Breaking the Cycle of Domestic Abuse
Essex based community interest company, Alpha Vesta, has been awarded 3 years funding by the National Lottery Community Fund to continue their work in ‘breaking the cycle of domestic abuse’ across Essex.
Alpha Vesta was founded in 2019 by Lucy Whittaker, who previously worked as a Domestic Abuse Caseworker specialising in complex casework and child protection. She founded Alpha Vesta to encourage and support all workplaces to build a strong culture of understanding around domestic abuse and a supportive environment for those affected.
Lucy says ‘Domestic Abuse doesn’t always look like you think it’s going to look like, and Alpha Vesta support employers and employees to recognise the signs and respond effectively within the workplace. This benefits the employer and their employees but also customers, clients and service users that come into contact with them through their work’.
As well as directly benefiting the workplace itself, a strong culture of understanding around domestic abuse within that workplace ripples out into the community when employees return home.
Understanding the Complexity
Lucy says ‘We make a lot of assumptions around domestic abuse. We assume that someone experiencing it will recognise that they are being abused. In over half of cases of coercive control, the victim, won’t necessarily be aware they are being abused. It’s that clever and the notion that someone you may love and care about could be abusing you doesn’t seem possible’. Lucy goes on to say ‘We also make the assumption that ‘just leaving that relationship will stop the abuse’ when we know that those that do leave are often subjected to patterns of stalking and harassment if they haven’t got the right support in place’
‘We also forget that the impact of domestic abuse is phenomenal. Someone experiencing domestic abuse is likely to be exhausted as well as fearful. They may have adopted quite complex coping mechanisms or are experiencing spiralling debt – sometimes we forget that to climb that huge mountain and break that cycle, just isn’t that easy – sometimes impossible to do alone’
That’s why we have to embed that strong culture of understanding to really support someone in breaking the cycle.
Alpha Vesta began their journey with a 6 month pilot project in January 2020 funded by Essex PFCC (Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex). Businesses and organisations across Essex were invited to take part in the project in the following ways:-
- Displaying awareness posters and leaflets across their business/organisation
- Hosting a presentation on the project for interested staff members and colleagues.
- Awareness and Training Workshops
- Policy and Procedures Development Service
As the Country went into lockdown in March 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Lucy was determined to increase people’s knowledge and understanding around domestic abuse. This was coupled with her growing concerns around the effects that the pandemic would have on people living with domestic abuse. It saw her move face to face talks, presentations and training sessions to an online format that made them even more accessible, not only across the county of Essex, but across the whole country. Lucy says ‘We have even had people from America, Australia, Singapore and Malta join our sessions’.
Increased funding has meant that since the first online workshop on 22nd April 2020 to 31st January 2021, Alpha Vesta had seen over 2500 people attend their fully-funded online sessions. Funding from The National Lottery Community Fund means that Alpha Vesta will be able to continue running fully-funded sessions across Essex for the next 3 years as well as support businesses and organisations in developing that strong culture of understanding and embedding policies and procedures to recognise the signs and respond effectively to signs of domestic abuse.
Essex PFCC (Police Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex) have also continued their support and funding for Alpha Vesta and funded the research and development of new sessions which will be piloted at the beginning of 2022 as well as allow their existing sessions to reach even more businesses and organisations across the County.
National Funding during the pandemic allowed Alpha Vesta to build a strong platform for their work and in October 2020, they launched their Survivors Symposium. Alpha Vesta’s Survivors Symposium is an opportunity for anyone that has been affected by domestic abuse and found their employment affected in some way, the opportunity to reach out and share their experience in a supportive, safe environment.
They may have been affected by domestic abuse themselves, they may have been a family member or friend of someone affected or an employer or colleague that knew something wasn’t quite right, but perhaps didn’t feel equipped to intervene or support them. Conversely, Alpha Vesta would like to hear from people that found their workplace understanding and supportive. Their Survivors Symposium hold regular forums and events bringing survivors, employers, HR professionals and those with an interest in breaking the cycle of domestic abuse all together where best practice and new ways of supporting those affected are identified and shared through Alpha Vesta’s training workshops and policy development services.
You can find out more about Alpha Vesta’s work, book onto any training or awareness sessions or consider joining their Survivors Symposium by visiting their website at www.alphavesta.com or emailing at firstname.lastname@example.org.