“Those small things make the biggest difference”

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One25_Social_Gradient_WhiteLogo1 2020

One25 posted this on 21/05/2024

Content warning: sexual assault, rape, abuse

We see the impact of domestic and sexual violence every day: on the lives of the women we meet; on their safety, health and self-esteem.

To mark Mental Health Awareness Week, caseworkers Anna and Ozora told us how they support women who are experiencing, or at risk of, violence and abuse – and how small moments of care and connection can make a big difference.

You’re both IDSVAs at One25. What does IDSVA mean?

Ozora: “An IDSVA is an Independent Domestic and Sexual Violence Advocate. We support people who have experienced or are experiencing domestic or sexual violence, helping them to reduce risk of harm and improve safety.”

What kind of challenges do you see women facing?

Ozora: “With the majority of the women we support, they’ve experienced some form of abuse for their whole lives. So, that measure of what a healthy, good relationship is completely different from someone else.”

Anna: “A lot of the women have never had those basic needs met. Housing I think is a massive one [too].”

Ozora: “There’s been a lot of women who have experienced rape and sexual assaults within the last couple of months.”

What impact do these challenges have on women’s mental health?

Anna: “I think the impact is immense.”

Ozora: “Women have [experienced] so much trauma, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Anxiety and Depression that they just don’t prioritise their health […] They would really go above and beyond to support each other but can’t give themselves that same treatment. […] They’re in constant fight or flight mode really.”

Anna: “I think we see a lot of women [who are] hyper vigilant […] [They have] a trauma-based physical and mental response [to situations].”

Ozora: “That’s why it’s so important: the way that we work with them. A lot of other agencies see [their responses] as non-engagement and being hostile and then they’re often closed down from support that they really need.”

As IDSVAs, how do you support the women you work with?

Anna: “Our main focus is risk and safety. Risk is changing all the time for the women. [We will risk assess] where they’re staying, the areas that they frequent, what perpetrators are in those areas that they need to be aware of. That will aid the safety measures you’re going to be thinking about. It might include linking women in with other services [… or] we might be encouraging them to come into the health hub and link up with the GP.”

Caseworker sits on sofa with a woman. They are going through paperwork. Their backs are to the camera

What do you find can help women with their mental health?

Ozora: “Being able to wash and get clean clothes on is something that we all really take for granted – but you can see when they come out of the shower they’re like a new person. Those small things really make the biggest difference […] We also do nice things with the women if they’d like to. It’s not always like: ‘we’ve got this form to fill out’. [It’s] time away from the life that they’re living.”

Anna: “It’s a very person-centred approach […] Whether that’s going out for a coffee or a walk or swimming. […] The emotional support is a massive part of what we’re doing.”

Ozora: “They always come with laughs and a funny joke to tell […] They’re just such an amazing group of women who, despite everything that they’ve been through, still keep picking themselves up and trying again.”

"[My IDSVA] is great. She is really good and we get on well."

- Harper
A caseworker wearing a black coat is smiling at a woman in an orange coat on a sunny day in a park

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