Practice blog

A day in the life of a young person's violence advisor (Ypva)

Jamila Hassan is a Young Person’s Violence Officer (Ypvo) for South Tyneside Young Person’s Domestic Violence Advocacy Services. In this blog Jamila shares her daily experiences of working with young people experiencing domestic abuse in the form of a diary entry. For an audio version of this blog, visit our Soundcloud profile or scroll down to the bottom of the page.

Its 8.30am Monday is always a busy day in the Ypva Service. I’m checking emails, and catching up with the weekend developments of my cases. I open an email from a staff member who works in the Children's Home where *Vicky, one of the young women I am working with, lives. The email is to inform me that her boyfriend, the perpetrator, has assaulted her again; he'd been arrested and was still in police custody. The staff member confirms that Vicky has provided a statement. This surprises me as she’s been previously reluctant to engage with the police. I ring her and agree to re-arrange my diary to prioritise a visit to meet with her today. I then ring the investigating officer to query if the perpetrator is being charged. The police confirm that he has been charged with common assault and that he will be released on conditional bail, conditions include that he is not to contact Vicky directly or indirectly.  

After re-arranging my diary I ring the Children's Home to update them and check that a DASH RIC has been completed. The staff member informs me that Vicky declined to complete the DASH RIC, they confirm that they have started the document but request that I assist with completion. I agree to meet with the staff member following my appointment with her.

It’s now 11.30am - Upon meeting Vicky, she agrees that we can go through the DASH together. The initial question on the DASH RIC asks ‘are you frightened’; although she answers ‘no’ I explain that this question will be answered to take into account the initial disclosure information provided by the police and Children’s Home. The overall score of this DASH RIC is 15 and meets the criteria for a referral into Marac. I explain the Marac process to Vicky and ask her if she wants the police to apply to the court for a Restraining Order. Vicky replies no, adding that she could ‘see no point’. She also discloses that she's been self-harming as a result of receiving threats from her now ex-boyfriend's family. I encourage Vicky to report this to the police but she refuses. I explain that I have a duty to share this with the police and her Social Worker. Vicky said she understands. The remainder of our session focuses on updating Vicky’s individual safety plan, support plan and reminding her of strategies she can use to reduce the likelihood of further self-harm.     

It’s 1.30pm and I return to the office, knowing that I still have two more clients to see. I also need to make time to update Vicky's case records, type up the DASH RIC and make the referral to Marac. My colleague explains that she has had a cancellation, and offers to see one of my clients; this is a relief, team work within the Ypva Service is essential. I use the next three hours to finalise Vicky’s documents.

It’s now 4.30pm and I meet my next client *Johnny in the office. Working with Johnny has additional complexities as he presents embarrassed and in denial that he is being abused by his girlfriend, and he also perpetrates harm to her. We are in the process of compiling information for Johnny’s individual safety plan and he laughs when I explain why we want him to consider a safety word. I know I need to be creative and suggest that he could use the safety word if he feels at risk of harming his girlfriend, Johnny agrees and I feel this is progress. Due to Johnny presenting visibly stressed I agree to continue this discussion at our next appointment.  

It’s now 5.30pm; I use the next half hour to respond to emails that I view as urgent. My line manager is also in the office and this provides me with an opportunity to de-brief today’s events. Whilst I have regular scheduled supervision, she understands that informal clinical supervision is essential to assist with the day-to-day delivery of this job. We run through the actions and record the actions and discussions on the client’s file.  

It’s 6.30pm and I am now leaving the office for home. I’ll be back tomorrow at 8.30am for the next day in the life of a Ypva.

*Names have been changed to protect identities

Visit our Spotlight page for more blogs, resources and tools for supporting young people dealing with domestic abuse.

Stories from Young Survivors: Nisha

The following story is one of several accounts shared with us by a group of young people; all have experienced domestic abuse and have been supported by the Ypvas working at the Young People Violence Advisor (Ypva) Service in South Tyneside. They have shared their individual stories to raise awareness of domestic abuse in the hope that victims and services will be inspired to make change. For an audio version of this blog, visit our Soundcloud profile or scroll to the bottom of the page. 

*Names have been changed to protect identities

I was 13 years old living at home with my family. I was suffering verbal (getting called names) and physical abuse from my parents and older brother. The physical assaults were mostly from my oldest brother who felt I should respect him and my parents and do everything they wanted me to do, even if I didn’t want to do it.  They used to make me wear my hijab and try and control everything I did. I would sometimes be locked in the house so I could not go out to see my friends after school as my parents felt it would look bad and shame my family if a young Muslim girl was out on the streets alone or just with friends. 

