Community Engagement Project
Violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence can happen to women and girls of all ages, sexualities, abilities, faith, cultural, social and ethnic backgrounds. However not all women have equal access to safety and the freedom or means or ability to leave a context of violence. For many women and girls, their experience of violence and abuse can be compounded by multiple, intersecting inequalities and a broader context of social exclusion and marginalisation which are more conducive to violence, and in which empowerment routes may be more restricted.
Intersecting inequalities increase barriers to protection and help-seeking: for example, disabled people experience disproportionately higher rates of domestic abuse, and also experience domestic abuse for longer periods of time, and more severe and frequent abuse than non-disabled people. Disabled women are twice as likely to experience domestic violence as non-disabled women (Source: 1995 British Crime Survey, also confirmed by data from other countries). They are also likely to experience abuse over a longer period of time and to suffer more severe abuse and injuries as a result of the violence, than disabled men. And ‘BME' women are disproportionately affected by different forms of abuse e.g. forced marriage, “honour-based” violence, female genital mutilation, sexual exploitation in the form of commercial sex work, trafficking, gang violence, etc. Plus, these groups experience discrimination in accessing education, employment, health care.
And ‘BME' women are disproportionately affected by different forms of abuse e.g. forced marriage, “honour-based” violence, female genital mutilation, sexual exploitation in the form of commercial sex work, trafficking, gang violence, etc. Plus, these groups experience discrimination in accessing education, employment, health care. In response, we have set up the International Women's Group and are developing services.
Another group who are not accessing specialist support services are older women: for instance, Safe Lives estimates that approximately 120,000 individuals aged 65+ have experienced at least one form of abuse (psychological, physical, sexual or financial). But only 3% of victims aged 60 or over are accessing IDVA (Domestic Abuse) services. As is stated by the Government’s ‘Ending Violence Against Women and Girls’ strategy (2016–2020) “there is no generic approach to providing services to victims of violence and abuse. Needs may be complex and may include, for example, housing provision, assistance with debt or support for mental health problems. Provision should meet the needs of the diverse range of victims whether long term residents of that locality or victims who have moved in more recently”. In this strategy, older women are highlighted as a specific group whose needs must be assessed by the Transformation Fund after its launch in April 2017. They are described as forming a group that “experience multiple disadvantage”.
In order to enable The Women's Centre Cornwall to develop services to support greater access and address these barriers, we successfully applied to the Tampon Tax Fund. This Fund, has been designed to benefit charities that support women and girls, particularly those affected by violence and domestic abuse. The Minister for Civil Society, Rob Wilson, said: “From Cornwall to Dundee, the Tampon Tax Fund continues to benefit organisations in every corner of the UK working to improve the lives of disadvantaged women and girls, including those who’ve been affected by violence. This Fund is helping to improve lives, supporting our ambition to create a fairer, shared society for everyone. I’m glad that so many worthwhile organisations will benefit from this money.”
This money is supporting a 3-year Community Engagement project which aims to build on and develop The Women Centre Cornwall’s current practice and services and increase its capacity and knowledge to provide a new area of work: that is advocacy, specialist sexual violence services and support to women and girls in Cornwall who;
- are from isolated, hard to reach groups who experience multiple forms of discrimination and disadvantage;and
- have experienced or are at risk of sexual violence and/or domestic abuse and/or child sexual abuse/sexual exploitation; and
- experience additional barriers to accessing support; and
- do not currently have access to or wish to access services.
This is a new, exciting project which will use creative methods to enable us to reach out to groups of women who have previously made little use of our services. We are currently consulting with our staff, volunteers and community organisations to identify the particular groups that we initially wish to prioritise so that they are able to use our services and support networks. We will consult further with potential service users and specialist providers from the prioritised groups.
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