March: Vicki

Our Star of the Month for March is Vicki Trapps, an Idva at DeafHope – the UK's only specialist Deaf Idva service. Vicki is Deaf herself, and has worked for DeafHope for almost five years; supporting her clients to become safe and well, and helping them to navigate the criminal justice system which can be overwhelming, and often fails to make adequate arrangements for Deaf clients. 

What made you decide to work with victims/survivors of domestic abuse?

My background was working with Deaf clients with mental health needs but I wanted to take on a new challenge. I had noticed that there was a gap in provision for Deaf people who are victims of domestic abuse and when I saw the advert appear for DeafHope, I just knew it was right to apply. Domestic violence is such a grey area and it was something I wanted to improve for those service users I supported and the Deaf community as a whole. Breaking down barriers for Deaf people is important to me and I think I took that with me to this role. Since working for DeafHope I’ve been learning new skills every day and thoroughly enjoy empowering clients so they can move forward.

What are some of the particular challenges that your Deaf client’s face?

Right from the start of the process when a client discloses they are a victim, there are communication barriers that Deaf clients face. When they make a disclosure to the police or a GP there’s often a delay whilst a BSL (British Sign Language) interpreter is found. Then with each step of the process, including in court, often BSL interpreters are not provided or are forgotten, delaying each step. As you can imagine, with each delay to this process, the client can become more anxious and this has a negative effect on their wellbeing.

The organisations involved with this process supporting the client often have no Deaf awareness. When they don’t know what a client needs or how to work with them this presents difficulties. Having a DeafHope Idva there to support means that barriers can be broken down as clients are empowered by using interpreters we can arrange. This helps educate the providers on how to work with Deaf clients.

Overall, the biggest barrier is communication. This is what gets in the way of clients having a smooth and fully supported journey from disclosure onwards.

What keeps you going when things are difficult?

My team of colleagues who are all fantastic! I have a great manager too and everyone in the team is there to support each other. Just the simple things like bringing in cakes and biscuits to the office helps me keep a smile on my face when things are tough! The knowledge that I’ll always have someone there to support me any time I need help is so reassuring.

What are you most proud of in your time as an Idva? 

I think the thing I’m most proud of is how I’ve gained knowledge about the immigration system and been able to use this to support clients. Looking back to my first client and remembering how complex and overwhelming the system seemed, it feels even better knowing how much I’ve been able to help clients since then. Passing on knowledge and empowering those I work with to take control of visa applications for example, has been wonderfully rewarding. Looking back to how much a client’s life has been transformed because of my help has been magnificent and made me confident that in future cases that involve immigration complexities, I’ll be ready to handle it!

Marie Vickers, Vicki's manager, says: 'Vicki has offered an amazing level of support to her clients and goes the extra mile for them. She has been especially supportive to women whose first, second or third language is not English but may have another Sign Language as their first language and are learning British Sign Language. She stands up for Deaf women’s rights and ensures as a Deaf person that the survivors she supports get exactly what they need. She has become an expert on all sorts of areas and offers advice to the rest of the team on matters such as immigration law. She is invaluable to the DeafHope team.'

Maryam*, one of Vicki's clients: 'Vicki has been an amazing support to me in many ways. You supported me at court, at meetings with my immigration solicitor and successfully challenged social services on their duty to provide interpreters. Information I didn’t understand was translated and explained to me in sign language, which was especially invaluable when I was at the police station and communication was failing with the officers because I couldn’t understand them.

'When I needed to attend meetings regarding the children you provided me with that support and you also persisted in making numerous phone calls to sort out the children’s passports. Generally, all the support I have had from Vicki has had a huge impact on my life and changed it for the better.’

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 communications@safelives.org.uk with ‘Star of the Month’ as the subject line