Our helplines’ Senior Support Worker on the challenges of his job, how the helplines team helps male victims and why working with perpetrators is so important.
Job title: Senior Support Worker
Surprising fact about you: If I am cycling or walking somewhere, and I am not talking to someone, I whistle almost non-stop. The songs I whistle depend on my mood, but I always whistle!
Is there a typical day in the office for you?: Every day is unpredictable, but I suppose being surprised, giving support to many different callers and giving attention to every service user that calls are all part of a typical day on the phones.
What is your favourite part of your job?: Apart from the opportunities to debrief with my colleagues, my favourite part of working on the helplines is that I am able to create a shift in someone’s situation through talking to them. For example, if a perpetrator calls who is unsure of their way forward, but ends the call with the contact details and resolve they need to join a DVPP, or a victim who hangs up feeling empowered to take action towards improving their safety.
What challenges face you in your role?: There are practical challenges, technical issues, time constrains, and, of course, the challenge of seeing services struggling with funding. However, the main challenges are inherent to the work we do with victims, perpetrators and those supporting them. It can be challenging to help people stay calm, positive and grounded when they are confronted with chaotic and violent situations, especially if there are young children involved.
It would be very difficult to do this job without the support of our colleagues, supervisors and the strong network of professionals from different organisations across the country.
How do you help perpetrators using the Respect Phoneline?: We help perpetrators to take at least some responsibility for their behaviours, and to understand the impact their behaviour can have on their partners and families. Typically, we help them to join a DVPP and, just as importantly, to fully understand why they are joining.
How do you help male victims using the Men’s Advice Line?: We are often the first person male victims talk about their problems; some callers ring us in distress, struggle to name what they are experiencing or are very embarrassed, so the first thing we can do to help is to listen and understand what they are going through. After that, our main task is to ascertain what type of support they need in order to improve their safety. This ranges from helping them recognise what part of their relationship is making them unhappy, to devising an emergency safety plan that includes getting them a place in a refuge.
What frontline workers do you typically help?: A huge variety of professionals call the helplines, from police officers and probation officers, to psychotherapists, social workers and teachers.
Can you tell us about a call you’ve had with a particularly positive outcome?: We often get calls from male victims who have suffered many years of physical, emotional and financial abuse from their long-term partners. Recently, I spoke to man who had heard an interview on the radio, and questioned whether his relationship was abusive as a result. The first time he called was shortly after a particularly violent incident; he told me that he knew his partners’ behaviour wasn’t nice, but that he was unsure if he was a victim of domestic abuse because he did not fit any stereotypes. Through the helpline, I helped him to recognise that his partners’ behaviour was abusive and was able to listen to him at a time where he felt particularly anxious and low. He told me that although he no longer loved his partner, he was concerned about leaving because of the impact it might have on his children. He simply did not know how to sort his problems out. I advised him to report the abuse to the police, and put him in contact with local services in his area that could help him. I was even able to call the service ahead of him to share the extent of his situation with him, and make them aware he would be calling. Through this we were able to empower him with the support, advice and information he needed to help him take steps towards safety.
Why do you think the Respect Phoneline and the Men’s Advice Line are so important?: Every year, we receive thousands of calls and emails from people who are in need of a service like ours. Every day, we receive direct feedback on the phone, by email and via our client surveys that tells us that we are making a difference in contributing to reducing the impact of domestic violence in people’s lives.
*Callers are not referred to specifically to protect identities.