violence. And that can feel really scary, and very overwhelming. But just a moment to re-focus can mean that you’re able to keep bringing your best to the fight against sexual violence, and that you’re giving all that you can to support those who are fighting beside you.

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We are currently training new volunteers and are due to start recruiting again in autumn 2016. Find out more about volunteering with Solace

Find out more about Solace’s North London Rape Crisis services

Freephone Helpline 0808 801 0305

 

A day in the life of a Solace ISVA

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As an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) at Solace Women’s Aid, I support women and girls who have experienced any form of sexual violence, whether recent or non-recent, through reporting to the police and the criminal justice process.

The nature of ISVA work is that each day can be totally different depending on what support our clients need. I could be at court for the whole day to support a woman who is giving evidence at the trial, or at the police station to support a client who is giving her full video-recorded statement to the police.

 

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As the ISVA for Westminster, I split my time between Solace’s North London Rape Crisis office and local Children’s Centres across Westminster to meet with clients. I consider it important for women to have local and confidential access to sexual violence support services in their borough and clients value it very highly. I am also co-located at Holborn police station one afternoon a week with the Sapphire Unit, the specialist sexual offences team, an arrangement developed to improve support for those who report a sexual offence.

This morning, I arranged for a specialist sexual offences police officer (SOIT) to take an initial report of a recent rape from a client at her local Children’s Centre. It is helpful that we can arrange for a specialist officer to take an initial report in a safe, familiar environment and support her through this process. Reporting can be a difficult step to take, particularly if a survivor is very vulnerable, so it helps to make it easier where possible.

In the afternoon, I met with a client who has been recently referred for an advocacy assessment. In this initial appointment, I set out what support I can offer as an ISVA and explained the stages of the criminal justice process. She has recently reported to the police, so we discuss how she is coping and what support she has around her, as it can be a long and difficult process. I completed a needs and risks assessment with her and explored additional support with her, such as counselling, body therapies and helpline support.

Although it can be hard to hear about survivors’ experiences of sexual violence and the criminal justice process, I feel privileged to do a job where I can support them in their recovery and hopefully make things a little easier in their journey through the criminal justice process.
Catherine Dunn

Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (Westminster)

Find out more about our North London Rape Crisis at Solace

Freephone Helpline 0808 801 0305

The Guardian reports on ‘Solace Women’s Aid at 40’

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Layla is showing me round her room. It’s clean and functional, there’s not much to see; two wardrobes, a desk, a double bed, a guitar leaning against a chair. But Layla (not her real name) is enthusiastic and happy. “I feel safe here,” she says. “It feels like you’re living with your mates.”

The room is in one of the 11 women’s refuges run by Solace Women’s Aid. This year, the London-based organisation is celebrating 40 years since the opening of its first refuge in Camden, north London. Originally, the charity joined up local refuges and women’s services; it now has 135 staff and 90 volunteers offering women advice, advocacy, counselling, support groups, plus family and children’s projects. Today, its services are in demand like never before – yet funding has never been more scarce.

The extract above is from a powerful and touching piece in The Guardian which explores Solace Women’s Aid 40 years on after opening the first refuge in 1975. Read the full article here

Solace responds to Autumn Statement 2015

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Solace Women’s Aid, a London based charity supporting over 10,000 survivors of domestic and sexual violence each year, welcomes the £15million that government is allocating to support women’s charities, however CEO Mary Mason comments ‘the fact these funds will be coming directly from a tax on women’s sanitary products is reinforcing the idea that violence against women and girls is a woman’s problem. Male violence and abuse must be tackled by men working with women to address this issue. That women are ultimately now funding the support they need to recover from male violence and abuse, is simply not OK.’

Another huge concern is the level of cuts to local government budgets, in total £4.1 billion. This means local authorise will receive 56% less from the central government which will have a devastating knock on effect to charities like Solace Women’s Aid as many of our services are funded directly by Local Authorities. Women accessing Solace’s services which include refuge accommodation, advice, counselling, community based support and work with children and young people will suffer significantly as a result. Mary adds ‘Women and children have already borne the brunt of cuts which often simply make no sense, for every pound spent on our services,  £6 is saved. This includes huge savings in emergency responses to domestic and sexual abuse.  Solace will continue providing specialist, high-quality, long-term and holistic support to every woman and child who contacts us after experiencing horrific abuse but we need the funds to provide these life saving services.’

