Elizabeth Williams* explains what her job entails working as a domestic abuse navigator on the Trust’s Growing Futures project.
I’m a senior domestic abuse navigator (DAN) – a role created by the Trust just a few months ago, to support children and young people affected by domestic abuse. I supervise a team of four dedicated DANs as part of a programme called Growing Futures, which was awarded a £3.1m innovation grant from the Department for Education (DfE) last year. Since then we have been developing a completely new way of working with families where domestic abuse is present.
What’s different about this job is…
It focuses on the needs of children and young people. We create bespoke programmes of recovery for whole families, working with a wide range of partners including school nurses, mental health, social services, the police, housing, local authority, independent domestic violence advisers, domestic abuse caseworkers and voluntary groups. Working safely is our top priority.
My previous role as a domestic abuse caseworker at a local authority was focused on the victim. Traditionally this is the way domestic abuse services have evolved. While it’s important to acknowledge that men can be victims, the consequences are too often with the woman for the repercussions of the abuse because she is often looking after the children. This never sat comfortably with me. The abuser is always responsible for the abuse, therefore re-victimising her was always going to set her up to fail. I always wanted to find ways of better supporting her and her family.
Becoming a DAN meant I had the scope to deliver therapeutic work, particularly with children, because of the way abuse re-presents itself in a cycle. If we don’t tackle this issue with young people now, we could potentially be faced with another generation that accepts domestic abuse as normal. The Trust is embracing innovative, holistic practices. The flexibility we have as DANs is non-threatening, and we work with all family members including the perpetrator
What I love about what I do
Because the Trust, as well as Growing Futures is so new, there are opportunities to progress quickly and embrace fresh ideas. It’s rewarding to get right to the root of problems directly and rapidly. Our team really is doing some brilliant work.
The DANs are able to capture what’s going on for the child and be their voice. For example, we use the signs of safety “three houses” technique for some children, encouraging them to draw their thoughts and feelings. This has had a powerful impact on some perpetrators. They have engaged with us when they’ve finally, truly heard a child say, via the DAN: “It really scares me when daddy punches mummy.” Awareness of risk is constant, so of course a child’s voice is only shared when it’s safe to do so.
The training we have received has been outstanding. One tutor from Safe Lives was extremely enlightening and will stay with me. She showed a clip from a TV soap opera, in which a baby was crying in a household where there was an abusive relationship. The mother complied with what the perpetrator wanted. The clip clearly portrayed that if she had fought against him, the baby could have suffered – yet this might have been viewed as neglect from a child protection perspective. We often assume these women aren’t being protective, and we sometimes don’t recognise that victims have to make a judgement about how they can protect a child in a very difficult situation. Babies should be attended to, but, in the clip, for that victim at that time, she had to decide if receiving abuse would keep her baby safe. That is the reality for many victims of domestic abuse, and something professionals underestimate in terms of impact on both victim and child. An abuser creates that situation – not the victim.
If I could offer any advice
I’m trained in personality profiling and obtained a degree in psychology as a mature student. I have a real, genuine interest in people and relationships. I’m fascinated why people do what they do, how power and control works, and why people accept things within relationships.
This is hugely beneficial to my role. But it’s also beneficial to all types of work, and in building team dynamics and resilience.
People behave in terms of their own personality as well as the circumstances that surround them. Understanding others, and learning how to communicate and building relationships are core skills needed to make a positive change to families and the wider community as a whole.
You can find out more about our Growing Futures project on our webpages.
*Elizabeth Williams is not her real name. Her name has been changed to protect the identity of her clients.
If you think a child is in immediate danger. Don’t delay – call the police on 999 straight away. Visit www.doncasterdomesticabuse.co.uk for local support services, for anyone of any age affected by, or worried about, domestic abuse.