Life between the acronyms
Recently, I was catching up with someone I’d previously helped with some Domestic Abuse bits & bobs, she was updating me on the various court cases, child protection business, parental contact and all the other plates she is currently spinning.
Whilst listening to her, I noticed how many of the sector acronyms she was using. She was talking about her own situation in the language used by the professionals, at some points I even had to do a cheeky google to understand what she was referring to. I joked that she could become a support worker, and she replied “well, I almost feel like one”
VAWG is overflowing with acronyms, to the point of pure ridiculousness. From the DASH, MARAC, CAHMS (I always get that one mixed up) to CIN conferences. Every interaction is laced with complex abbreviations like an exclusive secret code. I learnt very quickly that to make any sense of this post-abusive-relationship reality that was thrust upon me, learning the secret code would be paramount to my survival.
And by survival, I mean the prospect of keeping my family together whilst being believed and supported by professionals. I’ll take you back to a Child In Need meeting. Concerns for my children’s safety was at the heart of the conversation however it was masked by risk assessments and spot check inspections. Due to counter allegations, I was portrayed as a drug taking prostitute. I had a clump of my hair cut out and sent for testing and was regularly questioned. At that point they believed that I was the person he made me out to be.
Overnight, I became an expert in fighting my own corner, learning the secret code and how to stand in front of a group of people, not cry and keep repeating myself until they believed me. It was so messed up and I was exhausted but I knew I had to speak their language, acronyms and all to make any hint of progress.
The culture of support is designed to help those in need, however so many women feel the network of acronyms is dehumanising, they don’t want to be classified as MARAC and defined by their risk level. They’re at the forefront of their journey until it becomes defined by professionals. That’s when many women will adopt the language to survive the process, understand reports written about them and follow conversation in meetings.
We need to create a fair, equal culture that overflows with empathy. One that puts the expert at the centre with the professionals providing the tools allowing them to truly reclaim their lives.