Holistic, tailored support pays off in recovery from domestic and sexual violence

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Domestic and sexual violence services join forces in partnership covering every London borough, providing approximately £6 social return for every £1 invested in life-saving services, new research from Solace Women’s Aid shows.

 

A new report published today evidences the efficiency and quality of services provided by the Ascent Advice & Counselling (A&C) partnership, which supports women and girls across London who have been affected by all forms of violence and abuse. Between 2013 and 2015 the Partnership helped a staggering 24,206 women to improve their safety, better manage their mental health, reduce medication, increase self-esteem and confidence and improve their relationship with children and family. While catastrophic funding cuts persist at a local level as budgets are slashed, protecting these ring-fenced funds across-London is an absolute priority to ensure the Partnerships life-saving work continues.

One vulnerable woman explains,Once I approached the Ascent partner I started to understand about my options and my rights. This took me and my son out of the homelessness and destitution state I was in. Without the Ascent partner I would have been lost. Without them I would probably have committed suicide. Everything that has happened to me has been thanks to the great support and help I have received from them.’

 

The size and scope of the Partnership, which comprises 14 organisations and covers all 33 boroughs in London, enables more women to be able to receive vital, consistent, high-quality services which might otherwise be inaccessible. Women are able to get the support they want and need, regardless of where they live, so it’s no longer a “postcode lottery” when it comes to escaping and recovering from abuse. Of the 24,206 women and girls the Partnership supported, 77% were from BME groups. This indicates the success of the partnership in supporting specific hard to reach communities. The experience and expertise of the partner organisations means they understand what is needed to support women on the journey from abuse to recovery. Mary Mason, CEO of Solace Women’s Aid, lead partner for Ascent A&C, explains that ‘every woman who asks us for help has experienced horrific abuse but every woman’s experience is unique. Recovery is not a linear, one-way street so it’s vital that we deliver holistic and tailored support to reflect survivors’ individual experiences’.

Moving on from abuse can involve a complex web of activity including safety planning, advice, help with housing, group support, legal advocacy, emergency accommodation, counselling and language or culturally specific support. Often a combination of these services, which a woman can dip in and out of, is essential to help rebuild her life free from violence.

Sioned Churchill, Trust for London says ‘Building up robust evidence about the value of specialist advice and support for women who are experiencing domestic violence, has been a real challenge for many years.  The first priority will always be to offer that support to ensure women’s safety, but this report also shows the importance of taking time out to capture the difference the work has made in a consistent way. As a result, there is now strong evidence about the huge impact of the Ascent partnership’s work, and the enormous benefit this brings to the women themselves, as well as society as a whole. It also highlights the value of directing our financial resources to where they will make the most difference to women’s lives’.

The Ascent A&C partnership’s ‘model of excellence’ is evidenced via external evaluation using Social Return on Investment (SROI) methodology. The executive summary and the full impact report is available to download at here: www.solacewomensaid.org/social-impact-2015

Solace responds to claims that The Met are failing survivors of domestic abuse

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In response to accusations that The Metropolitan Police is failing survivors of domestic abuse (Evening Standard, 26th August 2015), Solace Women’s Aid welcomes recommendations of more specialist training for frontline officers, but highlights the importance of specialist services, like those provided by Solace, and the lack of funding to provide consistent support to survivors to enable them to live their lives free from abuse. Solace has been securing a safer future for survivors of domestic and sexual abuse in London for 40 years, supporting over 10,000 women and children a year and invites Dame Tessa, or any other London mayoral candidate, to discuss how best to support the growing number of abuse survivors in the capital.

Mary Mason, CEO of Solace Women’s Aid comments ‘while Solace continues to welcomes referrals to provide survivors with specialist, often long-term, holistic support which is needed to recover from abuse, we already face an exceptionally challenging and unsustainable environment with increasing numbers of domestic and sexual offences in London combined with continual government funding cuts.’

In the dialog around domestic and sexual violence and ultimately the support provided, Solace stresses the focus should be on the long term safety of survivors. Many people think that removing women and children from the immediate control of an abusive man solves the problem of domestic and sexual abuse. Solace knows this is often only the first step for many survivors. Their recent research, ‘Finding the Cost of Freedom’, indicated that over 90% experienced post-separation abuse, and that there is a critical need for specialist support for women and children in the period after leaving an abusive situation. We offer vital on-going support that is tailored to individual need to help survivors build safe, independent lives free from abuse.

