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A GATESHEAD project funded by a £10,000 Tampon Tax grant is helping North East women move beyond domestic abuse.

The Empower programme, part of homelessness charity Oasis Community Housing, used the money to support their long-term work, as domestic abuse is a common cause of homelessness.

Helen Hicks, who leads the Empower programme, said: “We had key funding from the Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner but there was a shortfall and so this grant was really key in allowing us to do this much-needed work.

Empower does one-to-one work with women, and group sessions that educate around healthy and unhealthy relationships, encouraging participants to make friends, widen their networks and see a future beyond the trauma they have been through.

Helen said: “Many of the women we meet with are living lonely and difficult lives. Often their family, who should be a source of love, are their tormentors. Empower is about helping women to see that abuse is not normal and doesn’t have to be tolerated. We work with women to help them understand their legal rights and to support them into a better situation. Then we offer group work as it is very therapeutic for women to share their stories with people who understand very well what they’ve been through.”

Sara* was referred to Empower by Children’s Services because of the impact that domestic violence had on her and her children – even after she separated from their father.

Throughout their relationship she had suffered a significant level of violence and control, including in the presence of the children. As the children got older, one of the children also became a victim of physical abuse.

Sara began meeting with the Empower team for one-to-one sessions to make herself and her children safe from her ex-partner. Her support worker then began to attend meetings with Children’s Services alongside Sara, to help her when she struggled to get her views across.

Sara was suffering from anxiety and low self-esteem but wanted to meet other women and get out of the house. After several one-to-one sessions she joined the Empower group sessions and went on to complete the course, contributing a lot to the sessions. Sara went on to attend the Empower coffee morning and even though her case with Empower is now closed, she continues to attend all social gatherings.

Sara said: “My children have been through a really tough time, and I’m learning how to manage their emotions as well. I have to pick myself up to make things better for them because when I’m down and low it affects their mood.

“I can see that the group helped me. I’ll come out of the house now, whereas before I wouldn’t contemplate it.

“I had stopped going out and isolated myself for a very long time. The group has helped me to start building my confidence and go out and do things.

“Helen and Jules are easy to talk to and make a connection with. They’re good at listening and giving the right advice. It makes me feel I’m not alone.”

Pearl Berry, from County Durham Community Foundation, said: “Here at the Foundation we believe in supporting groups we know have a great track record at reducing inequality and improving people’s mental health and well-being. Domestic abuse is a blight on families, but the Empower programme by Oasis Community Housing has shown that with the right support, women can move towards a better future for themselves and their family.

“We are truly excited to see this government funding find a well-targeted cause in our local community.”

*names have been changed








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