In the last 3 months, I have had the pleasure of working with a group of beautiful, inspirational and amazing women in my Spring 2019 Freedom Programme. Seeing them every week for our sessions has been the highlight of my week. It isn’t easy for anyone to enter into an environment where they don’t know what to expect and don’t know anyone else there. So imagine how difficult it must be to do that when you are a woman that has experienced domestic abuse and you know the focus of that environment will be – domestic abuse. Is this a test”? “If I say the wrong thing, will social services take the kids”?, “Am I going to sound stupid”?, “Is it going to be really depressing with every one crying”?. I have been told that all these questions and many more go through women’s minds as they prepare to attend their first session of The Freedom Programme.
Social workers tell me “It is great, what you are teaching the women”!? I usually just smile professionally. The fact though, is that I don’t need to ‘teach’ them anything! They have lived their experiences and come through it. Maybe a little battle worn but nevertheless, they have survived! I am merely giving them a safe space to meet and connect with other women who share those experiences. I facilitate that safe space and try to help them untangle the confusion that happens when you have experienced domestic abuse. If anything – they are teaching me!
What do the women get from the programme?
That is a question I am asked a lot. I hope that they go away with the ‘tools’ to protect themselves and their children in the future. I hope they will be able to better identify an abusive relationship. That they understand the impact of domestic abuse on children and feel better equipped to help their own children recover. There are lot’s of things that the women take with them when they have completed the Freedom Programme. But one of the most important ones, I believe, is that they realise it is not only them that it has happened to. They bond and make life long friends with other women and go on to support those women and spread awareness of the programme to other women who may also be experiencing abuse. The one thing they all go away with is the knowledge that being on a group programme wasn’t as scary as they thought it would be! In fact, it was fun!
Yesterday, as I always do, I held a celebration for the Spring 2019 graduates of The Freedom Programme. Everyone brought food and I gave out certificates and Mr Right/Mr Wrong Fridge Magnets to everyone so they can always be reminded of what a healthy relationship should look like. There were lots of tears but I think they were happy tears?! There was lots of laughter, the best thing to hear. I wish I could show you all of the pictures I took so that you could see these stunning, amazingly strong women. But for obvious reasons, I can’t!
Thank you to all the women who attended and worked so hard over the last 3 months to empower themselves and each other. Thank you for the tears, the laughter and for telling your stories to help other women. I am so proud of each and every one of you.
The pictures in this blog are used with permission from every person in them. The ones that do show faces, they are not the group members. They are other professionals who observed the sessions. Women that did not want their picture included at all, were respected and those pictures are not here.