Marie says that her favourite part of the job is being able to work on developing stronger relationships between mental health and domestic abuse services, to help battle the double stigma survivors face.
“I’m sort of a unicorn in the UK, as specialised Mental Health IDVA posts are very rare,” she says. “The relationship between mental health and domestic abuse isn’t recognised as widely as it should be. Most organisations have core IDVAs as opposed to specialist, so the fact Advance has this specific role is a massive step in the right direction.”
Marie says one of the biggest impacts of remote working during lockdown has been on practical support to service users.
“Things like completing application forms for support, that’s really difficult to help someone with remotely, and comes up a lot with survivors with mental health needs. That can mean survivors have sources of support fall through, sometimes just small ones, but that can really set them back.”
She says that supporting survivors who live with perpetrators has become more complex.
“I find I’m using a lot more code words on the phone, because women are less likely to have a space where their partner isn’t there. I’m also using multiple codewords with women so they can signal if their abuser is in the house or in the same room. Because women aren’t going out to work, or attending things like GP appointments, we’ve lost those confidential spaces.”
Getting back to normal will be hugely beneficial to the women we support, but, Marie says, other services will have to do the same.
“In-person meetings are more beneficial for survivors, because it’s easier to build relationships and trust. It won’t be enough for Advance to go back to normal, though, unless all services are operating face-to-face. We need to have that coordinated community approach, to ensure women are getting all the support they need.”