January: Martyn and Sian
Martyn Lee and Sian Watson work at Families First Bedfordshire, and have recently worked to develop a service for male victims and survivors of domestic abuse. Before joining Families First, Martyn worked as an Early Help Professional for Bedford Borough Early Help team. Within this role he worked closely with children, young people and families that have been effected by domestic abuse and unhealthy relationships. Sian has worked as an Idva since 2009, having previously volunteered for Victim Support, and joined Families First in 2015.
What made you decide to work with people experiencing domestic abuse?
Martyn: Throughout my career I have worked with those who have been victims of abuse, whether they are children, young people or adults, and this has developed even further over the last few years with an increase of support for male victims. I feel that this subject matter that is not highlighted enough, and awareness of male victims should be increased in the professional world.
Sian: In 2005 I volunteered for Victim Support and trained to support victims of domestic abuse, sexual violence and to support families bereaved by homicide. My very first case for the homicide team was a mother whose daughter had been murdered by her boyfriend. This was the beginning of my passion to support families who have and are experiencing domestic abuse. I realised I was able to help survivors safeguard themselves and their children from domestic abuse. In 2009 I became an Idva and Isva, training through SafeLives.
What keeps you going when the work gets tough?
Martyn: When things get tough, I think about the progress and positive change victims I have worked with have gone through. These individuals inspire me to drive on and continue the positive work we set out to do. Listening to the experiences of male victims and walking with them through their journey gives me the determination I need to keep going.
Sian: The passionate and dedicated staff working in Families First Bedfordshire to make sure that women,men and their children are supported in just about every way is extraordinary. They all go above and beyond for the families.
What are you most proud of so far?
Martyn: I'm really proud to work with an organisation that is not only dedicated to supporting men, women and children affected by domestic abuse, but also are a driving force in the raising the awareness and recognition of male victims of domestic abuse. Locally they are trying to change the landscape of how people and professionals view male victims, which is a catalyst for change.
Sian: I am extremely proud of our TALK:4M male victims programme. Martyn and I have worked hard to ensure that male victims and their families can and do receive the same support as women and their families. Martyn’s knowledge and expertise of working with men has been invaluable and I have learnt a lot from him. Through working with the TALK:4M group I have learnt a lot about how male victims react and respond to domestic abuse, which has proven to be much more educational than training alone.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone considering this career, what would it be?
Martyn: There are always ups and downs, but seeing the positive change and the journey people go on first-hand makes it all worth it. The one thing I would say is, every day is different and no one day is the same as the other, but I would want it any other way!
Sian: For any person wanting to work within the domestic abuse arena I would highly recommend that they acquire as much knowledge and training as possible. Then look at what field of support they would like to work in. They would need to recognise their own emotional reactions to the work. It can at times provoke anger and tears, but most of all it is important that the agency they work with provides their staff with the appropriate emotional and practical support.
Some of the men supported by Martyn and Sian said:
“This course is like a lifeline. It’s a place where you can truly be yourself and discuss experiences with other men who have been through similar hell.
Over the weeks I built up a rapport with the other men and felt that we actually cared for each other. Just talking about experiences helped us all to understand what was going on in our heads, not to mention the course content which answered so many questions.”
"This programme has helped me more than I could ever have imagined. It has opened my eyes and helped me to recognise and identify what I have experienced, allowed me to talk openly in a way I simply could not anywhere else, and has enabled me to learn from the experiences and insights of others.
Most importantly of all, it has taken away the shame and stigma of the domestic abuse I have experienced. For many years I failed to seek help as I was embarrassed and I thought I was alone in what I went through."
Do you know a professional who has gone above and beyond to change the response to domestic abuse and keep survivors and their families safe? Nominate someone for Star of the Month by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘Star of the Month’ as the subject line