I didn’t understand as my other friends were allowed to go out with their friends and wear what they liked to wear.  It went on for a while until I had to the courage to call the police from my house phone. My brother had hit me that day because I refused to wear my hijab and my parents supported him to do this, as they thought I was being disrespectful to them and my culture.  I was taken into care for my own safety and placed with a foster carer.

Claire then contacted me from the YPVA Service and I have been supported by them since. I have completed lots of work including making safety plans, learning about healthy and safe relationships, including cultural issues such as honour based violence and forced marriage, as well as legal orders and how the police can help me. The police did lots to help me and worked with Claire to help me better.

We also talked about how to stay safe online, protecting my phone and stuff. Claire also helped me with school, my CV and my plans for employment when I leave school. And she supported me to meet other services, such as social workers, Connexions workers, cadets etc so I felt supported as I would not have gone on my own.

If I’d stayed at home and not reported it, and not got help, I feel I would have less confidence, no future, most likely to stay at home and cook and clean, (my culture), maybe have married too young.

Staying out of the home means I have more confidence, know my rights as a person/human, and police/court help for the assaults/abuse. I know about protection orders to help keep me safe and have lots more knowledge for the future, I’ve made personal improvements and have more career opportunities. 

Listen to an audio version of this blog:

Keep an eye on our Spotlight page for more information and resources around supporting young people experiencing domestic abuse. 

Stories from Young Survivors: Billie-Jo

The following story is one of several accounts shared with us by a group of young people; all have experienced domestic abuse and have been supported by the Ypvas working at the Young People Violence Advisor (Ypva) Service in South Tyneside. They have shared their individual stories to raise awareness of domestic abuse in the hope that victims and services will be inspired to make change. For an audio version of this blog, visit our Soundcloud profile or scroll to the bottom of the page. 

*Names have been changed to protect identities

I was 14 when I first met him and he was two years older than me. I met him through one of my family members who was the same age as me, but her friend was older and seeing his friend. After that day he added me on Facebook, and after talking for about a week, we started seeing each other. At the beginning he was nice and let me do things I wanted to do although a lot of my time was spent with him. I used to go out with him and his friends rather than my friends, which drove my friends away as I spent more time with him than with them.

As the relationship developed and we spent every day together, I think he became reliant on me being there. This made him become controlling and he didn’t let me go out with my friends or to parties, I wasn’t allowed to wear make-up and he told me to cover up. He also made a joint Facebook account for us and I had to deactivate my own Facebook account. This was so he could check who was messaging me. I wasn’t allowed to use social media that he deemed was “inappropriate” for me to use.

I was hardly in the house so I didn’t spend time with my family as much as I did before. That made me and my mam become distant as I didn’t tell my mam as much as I did before. The more time I spent with him, the more controlling he became, and the more he thought he could stop me doing things. He felt he was in control of everything. After a while of spending every day with him if I did or said the wrong thing I could tell he was annoyed. I wasn’t allowed to talk to boys and he constantly thought I was cheating on him if I had a conversation with another boy.

One day he didn’t want me to go home but I did and he followed me to the bus stop, as he would never let me walk to the bus stop on my own. He asked me why I wanted to go home, and I said I just did, and he went to strangle me. I backed off and he then realised what he was doing but when I asked him to leave he refused. I had went home and he had messaged me saying he was sorry, that he would never do it again and wanted to carry on as normal. I said ok as he promised he didn’t mean to do it and said he would never do it again. I also pulled him up on his controlling behaviour and he said he would change this too. But when I got back with him it never did.

A couple of months after this, his friends and one of his friends girlfriends came over to his house for a drink for his birthday. They had got cocaine and they were sniffing coke and getting drunk. His and his friend went to go and get more drink and another deal. On the way back his friend told him that I had cheated on him, and rather than just asking me, he kept this to himself resulting in him becoming more and more angry. When I asked him what was wrong he said “you have been fucking cheating on me”. I denied it as I hadn’t cheated on him but he became more and more agitated and backed me up against the door. He then put his hands around my throat and told me I better not be cheating on him. His mum and auntie were on the other side of the door telling him to let go of me and told him to open the door. Once he did I walked out and went home. I ended things with him obviously. After a week of talking to him over Facebook about the situation he apologised and promised he wouldn’t do it again so I got back with him. But I realised that staying with him was a mistake and I ended things with him for good.

