07 February 2018

In this piece, we hear from Kim who runs the Reach-In Women project at Hometruths, and how it is empowering female survivors of domestic abuse in Swindon.

Hometruths run weekly support sessions, and a 'meet' group for women to socialise with others who have had similar experiences.

“The aim of the project is to reach out to women in the community in a different way.

We wanted to provide something that was holistic, a way for women to get support outside of the referral route from commissioned services.

The Reach-In project provides that - a lot of women come to us themselves because they have seen us at a local venue, or they have heard about us from their neighbours, or their friends and family.

Because we are a community project, it can be less threatening for women, it is less daunting for them to make that initial contact.

When they do reach out, what they receive is in line with commissioned services in terms of safeguarding and signposting, but we can also get alongside people as individuals.

Having an opportunity to let women come together in this way – so much comes from it, it is a facilitation of empowerment.

"Domestic abuse shuts your life right down. I couldn't see a way out of it until I came here - knowing it's not just me and I am not alone has been a lifeline. Knowing there are people who understand and can help you is amazing - I really don't know where I would be without it."

- Project member

Reach-In Women is fundamental to our organisation – it’s a really central project and the need continues to rise. In some parts of Swindon - 80% of women don’t speak out and often it is because they don’t know what they are experiencing is abuse, they are too frightened or they don’t know they can report it.

We are completely flexible in how the project is run; we try and offer as much as we can, and in as broad a way as possible to support women with what they need.

For some people, it could be a phone conversation because that’s what they want and for others, they come and join in with activities and events, alongside the groups we run.

Others choose the anonymity of a phone call or a visit to their house. We have one woman at the moment, who is in her 50s – she can’t work because of trauma, and she can barely leave the house. So for her, we visit her in her home, because it is safe to do that and because that is what she needs.

Isolation and lack of community are always huge issues where domestic abuse is concerned. It’s so important to be able to bring them into contact with each other, and a network – which women have described as a sisterhood, the unspoken connection with women with similar experiences and no judgement.

The women never fail to amaze me with their generosity for one another, their cooperation with each other, and their concern for others - putting aside what is happening in their own lives to support each other.

They become friends and then often come back and volunteer with us as well, which is always great to see.

"I haven't had any friends for the past two years since I was in a relationship with him, and I have felt so lonely but me and one of the other girls have struck up a friendship and it's great to talk to someone who understands what it's like and we have been seeing each other at weekends."

- Project member

The project can have a big impact on boosting women’s confidence, and of course it is different for everyone. I can think of women who, within a conversation, look different, stand differently, take a totally different approach to their lives. But equally, there are those that take a lot longer or who need ongoing support to rebuild their lives in a safe way because of the domestic abuse compounding issues such as disability or mental health issues.

Most people are on a journey and the project can be a step forward for them. We have really good relationships with the women and often hear from women further down the line who let us know they are getting married, have moved away, or started work – it’s incredibly powerful to hear from women who are regaining their lives.

"Coming here has helped me so much, I know I'm not crazy and I know what to call what happened to me now and meeting people who have been through the same sort of stuff has really helped my confidence and a belief that I can change my life back to who I used to be."

- Project member


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