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Women Behind CLiCK - Anna

In this edition of Women Behind CLiCK, Anna becomes the interviewee! Shannon, CLiCK Resource and Information Officer, sits down with Anna to find out more about her background, what drew her to the role of CLiCK Development Worker, and how she hopes women’s voices will help shape support services for women who sell or exchange sex online.

So, Anna – tell me a little about your background. What led you to the role of CLiCK Development Worker?

Anna: I’ve always wanted to work directly with people. I’m a great believer in us all helping each other out. I studied sociology and then I worked in homelessness for a number of years, with a few years at a project supporting young women with complex needs. It was trauma informed, really intensive support. I moved from there into the women’s sector where I worked as a prevention worker for Women’s Aid. This role was really about raising awareness and carrying out training around domestic abuse and supporting women in Corton Vale who had experienced domestic abuse. So, that was one-to-one support really led by the woman herself, meeting whatever her needs were. It was a mix of emotional and practical support. I would work with the woman to explore her experiences and help her to make sense of the abuse and control she had experienced, which can be a really confusing thing, and also worked with her to build up her self-worth and sense of self again. It was really important that the woman also received practical support because she could be leaving prison to go back to a really dangerous situation. The training part of the role was really, for me, about making sure that women’s voices were at the heart of the conversation around domestic abuse as safely as possible. I think women are experts in their own lives and my job was to help communicate their experiences to others via training and awareness raising to help professionals and the general public understand what domestic abuse is actually like for women. I saw similarities between my previous roles and the CLiCK Development Worker job – the idea that women can create real change within a service and finding creative ways to support women to do this really appealed to me.

From what you’ve been saying so far, it sounds like it’s always really important to you to have the woman’s voice at the centre and to make sure any support is led by her and what she wants. Am I right in saying that?

A: Completely. Totally hit the key part of my practice, I think. I totally believe I’m not the expert – it is the women themselves are living their own experience. I’m here to listen to them and be led by them completely. It’s not up to me to say to somebody “Alright, I know what’s going on for you. I understand your life better than you do”. I’m here with open ears to listen to what they have to say about their own experiences. And in terms of Your Voice, it’s then about helping that woman find ways of using her experience to shape CLiCK.

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So, that empathetic listening seems to be a core value of your work. Are there any other values that guide you?

A: I think empathy generally, yeah. I think sometimes people confuse empathy with sympathy and think that when someone talks about empathy they mean: “oh, poor you!”. I don’t think that’s what it is. Empathy for me is about trying to understand somebody else’s situation, understand where they’re coming from, in order to understand what I can bring to the situation as a worker. Another thing that underpins my work is that I really like people! I love finding out what makes people tick, what drives them, what interests them. I love sitting down with somebody and having that chat with them – how are we today? What’s going on in your life? Where would you like to see your life in the future? Just really being led by them. Social justice and intersectional practice also underpins my work – understanding that people have different intersections of things happening in their life that affect and impact them day-to-day.

So, we’ve learned a bit about your background and values, and how that’s lead you to the role of CLiCK Development Worker. But what does “CLiCK Development Worker” mean? What does the role involve?

A: It’s interesting title, I guess! Basically, my role is all about ensuring that women’s voices are at the heart of CLiCK, that they shape and develop the service. It is a pilot project so it’s an exciting opportunity to try things out and find out from women what works best for them. I’ve been looking at different ways for women to engage – from anonymous polls to working with me one-to-one so that women have a range of different options. Some women might be up for meeting and others might want to be completely anonymous, and that’s totally fine. And it’s not just about shaping CLiCK, it’s about other services too. So, it might be that a woman had an experience with a sexual health service that she thought was really positive. We could talk through that and I could take that back to other sexual health services to say, “this is what women say works for them”. I’m not looking for it all to be positive – that’s not life, that’s not reality! [laughs] We know from talking to women previously that a lot of the time services don’t meet their needs. This is an opportunity for me to say “Let’s have a chat, the two of us, and find out what’s worked for you and what hasn’t worked. Let’s talk about what you would like me to take back to CLiCK, other services, and decision makers.”. I’m not saying that I’ve got the power to drastically change the outcome for every single woman, but I see the role as a way of amplifying women’s voices.

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And how do you see women’s lived experience shaping CLiCK?

A: Women’s experiences should be shaping CLiCK every step of the way. That’s my hope for it. For example, with the resources you’re making Shannon, I want it to be a process of going to women with an idea and saying “is this of value to you?” and working with women on that, right down to the design of the resource. I want women to be able to say “I actually played a part in designing that resource. I said what I thought was useful, I was heard, and I was listened to and we created this resource together”. In terms of the service itself, I want as many elements of the service to be run by women as possible to see if they work. For example, if there’s things we can change about the online support or the way that the website looks or how the website is written, I want to hear from women on that. It’s a really exciting opportunity to create a service that listens to women, takes what they say on board, and changes and develops according to their real needs and experiences.

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How would you go about breaking down barriers women may face in becoming involved in shaping CLiCK?

A: It’s important to point out that you don’t need to be receiving support from CLiCK in order to shape the service. You don’t need to be working with any support services. This can be something a woman can do solely because it interests her. I’m really keen to find creative ways for women to take part – like photography projects – to help speak truth to power. I know it’s hard for some women to make that first step in contacting a service. It could be concerns about stigma, being worried about the response you might get from people. I want to reassure you that you’ll not meet any of that with me at all. I’m just here to talk to you about your opinions and views. I think what you have to say is of real value – and I’m really interested to hear it. I can meet wherever works for you. We can chat online, on the phone, or via WhatsApp if that’s easier. I want to reassure women that my role is not about support. You can get in touch with me as a one-off just to get something off your chest about an experience you’ve had with a service or how you think services should support women involved in selling or exchanging sex. Our website is up and running, so women can hop on there and see what you like and don’t like about it and use the methods on there to get in touch with me or a women’s worker.

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What would you say to a woman who is thinking of accessing CLiCK through Your Voice?

A: I would say just go for it in whatever way works for you. Test it out, see if you think I’m alright! I would hope that having so many different ways to get in contact removes some barriers for women. I just want to reassure women that I’m here and I’m really excited to talk to you about your thoughts, opinions, dreams, and visions. So, please get in contact in any way that works for you. I would love to hear from you!

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