February: Fiona

What made you decide to work with people experiencing domestic abuse? 
My first job was in Intensive Probation and from there I worked in Community Payback and then a groupwork programme for females involved in offending. I later moved to work with females exploited by prostitution for a number of years. In all these roles I worked with many women who had experienced/were experiencing domestic abuse along with significant barriers to engaging with the criminal justice system. ASSIST was set up in 2004 to support the first Domestic Abuse Court in Scotland, it seemed the perfect fit. It was the opportunity to be part of a new and creative approach by the Criminal Justice System to ensuring a robust response to victims and children experiencing domestic abuse, while holding perpetrators accountable. We started as a team of four and are now a team of nearly 50. Sixteen years (and several different roles) later and I can say that despite great progress there is still more to be done. 

Fiona 2

What keeps you going when the work gets tough? 
My kids, grandchildren, friends and colleagues both inside and outside of ASSIST.  (Oh and wine, in moderation of course!) 

What is the biggest challenge and the biggest reward in your role?
Just now the biggest challenge is the impact of Covid on victims and children who have cases progressing through criminal court. The delays are seriously impacting on risk and safety and victim are losing faith in the system that should offer them protection. The biggest reward is being able to make a difference, individually and institutionally to victims who are brave enough to put their trust in our service.

What are you most proud of so far? 
Our team and their resilience, it's a really tough job.It's their work on the frontline that allows me to do what I do, highlighting the cracks in the system to work towards safer outcomes for victims and their children. 
If you could give one piece of advice to someone considering this career, what would it be? 
It's an amazing job. To be trusted to be the voice of a victim is a privilege.  But to look after others you also need to look after yourself. That's not a lack of commitment, its a necessity!

Fiona's nominator said "I feel she was a “lynch pin” throughout 2020 keeping us all connected and focussed on supporting our clients. She absorbed increased workload, staffing challenges but never once lost the focus on ensuring victims safety/interest continued to be central to all our efforts."

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.