Most of the women we work with have faced trauma in their lives. This has impacted their emotional wellbeing, their choices and the options that are available to them. Many women have come from situations of domestic abuse, which may have led to them being coerced to commit crime.
Some women we work with have had no healthy support systems, especially family and friends or just having someone who believes in you. They have sometimes developed unhealthy coping mechanism such as drinking, taking drugs, or getting involved in problematic relationships. This is not about being lazy or uneducated, this is about finding something that helps to escape trauma and get through tough times.
Our keyworkers provide bespoke support for women based on their individual needs, from accessing safe accommodation, building confidence to access services such as mental health support, to securing employment. We want to empower women to create their own positive support networks and encourage healthy coping mechanisms. This often starts with small steps to build trust and respect with our keyworkers and allowing women we support to have the space to learn to trust and respect themselves.
We started working in Kent about a year ago now, and now have a women’s centre in Medway which has become a safe space for the women we support. We help women with basic care items, and we facilitate groups supporting emotional wellbeing, life skills and healthy ways of coping with trauma. The mental health service is a very stretched provision throughout the region and sometimes not being able to access the support in a timely manner leads to self-medication with a range of substances and its effect on associated behaviours. Advance’s work is based on a community and partnership approach meaning that we actively pursue and encourage help from external providers who are able to work with women while they are being supported by us, and also provide them with a network of support options for the future.
I had worked for many years in the employability sector and during the pandemic the need to focus on people’s well-being became vital. Not meeting such needs can greatly impact someone’s ability to get a job. I knew it was about empowering people to lead a more rewarding life. When I applied for the role with Advance, I was excited about being part of a woman’s journey to make those positive changes and help her recognise her ability to be the best version of herself. It is nice to change people’s perception of certain groups in society, but it is even more rewarding to change someone’s perception of themselves.
I enjoy advocating for women, as challenging as that is sometimes. Being part of changing the perception of women in the criminal justice system is vital. The benefits and changes that women experience using holistic and trauma-informed approaches is proven and can be the starting point to them becoming the best version of themselves. Judgement and stigma only serve to perpetuate lack of self-worth.
I know we are helping make big changes in the lives of the women we support and hopefully in time we will change the way women and young girls who experience trauma can access support before their choices become limited and their self-worth hits rock bottom.
The work we do is very much needed and the challenges we face builds a greater sense of achievement when you see how our approach and support positively impacts the lives of the women and their communities.
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- The Minerva service is part of our wider Criminal Justice services. Advance support’s women in contact with the criminal justice system in Women’s Centres across London, Hampshire, Kent, Thames Valley, Essex, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire. Find out more
- Women must be referred to Advance, via statutory services or the charity’s self-referral scheme. For more information about who Advance is able to support, please visit Get help
- For facts and statistics about domestic abuse and women in the criminal justice system, as well as Advance’s work, please visit Our impact