Although I ended things with him he constantly text me, followed me, rang me and my friends to check up on me and he wouldn’t leave me alone. Until one day I had an argument with him at school on my friend’s phone and it got reported to head of behaviour in school. Due to their safeguarding responsibilities, the school had to contact the police. I panicked when the police were there and sort of just told them everything. I got sent home from school that day and when police got back in touch with me they told me they had contacted the YPVA Service for me to meet up with Claire. I didn’t want to at first because I thought I didn’t need help and I could do it on my own. But after a few sessions I saw it was being beneficial for me and my future.

Claire is the boss of the YPVA Service and gives the young people workers. My allocated worker is Hollie and the more I worked with her the more our relationship developed and I was able to trust her. So telling her things was easy and she would always try and help and give me advice. It was nice being able to feel confident enough to trust her enough to tell her things that I wouldn’t tell anyone else.

The police served a PIN (Police Information Notice) on him which stops him from contacting me and from coming anywhere near me until I am 18 years old. The PIN has been helpful as I can go out and not have to worry about bumping into him and taking verbal abuse off him.

I’m close to finishing with the YPVA Service and recommend it to any young person who is struggling with abusive relationships as it is beneficial and helpful for you. I feel more confident to get into new relationships as I can use the work with the YPVA Service to see if the relationship I am in is healthy or unhealthy. I have now rebuilt friendships that I had before, and gained new ones as the YPVA Service has supported me in increasing my confidence. I don’t think I would be where I am today if Hollie, Jamila, Claire and Melissa hadn’t have helped me. 

Listen to an audio version of this blog:

Keep an eye on our Spotlight page for more information and resources around supporting young people experiencing domestic abuse. 

Stories from Young Survivors: Carrie

The following story is one of several accounts shared with us by a group of young people; all have experienced domestic abuse and have been supported by the Ypvas working at the Young People Violence Advisor (Ypva) Service in South Tyneside. They have shared their individual stories to raise awareness of domestic abuse in the hope that victims and services will be inspired to make change. For an audio version of this blog, visit our Soundcloud profile or scroll to the bottom of the page. 

*Names have been changed to protect identities

I was 17 when I met him at a house party.  He was older than me, 24.  I was full of drink and he was adamant I had to stay at his.  We started to meet each other and within a couple of weeks he was very controlling, aggressive and demeaning.  As a result, I felt very low and very restricted in who I could talk to.  I knew it was wrong because when I was younger I’d seen different violence with my mam being controlled and beaten up off her boyfriend, but at that time I was confused, the Social Worker said it wasn’t safe for me to live with my mam and I went to live in a Children’s Home. 

I continued meeting him and my friends could see I was not happy, she told me to delete his number, I tried but he threatened to go to the door where we were and take the door down.  He said I was with other lads.  He told me to get to his and I went because I was scared, but also because I was scared he would tell my mam I was seeing him.  He said my mam would put me back into care for being with him. This went on for a couple of months, during which time the abuse was getting worse. 

One day I returned home full of bruises on my face.  My mam asked if I’d been in a fight and I broke down and told her everything. My mam took action; she deleted him off my Facebook and Instagram.  Whilst the harassment did stop for a while, I struggled to go out on my own.  I really regretted the choices I had made that night when I stayed at his; I should have just gone home.  Looking back, I was very low and still restricted on where I could go even after getting out of the relationship. 

It wasn’t long before I started getting threats off his mates and my mam convinced me to ring the Police. I was scared as I thought the abuse would get worse. The Police told me he was very dangerous, and that they would protect me, but I was still scared.  The Police fitted a panic alarm and a letter box jammer in my home and I felt a little bit safer.  The Police also told me that I should talk to Social Services, but because I had been in care before, I was scared and said no.  The Police said they understood, they told me another service could help and referred me to the YPVA Service. 

Claire came out to talk to me and I felt a bit of relief that I would have someone to talk to; I didn’t want to talk to my mam because I didn’t want to stress her out.  I feel since doing the work with the YPVA Service that I have a bit closure, it’s like I have a weight off my shoulders.   I feel like I talk about the abuse more and most importantly I feel safe and confident.  I suppose although I knew the signs from seeing my mam go through abuse, the signs were different for me and more importantly I didn’t think it would happen to me.  Now though I feel like the healthy relationship programme has helped me a lot more to understand the difference between a healthy and unhealthy relationship and I would tell anyone to get out while you can, there is always help and there is always a better future.

