Like many teenagers, Kirsten lacked a clear idea of a “career path” and became disillusioned with academic studies. An older housemate encouraged her to volunteer with the Citizens Advice Bureau and at 19 Kirsten became the youngest qualified advisor in the country at that time! This really fueled her passion for empowering others through access to information and legal help. Kirsten went on to train as a youth worker, undertook counselling qualifications and worked in a variety of support services, both statutory and charitable.
In these roles she witnessed the impact of Domestic Abuse in many forms and saw the enduring trauma for victims and children. Kirsten was lucky enough to work for a homelessness charity that recognized the need for a separate dedicated team to run a refuge and Freedom Programme. Women on the programme told them they wanted to tell other services of their experiences to bring about change, and enhance the support received for others.
This group of women went on to form a community group and then a charity, Voices, of which she was a trustee. When funding became available to employ their first member of staff Kirsten was honoured to be chosen for the post! Ursula, Voices' director, has been a determined, kind and consistent leader through all the challenges of growing the charity to what it is today, and she is a real inspiration to the whole team.
Now Voices is supporting over 100 women a year and they have developed a trauma informed approach that covers all aspects of support from disclosure to recovery from domestic abuse.
What made you decide to work with people experiencing domestic abuse?
After training and beginning to deliver the Freedom programme 13 years ago I saw the powerful transformation and healing that comes about when women support each other. Facilitating groups is like watching magic happen before my eyes and I am very grateful to experience that several times a week.
What keeps you going when the work gets tough?
All my colleagues, I can tell any one of the whole Voices team if I am having a tough day and why. They always offer sage advice, humour, and cake!
What is the biggest challenge and the biggest reward in your role?
The biggest challenge is seeing the consequences of abuse amplified by systems that do not understand the impact of trauma or the ongoing risk to a family from a perpetrator.
The biggest reward is hearing about women’s recovery journeys, we support women long term so are privileged to be part of the milestones they achieve, like getting a job, being reunited with their children, or even just taking up hobby for the first time in years.
What are you most proud of so far?
I am proud of how we have evolved at Voices to create a team that engages authentically with victims and survivors as equals (no them and us!) and how we then advocate for other services to do the same through our survivor consultation work.
The best accolade is when women bring others to the groups and services we provide, because they trust us to be able to help.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone considering this career, what would it be?
Explore volunteering opportunities within charities and organisations that match with your values. This can lead to valuable experience and training. If you have lived experience of domestic abuse or trauma look for organisations that will value this and support you to use that experience safely to help and inform others.
Kirsten's nominator said Kirsten "has been the heart and soul of our direct service to our clients throughout the pandemic lockdown, always keeping our ethos front and centre, honouring the needs and wishes of people we support and providing consistent, trauma-informed and recovery-focused support through the darkest of times."
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 email@example.com with ‘Star of the Month’ as the subject line.