Lithuanian Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Community Engagement Worker

Lithuanian Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Community Engagement Worker

The Lithuanian Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Community Engagement Worker is a unique role within Peterborough Women’s Aid providing support and advocacy for survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence within the Lithuanian community in Peterborough. Through the service, survivors of abuse are offered emotional and practical support including safety planning, help accessing refuge places, free security upgrades at home and counselling support if appropriate. The service also offers peer support through a weekly Women Warriors Group where people can meet with other survivors, socialise, participate in arts and crafts, and listen to guest speakers.

We talk to Vanessa who works as a Lithuanian Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Community Engagement Worker serving Peterborough.

How long have you been in the role?

Since November last year.

What was your (professional/voluntary) background before taking on this job?

I worked for the prison service as a prison officer. I also have a degree in finance. I moved to the UK from Lithuania in 2004. I think that women should be empowered and entitled to a good quality of life and should be able to live free from violence. Therefore, I want to help Lithuanian domestic abuse survivors to feel independent again and make their own decisions about their own life, without being worried about having to overcome the language barrier.

What sort of support do you offer?

I am starting to build strong connections with the Lithuanian community in Peterborough. In addition to the advocacy support we provide which includes attending court proceedings and helping survivors to access housing, benefits, and refuge, we also offer an in-house specialist counselling service for victims of domestic abuse when required which entails six free sessions. We also signpost survivors to other relevant agencies who may be able to help. As a Lithuanian national, I understand the culture and can immediately address the largest barrier Lithuanian victims of abuse face which is language. Since I have been in post, there has been a strong uptake in the support services I provide.

Can you think of a victim/witness that you recently supported and describe what you think helped them recover/report/seek support?

I recently supported a Lithuanian woman who had experienced psychological, emotional, and economic abuse while in a relationship with the perpetrator. I provided weekly emotional support at the victim’s request via telephone and face-to-face meetings and supported her to attend the Women Warriors group. The victim’s home security was improved with additional measures as part of safety planning and she was provided with clothing, toiletries and signposted to the foot bank. I also provided practical help translating documents and supported the survivor to report her experiences to the police. As a result, the perpetrator was removed from the survivor’s property and the survivor now has an increased understanding of the impact of abuse on parenting. She now feels confident and has encouraged a fellow survivor to access support. She has decided to move back to Lithuania to start a new life with the option of returning to the UK in the future if her daughter does not settle.

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