The scheme, run through Women’s Aid in partnership with RISE and CGL (who together provide support locally for survivors of domestic abuse through ‘The Portal’) and Brighton & Hove City Council and East Sussex County Council, trains local people to signpost domestic abuse survivors to where they can get help in the local community, and understand domestic abuse itself and the help available.
Women’s Aid launched the ‘ask me’ scheme in June in response to survivors frequently reporting to the charity that opportunities to help them at an early stage were missed in the local community.
he scheme will recruit and train residents that work or volunteer in jobs that interact frequently with local communities – such as hairdressers and shop assistants – to become ‘ask me ambassadors’. It will equip them with the skills to know how to respond to a survivor if she discloses domestic abuse, to understand the signs and effect of domestic abuse, and to know where to signpost women for additional help and support.
Following Women’s Aid’s initial appeal for ambassadors, a number of people came forward in the Brighton & Hove and East Sussex areas to register their support and interest.
Through proactively approaching people and more individuals applying on their own initiative, the charity will now be recruiting 80 more people as ‘ask me ambassadors’. There are two routes to becoming an ambassador: coming forward and applying to take part, or being invited to apply by Women’s Aid and their partners.
Women’s Aid will hold a two-day training session in 2017 for all those who have been selected to be ‘ask me ambassadors’. Following the training, the ambassadors will be able to respond effectively to domestic abuse while going about their everyday lives, creating communities which are safe for abuse survivors and which support them to get help
The ‘ask me’ scheme is aimed at local people that work in places that a survivor may go to as part of her everyday life - such as the supermarket, a hair salon, or a pharmacy. The scheme is also seeking ambassadors that might have a tangible ‘reach’ within the community – such as the chair of a residents’ association, or a yoga instructor.
The scheme has been funded through the Tampon Tax and Comic Relief in recognition of the vital importance of identifying women experiencing domestic abuse at a much earlier point.
Polly Neate, the Chief Executive of Women’s Aid in England, said, “Asking for help with domestic abuse is not easy. Women who report abuse do so five times on average before they get the support that they need. Early intervention and community support are vital tools in working to end domestic abuse.
“We are calling on people whose job means they interact with many people in their community to help in this vital role of understanding and identifying survivors of domestic abuse at an early stage.
“Many women live with abuse for years without telling anyone, and often have contact with several agencies or people in their local community before they get help. These women have few opportunities to disclose their abuse, because they are often completely under the perpetrator’s control.
“Therefore, if an opportunity arises for them to disclose domestic abuse, it is vital they receive the right support at that point. Most people are not open to hearing that abuse is happening, or do not know how to respond.
“The ‘ask me’ scheme will equip individuals in local communities with the basic skills, knowledge and tools to have a supportive conversation and provide an appropriate response to a survivor of domestic abuse.”
Registrations for ‘Ask Me’ pilot are currently open and training commences in January. To get involved please go to https://www.womensaid.org.uk/askme, or email [email protected]