Woman’s Trust is here to address the mental health impact that abuse has on women. Due to the immediate safety and practical concerns women face when they are fleeing abuse, the need for support for their psychological and emotional wellbeing can get overlooked. Experience has shown us that if you don’t recognise the toll that the abuse and violence has had a woman’s mental health, you run a real risk that she will never recover or live a positive life and, of course, this has negative repercussions for any children she may have too. Here we are not only mental health specialists but also domestic abuse specialists. Women tell us how important this is. They have come across many individuals and agencies that simply haven’t understood domestic abuse.
Women can attend our one to one counselling, crisis counselling, peer support groups, self-development workshops, mother and child art therapy workshops or a combination of all of these. Many women find taking the step to come and see us a really difficult one. They may have never had therapy before and they may also feel that it won’t help or they will be judged or told what to do. This does not happen here. We have a person-centred approach and always take the lead from the client. We listen and guide but we do not tell women ‘You must do this’ or ‘You need to leave this relationship’. Women who have been in abusive relationships are very familiar with being overpowered, with being controlled and the last thing that we want to do is replicate this experience.
All our services are free and we provide hardship travel and childcare grants whenever possible to make sure there are no barriers to women coming here. In both west and east London, women can access counselling with us for up to 18 sessions. For some women, this is the first time they have talked about the abuse and it can be very hard but, for most, it doesn’t take long to trust us and feel safe. In east London, we also have funding for crisis counselling (3 sessions) for women who need immediate help will they wait for longer-term provision from us. We are fundraising with the aim of extending this service to west London as we recognise the importance to some women of receiving support quickly.
Women from any London borough can access our support groups and workshops. In our groups, women share their experiences with other survivors. Groups really help to take women out of the isolation that abuse causes and enable them to help other which is healing and empowering. Our workshops also have a therapeutic element but have a practical and psycho-educational focus too. Recent titles have included ‘Healthy Vs Unhealthy relationships’ and ‘Effects of domestic violence on children.’ In response to women’s concerns for their children, we are delighted to have received funding to start a new workshop programme and work directly with children for the first time. Mothers and their young children (ages 5 – 10) can now attend art therapy workshops with us to help them understand their emotions, to help recover their bond (so often damaged while living with abuse) and to give mothers new ways to support their children.
What we hear often is that women feel ‘broken’ when they arrive at Woman’s Trust and ‘hopeful’ when they leave. We know that this hope can bring great things for these amazing women – postive relationships with their children, new jobs, hobbies, healthy relationships, friendships: a good life which is all the more deserved after what they have conquered.
“Woman's Trust is a super king sized duvet, full of kindness, compassion and understanding that is wrapped around me to keep me warm, safe and provides protection to allow me the opportunity to learn about what has happened to me, why it has happened and, most pertinently, comforts me while I find my footing in this world again and strength to carry on. I will be eternally grateful for Woman's Trust and to each woman who has helped me, and I hope the duvet can be wrapped around many other women who may feel as helpless as I did before I was made so very welcome.”