I have worked in the area of trauma for the past 40 years, covering a wide range of issues including violence against women and girls, homelessness, poverty, discrimination and inequality, and recognising that all oppression and abuse is both a cause and a consequence of inequality.
For most of my working life I have in some way been working in the frontline of violence against women and girls since joining Strathclyde Rape Crisis Centre (later to become Glasgow and Clyde Rape Crisis) in 1981, becoming a founder member of Aberdeen Rape Crisis Centre in the mid-1980s, to more recently working with the Glasgow Violence Against Women Partnership from 2000 and finally spending 15 years heading up Glasgow and Clyde Rape Crisis between 2006 and 2021. I have come full circle.
Impact of trauma
In my work I have witnessed the impact of trauma on the lives of survivors of traumatic experiences whether in homelessness projects, drug and alcohol addiction services, sexual exploitation, poor mental health or mental illness and the many physical conditions that are commonly experienced by trauma survivors.
As we have grown more aware of the prevalence of trauma and its impact on the lives of individuals, communities, and economies worldwide, we are able to take trauma informed approach to provision of services for trauma survivors in addiction services, mental health, child protection services, criminal justice, counselling and support services. My work has taken a new direction since 2021 with more focus on teaching, training and consultancy on issues of trauma predominantly relating to all forms of gender based violence, abuse and exploitation. This work had had an international focus since 2019.
Some achievements over the past 20 years have been:
- Working with Glasgow Violence Against Women Partnership in a strategic development role linking locality-based implementation groups into the wider Glasgow Violence Against Women Strategic Plan. During this time the GVAWP was instrumental in the development of the Archway Sexual Assault Referral Centre (first of its kind in Scotland) and in the development and establishment of ASSIST advocacy service for survivors of domestic abuse.
- Taking up the post of Manager at Glasgow and Clyde Rape Crisis in 2006, the oldest, largest and busiest rape crisis centre in Scotland. Took the organisation from an annual turnover of approximately £200,000 in 2006 to over £1m in 2020 within a challenging funding environment and cuts to many services. As well as core work with trauma survivors, the organisation developed specialist services for victim advocacy, support and advocacy for women in the asylum process and partnership working with a range of organisations that included police, health, services for women in prostitution and young women survivors of abuse and exploitation.
- During this time I also worked with NHS Scotland to develop and deliver a programme of training on Routine Enquiry; a process of routinely asking new patients/clients coming into health services about past/current experience of domestic abuse or past experiences of sexual abuse. I worked across health boards in Scotland with staff from a range of departments.
- Since 2015 I have been delivering a course at the University of Glasgow on ‘Working with Trauma’ which is aimed at practitioners working in any area of work where their client group may be trauma survivors.
- In 2015 I was also delighted to win the Write to End Violence Against Women award for Best Blog for my piece on ’50 Shades of Grey – Saviour of Relationships or Abuser’s Handbook?’
- Between 2016 and 2020 I worked with the University of Strathclyde within the Equally Safe in Higher Education team developing a Gender Based Violence Toolkit for universities across Scotland. I was involved in developing and delivering the initial training section of the toolkit which was piloted in Glasgow and Aberdeen before rolling out across the country. In 2019 I was fortunate enough to be recognised by the university for my work and was awarded an honorary doctorate for my work on violence against women and girls.
- More recently I have been involved in projects with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office developing a ‘Live Online Support’ service in my role with Glasgow and Clyde Rape Crisis. The project delivers to UK nationals anywhere in the world who have been raped or sexually assaulted and who need crisis intervention support.
- I have also been writing and delivering training to police officers, consular officers, education and tourist support officers, and NGOs internationally and in 2020 was awarded an MBE by the UK Government for my work on supporting sexual violence survivors overseas.
- I also continue to be involved with other pieces of work including work with The Circle NGO as part of their EVAW working group and I also sit on the Archdiocese of Glasgow’s Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Group.