Listen to an audio version of this blog:

Keep an eye on our Spotlight page for more information and resources around supporting young people experiencing domestic abuse. 

Stories from Young Survivors: Holly

The following story is one of several accounts shared with us by a group of young people; all have experienced domestic abuse and have been supported by the Ypvas working at the Young People Violence Advisor (Ypva) Service in South Tyneside. They have shared their individual stories to raise awareness of domestic abuse in the hope that victims and services will be inspired to make change. For an audio version of this blog, visit our Soundcloud profile or scroll to the bottom of the page. 

*Names have been changed to protect identities

Where I am now…

Looking back so much has changed since I worked with Claire, (from aged 17 to now aged 20.) I remember the first day I met Claire, I was reluctant because I had already attended ‘options’. I didn’t think this was helpful to me at all, it was all older women. Most of them had been referred there from social workers and had children so I felt like my problems weren’t as bad as theirs. I also couldn’t speak much and didn’t want everyone knowing in the group. However, when I got offered one to one with Claire it was the best thing I’d done. This was so important for me, everything was confidential and I went from having no help from anyone to being fully supported.

When I look back at when I first met Claire and to where I am at now I am quite proud of the way things have changed and so grateful for all her help. The first memory is mine and Claire’s first visit together, we got a milkshake and talked through things slowly, I didn’t feel pushed and over the next couple of weeks we done a lot of work, not just relationship advice etc but Claire helped me with family situations, housing, work, college, c.v. and more.

When I first met Claire I knew my relationship wasn’t great, but all I could see was in my eyes my boyfriend was perfect for me and I still loved him. I didn’t think anything would change that at the time. Looking back now although I’m still with the same boyfriend 4 years later I’m completely different; I don’t think I ever would’ve been if I’d refused the work with Claire just like I almost done. Back then I had no-one, no interest in anything apart from him, my whole life felt as though it was put on hold for him. Although I didn’t want it to be this way I didn’t know what else I could do until I talked .Talking to Claire and knowing somebody is there for you and who understands makes you feel so much better, but most of all makes you see sense.

I never thought I would be able to be the way I was with my boyfriend the way it had been at the start and that’s one of the many reasons I knew I couldn’t stay with him. The only option I thought I had was to leave. I gained confidence and opened my eyes to what was really going on, as soon as that happened, everything changed for the better. Slowly things he was doing and saying after being with Claire or doing with her, I would go home and notice everything more than I had been. I started to question him and started to change by putting up barriers up.

Before I started meeting with Claire I remember wanting to do this but never could’ve. I grew stronger, felt stronger and eventually after every time I seen Claire and I gained a lot more confidence in myself, because of this I was able to stop a lot of things happening at the time and was standing up for myself, not letting things escalate so far. Over the next couple of month I felt like a much stronger person. There was times it felt so hard doing this and pushing him away (into line) after I had allowed it by a way and not stood up for myself for so long. However it was all worth it. All the work I had done with Claire I couldn’t go back and forget all of that, I knew that knowledge now and that’s what gave me enough strength to believe it and do something about it.

Now, I am a carer; I have just finished my support and teaching learning apprenticeship. I’m doing my driving lessons and have a lovely 2-bedroom flat. When I first met Claire I didn’t work, didn’t go to college/training and I had just left supported accommodation, I had nothing really. I’m a lot happier in myself now and in the relationship, some people would say to me ‘leave him, you can do better, he will never change’ but slowly I can say it has, something I thought never would happen to, and I think that’s why it was always so hard to leave because I knew it would be for good. It was so hard to do it, but worth it and I couldn’t thank Claire enough for the help and support that she has given me.

Just like the age I was 16, young, left home, no money, not many interests, not many friends around and in a violent relationship people don’t know who to turn to I think if everyone was in a position to have a one to one then they should. The difference it made to me is massive, I would still be on rock bottom now, hurt or a lot worse.

I’m happy now and I thank everyone who supported me during the times I went through, I could’ve been seriously hurt and lived a life of the same thing going on, meeting that first time with Claire has changed me forever.

Listen to an audio version of this blog:

Keep an eye on our Spotlight page for more information and resources around supporting young people experiencing domestic abuse.