The recent shocking storyline concerning Rob and Helen in radio’s The Archers has put domestic abuse in the spotlight.
Julie regularly meets real life Helens and is pleased that the issue is being given such a high profile platform.
“It is highlighting domestic abuse as a generic problem that women still feel that they have to keep secret,” said Julie.
A Community Interest Company, My Sisters’ House is a Women’s Centre for Arun & Chichester. A trading arm sees the company transforming donated clothing into bespoke fashion items, helping to fund the drop in service, domestic abuse surgeries, SHINE confidence courses and a subsidised on-site café.
“Since we opened the drop-in in June 2015 we have assisted 62 women, with 26 remaining on caseload due to the ongoing complexity of their needs,” said Julie, adding: “Largely domestic abuse cases, there are also those with complex bereavement, poverty, family breakdown and mental health issues. We use freelance trainers to run the courses and pay one part-time domestic abuse practitioner to undertake our domestic abuse surgeries and casework.”
Otherwise staffed by volunteers, My Sisters’ House aims to support highly vulnerable women, who are characterised by a range of issues including histories of physical and sexual abuse, drug and alcohol addiction, trauma, and mental health problems. Endeavouring to deliver practical, emotional, and therapeutic support in tailor-made interventions, while addressing a range of underlying issues, “women value our safe, women-only space and the set of supportive relationships with workers and peers they are able to build here,” explained Julie.
And having piloted and consulted, she is in no doubt about what is needed.
“We now need to scale up to a full women’s centre provision. There is no Women’s Centre for at least 50 miles, and yet apart from Crawley Arun has the highest statistics for domestic abuse in West Sussex. The need is most definitely there.”
As for Julie, her role as founder and Development Manager of My Sisters’ House is a vocation. Driven by an intense desire to work for community benefit, she has worked with many disadvantaged women affected by crime, homelessness, mental or physical ill health, domestic violence, debt, unemployment and loss. I know of many recent case examples where the support of women is minimal and ineffective because only one issue is addressed and frequently this does not connect with the reality of the world the women live in.
“We need to let women know that we are here for them and that we can help them access the agencies and services they need to move on with their lives in a way that they, not anybody else, are in control of.”
No woman should have to live out Helen’s story. If you suspect anyone of needing help, please point them towards My Sisters’ House.
Soon moving to larger premises on the same road, My Sisters’ House is currently at 78 London Road, Bognor Regis. Telephone: 01243 697800 www.mysistershouse.co.uk