This article is written by Juno Women’s Aid’s Freedom Programme Facilitator in Nottingham city.
What is the Freedom Programme?
The Freedom Programme is a domestic abuse programme that examines the roles played between perpetrators and survivors of abuse, as well as the attitudes and beliefs they carry. Juno Women’s Aid facilitates women-only Freedom Programme sessions, but men can attend external sessions – click here to be taken to the Freedom Programme website and find out more. The aim of the programme is to help survivors of abuse understand what has happened to them instead of internalising feelings of shame, guilt, loneliness, and, ultimately, feeling like the abuse they suffered was their fault.
The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic
With lockdown restrictions easing, life is currently a ‘new normal’ for us all, and with that, a new role was created in January 2021: the Freedom Programme Facilitator.
I have been running the Freedom Programme in Nottingham city for the last six years and it has always been part of any of my roles at Juno. I enjoy meeting different women in the group and seeing the light bulb moments that happen—the face gives away a lot on Zoom!
If I’m honest, it can be very hard and draining at times due to all the trauma and emotions that are shared by the women. It can really take its toll on me mentally, however, the rewards from the women outweigh this and keeps me pushing and wanting each programme to be better than the last!
With an increase in demand for the City Survivor Advocacy Services and the lockdown being in place, we were unable to deliver a Freedom Programme from March 2020 until January 2021. Due to this, my role has been very important to get this back up and running in the city.
A day in the life: Freedom Programme Facilitator
My day begins busy and fast with three children that currently live at home (I have four in total with the eldest being 18 in mare months!).
I get them up and ready for school, packed lunches are made, the dog is let outside for her morning toilet, and fresh food and water is given. It’s then off on to the school run!
Depending on which day of the week it is, I either make my way to the office or back home to start my working day with a nice black tea. My days are very different depending on where I’m working, so let’s take you through each.
Working from home
When I’m working from home, I’ll start preparing for my Freedom Programme groups taking place that day.
I first check my emails and my phone as this is where I’ll find out if any of the women are unable to attend the group that day. I then open up Zoom and start the group earlier than the scheduled time to allow women to log on and check if they have any technical difficulties—let’s face it, technology doesn’t always work when we need it to! After, I open up my group on our system and check who should be where and send out reminder texts to all.
I deliver one group in the morning which will be very different to the group in that afternoon, even if we are covering the same parts of the book.
During the two-hour session, we will have tears and laughter, we watch videos, and oh my do we talk!
At lunchtime, I eat and reflect on the morning group and prepare for the second group.
Once the second group is done. I will then take another break for a cup of tea and some time away from the computer. With groups finished for the day, it’s time to write up everyone’s notes on the system and if someone has been upset in the group, I will call them to provide that extra emotional support that they might need.
Working in the office
I save most of my admin work for the days I’m in the office.
I start by ensuring all the dates for current Freedom Programmes are up and on the system and then I start calling the women on the waiting list to put them into each group. Due to some women being told they have to attend a Freedom Programme for whatever reason, they sometimes do not even know what the Freedom Programme is about, so I take my time on these calls to ensure women fully know what they are committing to and are happy to come on to the group.
It is shown that if a woman is not ready, or does not know what she is doing in the group, she will not come back the next week.
I then chase up any women that have missed the group and not made contact to ensure they are safe and doing ok.
Phone calls are taken and I provide information about the group to other professionals, which includes sorting through referrals and emails, providing information about when the next groups are running.
Part of the admin work also includes planning for the next groups that will be starting by setting a new group up on the system, then on Zoom, and emailing invites out to all women who will be attending. I also text them to ask them to check their spam/junk folder as this seems to be a favourite place for my emails to go!
Additional support for women
During my day, I may have to take a call from a woman who is needing some emotional support. The Freedom Programme can open up a can of worms and nightmares are common due to women dealing with the trauma of what has happened to them. I will complete referrals for other support women may need as well as counselling referrals so they can continue to talk once the group has ended.
Once my working day ends, I go back to being a mum and on my Freedom Programme days, I ensure I do at least 30 minutes of self-care to help with unwinding. I then share my self-care routines with my group as they are all required to do this too.
Freedom Programme feedback
- “I actually learned so much in that short space of time!”
- “I found it very rewarding. Firstly that I wasn’t insane, and second that I am not alone. So reassuring to know. I got a sense of liberation from it.”
- “I am more confident and more understanding. I see clearly now just how much I was manipulated and controlled and now have set boundaries for the near future if I was ever to get in a relationship.”
- “I found the Programme has benefited me in the sense of I was constantly asking myself what I had done wrong. Whereas now I realise that it wasn’t me it was him and the way he is.”
- “It was useful because it’s a safe place for me being surrounded by people who understand through experience without needing to explain everything.”
- “That things wasn’t my fault and I didn’t bring everything on myself.”
- “Really helpfully understanding I have actually been in an abusive relationship for five years.”
If you work with survivors of abuse and would like to make a referral, click here to download the referral form and find out more about the referral process. Otherwise, don’t hesitate to call the 24-hour Helpline on 0808 800 0340 for more information and advice.