Big Changes to Falkirk Women’s Aid

renfrewshire-womenShould Women’s Aid projects focus solely on women?

Today Michael Matheson Cabinet Secretary for Justice was at the launch of a brand new organisation, Committed to Ending Abuse (CEA), formerly Falkirk and District Women’s Aid. The new project aims to broaden the scope of work in this field and may prove controversial within the Women’s Aid network for providing support for men and for working with perpetrators. But the organisers reject these criticisms and believe it to be a pioneering new direction, the chair of CEA, Louise Day said:

“Our organisation has evolved over the last few years and we have become more inclusive so it felt right to rebrand, not just for a more inclusive name (because we offer a service to men and the LGBT community) but because the service has transformed completely. We’ve introduced a three stage trauma recovery model, are working towards Leading Lights Accreditation, have moved to better premises, have larger proactive Board and are been successful in funding bids which have allowed us to grow the service incrementally whilst retaining the core service that is so important to people of Falkirk.”

Day insisted that the project will continue to have a women only safe space and the changes are supported by previous service users.

“In moving forward with our re brand and launch we are embracing current approaches and thinking particularly in relation to working with men who have experienced or are experiencing Domestic abuse and trauma.”

A statement from the group said:

“It would be wrong however in looking forward to our future if we did not reflect upon our beginnings. We are here today because of a small number of local women who with colleagues from Glasgow Edinburgh and Dundee who were not prepared to accept the status quo and that Domestic Abuse was acceptable. They therefore joined together to establish the Scottish Women’s Aid network a charity that was to challenge the very notion and in 1976 Falkirk and District Women’s Aid was established. In the last forty years it has grown from strength to strength responding to changing social, political and economic climates and adapting its services to reflect changing needs. It is as part of these changing needs that It has broadened its aims to offer a service that is holistic and, as reflected in the comments from users of the service, meeting their needs.”

From an outsider this would seem to be evidence of a dynamic organisation evolving and changing to meet new demands. But there are concerns from some that the core work of safety for women must never be undermined. Cat Boyd believes ‘There’s a Pussy Riot movement just waiting to happening in Scotland’ – it would be good if that movement or that moment was as broad and radical and inclusive as possible, and it’s just possible that the changes in Falkirk are a sign of just that, a small organisation acting with confidence and dynamism to strike out in a new direction in true solidarity with others. If your an outlier you are going to get some heat.

It would be good to hear from people working to support those who have experienced domestic abuse and what they think about these changes. Ultimately a commitment to ending abuse should be open-ended and aimed at all and anyone who is suffering.

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  1. James Alexander says:

    As a therapist who counsels both victims and perpetrators of sexual and domestic violence, as well as offering clinical supervision to other support workers and clinicians, I’ve come to the conclusion (which many in the field share) that we cannot continue to view men simply as the problem, we must also view them as part of the solution. That is NOT a blanket statement, clearly each case and individual must face assessment to ensure safety, but the old idea of lock up the perps is just not working. Men must be offered anger management. Better still, education of power, gender and violence to teenagers of all gender alignments is something we should start providing.
    That’s my 3d worth for it’s worth.

    1. Pippa Cooper says:

      I completely agree. Services such as these are integral nation wide for both male and female. It is very easy to permit or ignore the abuse of men as a response to hundreds of years of female persecution and abuse. But this judgement is blind; men can just as easily emotionally manipulated and physically assaulted by partners or by guardians.

      In tandem to this, although it isn’t wise to sympathize with the attackers actions towards their victim, it is certainly prudent to learn about their motivations and treat underlying issues with mental health and well-being in order to tackle to problem at the source. Regardless of them being male or female, it is equally important to aid the recovery of the attacker as it is to protect victims; this with a view to prevent more victims of the attackers behaviour.

      Falkirk is setting an example be ensuring all genders are supported and are equally represented in a safe environment.

  2. Valerie says:

    Falkirk are to be commended for being bold, and forward thinking. Times are very hard financially for every charity, and its right they look to secure their future by adapting. I have worked with Womens Aid in the past, as a Local Government Officer, seconded to help with stats, monitoring and funding issues.
    I think the knowledge and experience accumulated by the network will be invaluable as a model to help everyone in a community.

    I really hope this bold and innovative approach will help to get to a place where society begins to accept domestic violence happens in varied situations, and it needs a holistic approach. I do think men have been overlooked, whether they have suffered abuse, or need anger management/therapy, to understand where their anger emanates.

    This move can surely only help our societal cohesion. I wish Falkirk every success.

  3. MBC says:

    Women are also violent and can perpetrate violence against men. It is rare, but it happens. An uncle of mine was the first man in Scotland to obtain a divorce on the grounds of the physical violence of his wife. Even her own father testified against her.

    That said, misogyny amongst a strata of Scottish men is very deep-rooted psychologically in our society and I am unconvinced that men who exhibit this trait can be talked round. I think it comes from profound lack of self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy amongst males, and is linked to our national situation in not being a free country that controls its own destiny. It is like the old army syndrome where everybody gets to kick the cat. Men take out on women what they feel they cannot take out on elite males and a colonial situation that renders them feeling powerless and worthless.

  4. Frank says:

    Misogyny ‘is linked to our national situation in not being a free country that controls its own destiny’.

    That’s probably one of the most outrageous claims I have ever heard – are you being serious?

  5. Fran says:

    It’s important to know that domestic abuse (overwhelmingly carried out by men against women) is not an anger management nor a mental health issue. It is about deeply ingrained attitudes and beliefs, entitlement, and is a manifestation of inequality in society.

    1. Susan says:

      Well said Fran. Yours is the only comment that I can wholeheartedly agree with. Whilst I acknowledge that men experiencing abuse need and deserve support, I am very wary of this being included in Women’s Aid provision.

    2. Susan says:

      I absolutely agree.
      Men experiencing abuse deserve support just like anyone else. I am very wary, however of this support being provided by Women’s Aid groups.

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