International Women’s Day 2023 – What I Learnt Working with Women and Girls Affected by Violence
Niamh Mitchell, our Northern Regional Development Coordinator, has experience of working with young women and girls affected by violence. Here, she talks to our Communications and Policy Coordinator Frances about her experience, what she learnt studying for her SafeLives Certificate in ‘Domestic Abuse – Prevention and Early Intervention’ and how it relates to our work at StreetDoctors.
Frances: ‘Niamh, from your experience what is the scale of the problem?’
Niamh: ‘Women, girls, or those who identify as a woman, in every walk of life are impacted by violence against women and girls (VAWG). The underlying threat of violence is so prominent in our society and permeates every aspect of life for women. From choosing to take a long route home to stick to the ‘safe’ paths, to the threat of being sexually assaulted or raped – the constant assessment of harm plays out daily.’
F: ‘When you have worked with young women and girls affected by violence, what in your experience are their most important needs?’
N: ‘In my previous role, I provided support directly to young women and girls affected by violence. I wouldn’t say there was a simple answer for this as it is such a complex topic, but if you were to break it down into smaller steps – I think being heard and really listened to can be transformative. Everyone will have a unique experience and individual story to tell, acknowledging this and validating what they have been through can be the start of them taking back control over what has happened to them. It’s important for women to learn to trust their own voices and speak up for themselves when something is harming them.’
F: ‘How do you think these needs should be addressed in terms of tackling the causes and providing solutions?’
N: ‘I think change needs to come from everyone. It is cliché, but we are stronger together. I think everyone would benefit from a society where women feel safe and protected from violence. I can’t stress enough the importance of having organisations and systems that provide support for both young men and women affected by VAWG. I believe that support through provision, education, and resources can provide people with the tools to stop the cycle of harm from continuing. Such as, I used to run workshops in schools about consent, which proved beneficial in challenging perceptions for both young men and women.’
F: ‘What were the most memorable learnings in your domestic violence qualification?’
N: ‘Probably the scope of the problem. Not only in the UK but globally VAWG persists as an epidemic. I have taken these learnings away and will continue to embed them in my work.’
F: ‘How are you using your knowledge and experience in your current role at StreetDoctors when working with women and girls affected by violence?‘
N: ‘A lot of policy and practice around street violence has been focused on young men and boys, but the impact on women and girls is just as significant. I always wanted to bring this with me to StreetDoctors and make sure we include this in our discussions and in the development of our work. StreetDoctors helps people that are witnesses to violence and provides them with the tools to process what they have experienced. We want to work more with organisations that provide direct support to people affected by VAWG – to empower more women and girls with the tools to keep themselves, and those around them safe.
I was excited to work with Greater Manchester Violence Reduction Unit and England Netball for their UniteHer event, linking young girls with professionals – designed to build relationships and trust with services.’
F: ‘Thanks very much Niamh, it was really interesting speaking with you about your experience and what can be done, and how it is relevant to your work at StreetDoctors.’
If you are affected by any of the issues mentioned above, please contact:
- Women’s Aid have a live chat online for anyone who needs help or advice, or is worried about someone – relating to abuse and domestic abuse.
- End Violence Against Women database for support services for women and girls
- Rape Crisis will help anyone who has experienced sexual violence
- NHS Get Help: Domestic Violence and Abuse – recognising the signs and getting help.
- NSPCC helpline for children and adults to report and get help if a child is unsafe