“Let’s talk about it”: North London Rape Crisis launches new freephone helpline

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“Let’s talk about it”: Our North London Rape Crisis service launches new freephone helpline, to provide life-saving emotional support to survivors of sexual violence and abuse, in a critical climate of unprecedented demand for services and insecure funding.

 With essential funds provided by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC), the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and the Home Office, we are launching the North London Rape Crisis (NLRC) freephone helpline to provide a safe, non-judgmental, confidential space for an ever increasing number of women and girls who are desperately seeking help to recover from sexual violence and abuse.

To mark the launch of the new freephone helpline, NLRC are launching a campaign, featuring Solace volunteers and supporters, to help challenge some of the myths surrounding sexual violence and break down the barriers to picking up the phone and getting crucial emotional support. Help spread the word on Twitter by tweeting: #Solace40 is here to listen. New Freephone North London Rape Crisis helpline 0808 801 0305. Challenge myths. Break barriers #letstalkaboutit

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The anonymous listening service is available to women and girls aged 13+ who have experienced any form of sexual violence (including child sexual abuse, rape, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, prostitution and female genital mutilation) at any time: recent or non-recent, whether they are already receiving support, awaiting counselling, or speaking out for the first time and irrespective of if they want to report the crime or not.

As the number of rape and sexual abuse cases reported in London soars by nearly 30% (*Metropolitan police 2015) and mounting media coverage of sexual abuse atrocities hits the headlines it is not surprising that more women are coming forward. Solace is increasingly inundated with requests for help and has seen a 40% increase in referrals. Emily Robertson, our NLRC service manager explains that “with insecure and stretched funding, we struggle to meet the needs of all those seeking support in dealing with the devastating impacts of rape and sexual abuse. The new helpline is a vital service offering in-depth emotional support that really could be the difference between life and death.”

But with no end in sight for the influx of women and girls seeking support, fears are escalating over availability of services for courageous survivors who come forward. One service user sums up the impact that NLRC has had for her, “I would not be here, alive today if it wasn’t for the North London Rape Crisis Service”But, like many other Rape Crisis centres across the UK, NLRC has no secure funding from the government after March 2016. Unless this is resolved urgently NLRC will face closure and vital support would be withdrawn from thousands of survivors.

Freephone Helpline 0808 801 0305

Find out more about the North London Rape Crisis service

Solace’s flagship event Rock Against Violence 2015 tickets on sale now!

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Rock Against Violence 2015

Thursday 12th November at the O2 Academy in Islington.

Sounds of Solace is proud to announce their flagship music event is back for a fourth year running, showcasing up and coming and semi-professional musicians. Rock Against Violence 2015 will raise vital funds for Solace during its 40th Anniversary year so more women and children can get life-changing support after domestic or sexual abuse.

RAV 2015 tickets on sale now

This year Rock Against Violence 2015 will take place on Thursday 12th November 2015, back at the O2 Academy in Islington. Doors will open at 6:30pm. The first act will kick off the night at 7pm followed by several others. The night will include a silent auction and a raffle, before the closing at 11pm. For full event details and the exciting line-up check out the RAV 2015 website.

Tickets are now on sale. Get your ticket today at Eventbrite

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Solace crowdfunds for awe-inspiring video showing journey from abuse to recovery

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Solace launches crowdfunding appeal with The Big Give to produce awe-inspiring video that will convey just how Solace helps survivors of domestic or sexual violence on their journey to recovery. This will give survivors a voice and demonstrate how they were able to recover and rebuild their lives free from abuse. Solace will use the video to secure an extra £40K a year plus other help and support, ensuring Solace can continue to provide vital services to survivors of domestic and sexual abuse.

 

Many people think that removing women and children from the immediate control of an abusive man solves the problem of domestic and sexual abuse. Solace knows this is often only the first step for many survivors. Our recent research indicated that over 90% experienced post-separation abuse, and that there is a critical need for specialist support for women and children in the period after leaving an abusive situation.

 

We offer survivors vital on-going support that is tailored to individual need, listening to and believing every woman or child who asks for help. This is highly effective in helping them to recover and rebuild their lives. However, to provide this level of support we need to convince donors and funders of the positive impact of providing our services, however long it takes to help survivors build independent lives free from abuse. The video will tell our service users stories to help us do this.

 

To find out more and donate to our appeal visit our page at the Big Give

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