Spring Freedom Programme….
We are half way through the Spring Freedom Programme which is running from February to May 2019. I think this is one of the most culturally diverse programmes I have done. Twelve women from different cultures, countries, age and physical ability. We have women from The Lebanon, Poland, Hungary, Italy, America, England and Ireland. All with one thing in common! I am always fascinated and inspired by how the women who come to my programmes bond and forge new friendships with other women who they feel truly understand them.
They come to the first session, not knowing what to expect. Some of them, having been referred by a professional, perhaps a social worker, don’t want to be there at all! By session 3, they have visibly relaxed. You can almost hear them thinking – “this isn’t as bad as I thought it would be”. I’ve actually had a woman on this programme say that to me!
For others it is a lifeline. They have been isolated and it is a revelation to them that they are not the only person to have experienced domestic abuse, therefore meaning it wasn’t their fault!!
I absolutely love facilitating this programme. Professionals thank me ‘teaching’ the women about domestic abuse. That makes me smile and I tell them – “I don’t teach them anything! I don’t need to. They have lived it. I simply facilitate a structured space for them to make sense of what they have experienced with other women who have experienced it themselves. I don’t do anything more than try to make it a safe, comfortable, friendly environment for them to come to, once a week for 3 months.
Why do some people not understand? Why do they patronise these women by implying they need teaching??! Hence the women come to that first session fearing they are going to be talked at and patronised. What they find when they enter the room and are greeted by me is very different.
What the women don’t realise is that I am the one being taught! I am a survivor of domestic abuse. Something I am proud of. If women ask me if I am a survivor, I tell them Yes. It doesn’t compromise my professional relationship with them. If anything it strengthens it. I take part in my programmes. I grow with the women.
How I wish there had been The Freedom Programme when I was going through it……….