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.