Women Behind Click
In Women Behind CLiCK, Anna – the CLiCK Development Worker – sits down with Women’s Workers to find out more about their experience, values, and approach to support. This month, Audrey and Kate – based in Glasgow and Clyde Rape Crisis – share their experience of supporting women.
So, tell us a bit about your background. What led you to the role of CLiCK Women’s Worker?
Audrey: I worked on a project called the SWAP project [a previous Glasgow-based drop-in service provided by Rape Crisis] which provided support to women who sold or exchanged sex on-street who had recently experienced sexual violence. A woman could talk to me about it or, if she decided to, I would assist her in reporting to the police. I’ve then worn many other hats within Rape Crisis. When the CLiCK project came up, I was put forward to work on it due to my background of supporting women who sell or exchange sex. I like working with women who aren’t necessarily supported by the mainstream services we have around. So, I thought it would be interesting to be involved again in supporting women who sell or exchange sex, but in a different context from what I had worked in before.
Kate: Before CLiCK, I worked on the Rape Crisis Helpline for four years. The helpline is there to be whatever the woman needs. It can be a very factual information led chat or it can be emotional support in whatever capacity the woman needs. I was then asked to work on the CLiCK project. I’ve done some volunteer work with women involved in selling or exchanging sex before and they basically just told me they wanted to hire me because I’m nice [laughs]. Hopefully that comes through!
In terms of values that guide your work, is that personality trait of niceness translated into your work?
K: Yeah…across Rape Crisis we’re big on believing women and working with what they present to you. So, it hopefully creates a very safe space. When you do support work, it’s the woman’s time and it’s focused on what they want to chat about. So, I suppose that’s the “nice” aspect of it. I don’t have an agenda when I work with a woman. It’s what she brings, and what she wants, and what she feels – and we can work on that together.
What about you, Audrey? What values guide your work?
A: I think compassion and empathy. Particularly for women that may experience any kind of exploitation or discrimination. I think being able to identify with the woman, regardless of whether you’ve had an experience similar to hers, is really important. It’s about being down to earth and recognising that it could be anyone sitting there in front of you, including yourself.
K: Yeah [showing empathy] is so important. So many women involved in selling or exchanging sex are not met with compassion, empathy, or belief. Some women don’t feel that they have a space. So, it’s really important that we bring that.
In terms of creating a safe space, is that how you would typically approach support?
K: Yeah. It’s about not having an agenda. I’m not using regimented lines. I’m meeting a woman where she’s at. I always talk about how important it is to just listen. We’re here to listen to whatever she wants to chat about.
A: It’s also important to let a woman know that anything she tells us she’s experienced won’t be a shock to us. Nothing she tells us would ever make us judge her. Women are never responsible for what other people choose to do to them. It’s important to get that across to women because women can carry so much self-blame and shame. You need to try and break down that barrier right from the word “go”.
How would you go about breaking down those barriers?
A: I would just be myself. Just be normal. We’re all just women trying to help other women. I might be seen as the person who is in a position of power or in a position of authority, but at the end of the day I’m only here to work with her and support her.
How would you make a woman feel accepted and listened to?
A: I think just be up front with the fact that you understand she’s not going to trust you overnight. It takes time to build up trust with anybody that you meet, but if you’re expecting someone to disclose something that perhaps no one else knows about them…you need to give the woman that time to trust and get to know you.
K: Some women can feel that they need to chat heavily about the reason why they’ve got in contact. It’s about reassuring them that we don’t need to get right into the nitty-gritty. If the woman doesn’t want to talk about it, we don’t have to. She’s in control of her space and her time.
A: It’s also about respecting and understanding that women might be looking for a single piece of practical information. A bit of signposting or a one-off chat for a bit of advice. Hopefully that warmth, honesty, and openness will help women feel comfortable getting in contact for that information they’re looking for.
How do you think CLiCK will meet the wants and needs of women?
K: I think it will be similar to the helpline with Rape Crisis. Working with what the woman presents. What do you need from this space? If you want a one-off chat for a bit of a rant, on you go. If you want signposting to something specific, here’s that information. I think the ultimate goal is that the woman feels heard, she feels supported, and she knows we’re there – whether it’s for emotional or practical support.
What are your hopes for women who may contact CLiCK?
A: I hope we can meet the needs of all women getting in contact with us. We don’t need to know all the details about why she’s contacting us but hopefully we can provide the information she’s looking for. We don’t have an agenda or any assumptions about what a woman should be looking for.
K: I hope she feels heard and supported. Hopefully she thinks we’re sound [laughs]! I want women to know that we’re here to help with anything they need. I think there’s this perception with online support that it’s only short term. But I want women to know that they can come to us for long term support if they need that. If they like us and want to work with us, we’re here for that. If it turns out that we’re not who they need we can help them find a service that is right for them.
A: It’s important to remember as well that you might be the one and only person, or one and only service, that woman reaches out to. Hopefully, if she’s been given the right response and reception, she will contact us again. Or, if needs something longer term, hopefully she will keep in contact with us.
How do you think that women’s voices and experiences can shape CLiCK?
K: Women’s voices have to inform everything we do or else… what is the point of CLiCK? It needs to happen, and continue to happen, throughout the entirety of CLiCK being around.
A: I think women’s voices can be the reason why you succeed or not. The only way, or one of the ways, we can be a success is getting recommendations from women that have used us. Certainly, my experience of the SWAP project was that a lot of women contacted me through word of mouth. Women would say “Oh phone her, she knows what she’s talking about” and give out my business card or whatever. You want other women to get that from women who have used CLiCK – to reassure women that you don’t need to give us any of your personal information, or all the details about why you’re getting in touch.
What would you say to a woman considering accessing CLiCK?
A: I would say get in touch with us, even just to ask us a few questions about what we provide or for a general chat. If anything comes up that you feel you want to look at more closely, we’d be happy to help you with that too. I’d also like to reassure women about confidentiality. You can contact us anonymously – you don’t need to give us any personal information in order to access support.
K: I would say to women that there’s no requirement to continue working with us just because you hop on our online chat and ask a few questions. Give us a go and see if you like us, hopefully you do!