This is a general moan...
...about how services for women recovering from experiences of violence are so desperately underfunded in the UK. (
I know about this because it's what I do - both for a living and as a volunteer - in two separate organisations each with its own distinct remit around recovery services for women who have experienced violence. Domestic violence and sexual violence. Both are often one and the same and both (usually) involve male perpetrators.
Ok. I work with women who have (mainly) been abused by men.
I would guess that most people who read this blog will have an understanding of the extreme and debilitating effects of male violence on women. How it shrinks a woman. How it crushes a woman. How it negatively impacts upon her relationships with her children, her siblings, her parents, her friends and relatives, her self. How it all but destroys her confidence, her self esteem. Her self. I often think about that Frederick Douglas quote, “The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress" because women endure horrific tyranny at the hands of men - usually in order to protect everyone, including him. (I know Frederick Douglas said that other, awful victim blaming thing too and I do hold that against him.)
But I don’t suppose I need to expand on the reasons why services for women recovering from experiences of violence are so vital and valued by women for my regular readers but, for those who aren’t aware… Services organised by women, for women are different. For a start, they’re usually crisis based in that we need to be ‘there’ when women need us. They’re usually ‘client led’ – which means that we, as women, trust that our clients, other women, know what they need and that, as women, they can tell us. We recognise the need for an holistic service because, due to her abuse, that is usually what a woman needs.
I’ve just read that back and there’s an awful lot of ‘need’ in there…and that ‘need’ is real. Women need specialist services to enable them to recover from their experiences of violence, to move on and make lives for themselves and their children as whole people. It seems to me that, if society valued women at all, services specifically aimed at providing them/us with the means to recover from their/our experiences of violence and enable them/us to participate as full members of the community would be welcome and whole-heartedly supported.
But they're not.
There seems to be an expectation from statutory agencies that providers of services for women manage to provide their services for nothing - like we're somehow exempt from paying the bills, the utilities are free for us. That other professionals don't charge us for their time and expertise. That we, the workers, don't actually have living expenses (oh, I forgot, we're all upper-middle class housewives, well supported by our high-earning husbands, just doing our bit for the poor and needy...). That our client group - abused women - are somehow trying to pull one over on the system - that they're somehow lying about what's been done to them - that their recovery is not worthy of public funds.
And there's the unspoken but highly audible notion that we, the workers, are colluding with our clients in some kind of deception because it keeps us in work.
This really pisses me off. It demonstrates a total negation of the real life experience of so many women. Makes it nothing. Makes it not matter. Unless a woman turns up for her interview with a statutory agency with visible bruises or has had the foresight, strength and 'cunning' to have her abuser removed from the A&E cubicle so that she was able to tell the medical practitioner how she really got her injuries and then relied on that person's professionalism to document it properly - unless a woman can prove that she's a victim of violence then she's somehow fraudulent. Yeah. We all do that. We all lie about male violence.
There is no recognition of abuse that can't or hasn't been documented. Sexual, emotional, psychological, financial, familial... some things just cannot be documented.
Fear can. As a professional person, working with women recovering from experiences of violence, I'm an expert. I can document evidence of fear. I don't document what I don't see. I'm a professional and I value my reputation. They use my expertise in trials of men accused of child sexual abuse or violence against women but they doubt my word when it comes to asking for funding for projects for women and children overcoming experiences of violence. How does that work, then?
I know this scenario is repeated in almost every Local Authority in England - possibly thoroughout the UK. Us ordinary women who run recovery services for women overcoming experiences of violence are held up as beacons of PC... as 'Best Value in action'... as boxes ticked by the LA who have Central Government targets to meet. We're doing our job and we're doing it well. But when it comes to funding.....
There is little or no recognition of how recovery services can reduce the cost to the national economy. According to this report domestic violence costs the state £3.1billion a year and employers £1.3billion. I contend that services provided for women by women are a damn sight less expensive than that - and not just in monetary terms, though monetary terms seem to be the most popular indicator of 'worth'.
I want women to be believed. I want women who experience violence to be believed and I want those women who run organisations dedicated to their recovery to be believed. And I can't stand fucking tokenism.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
This is a general moan...