Bridie’s career began in Herts County Council Adult Social Care, where she was a Day Service Social Worker and worked up to becoming assistant manager of a large day service for adults with learning and physical disabilities, then to Project Manager before joining Hertfordshire Constabulary as an officer. Here Bridie did Response policing, CID, qualified and practised as a Crime and Traffic Family Liaison Officer (FLO), a Sexual Offences Liaison Officer (SOLO) and a Domestic Violence Emergency Response Officer (DVERO). She then transferred to Surrey Police, in 2011, when she moved from Watford to West Sussex.
Bridie worked initially on Response policing in Guilford and Woking, before successfully securing a role as the Surrey Police Force Advisor for Domestic Abuse and Stalking, based at HQ. She was in her element in this role, as she was able to devote her time and energy specifically to this area of work. The last 8 years of Bridie’s policing career was spent in this role and really solidified her commitment to ending domestic abuse and other forms of abuse.
Bridie left the Police last year (2020) in order to work for herself, setting up ‘Better Lives Training & Consultancy’ with her partner. Bridie is also a SafeLives core associate, working as the Relationship manager for the DA Matters Champions Leads nationally. Bridie also gets involved in the creation of some other SafeLives training products, delivering DA Matters to Police and organising ‘Local Survivor Voice’ contributions as part of the DA Matters delivery option for new adopter forces.
Alongside these roles Bridie also works for East Surrey Domestic Abuse Service (ESDAS) supporting in a Service Manager role, providing 1:1 supervision with the team, delivering training, attending MARACs and providing advice and support to survivors and their Idvas/Outreach staff on the more complex and high risk cases.
What made you decide to work towards ending domestic abuse?
My contact, throughout my policing career, with survivors of some of the most devastating and complex domestic abuse, harmful traditional practices and stalking is what made me choose to devote my career to working in this area. I am consistently inspired by survivors’ strength, emotional intelligence and ability to turn their traumatic experiences into inspiring and supportive narratives to help others understand and escape their own abusers. I also worked very closely with some amazing DA specialists and their kindness, compassion and drive to end DA, in all its forms, was infectious and gave me the courage to change careers and join the sector as trainer, consultant, survivor advocate and now a qualified DHR chair.
What keeps you going when the work gets tough?
My family, partner and two beautiful Hungarian Vizslas really keep me going when I feel that the work I do is getting tough or I am recognising my own vicarious trauma. Focusing on walks in nature together, detoxing from my devices/social media and grounding myself in the moment all help me refocus and rebalance. I also have a little Etsy shop, through which I sell ‘well-being boxes’, all personalised and curated individually to bring some unexpected joy and love to people’s letterboxes. This crafting and pyrography are very focussed activities and help me when I recognise the need to take a break from my other work.
What is the biggest challenge and the biggest reward in your role?
One of the biggest challenges in my role is feeling unable to change and improve systems that repeatedly fail, and even put at greater risk, survivors and victims of all forms of abuse. Current family court processes, alongside some criminal justice structures can often make it harder to truly enable perpetrators to be held to account and keep victim-survivors safe.
One of the biggest rewards of my current roles is seeing the positive shift in attitude, understanding and perspective in Police Officers who attend the Domestic Abuse Matters training I deliver on behalf of SafeLives. Hearing from them about how they will take the learning into their daily practice and how they feel empowered to better empathise with, support and listen to DA survivors they encounter and recognise and challenge victim blaming, is amazingly rewarding!
What are you most proud of so far?
I was nominated for, and went on to win, the ‘BBC Surrey & Sussex Local Hero Award’, under the ‘999 - commitment to profession’ category. The nomination was based upon numerous letters, emails and calls of thanks from various members of the public that I had come across and supported whilst working on Response in Woking and Guildford. I never expected to get nominated, let alone win – and the fact it was based on the positive interactions with victims, survivors and peers who had taken the time to recognise and highlight this to the force, made it all the more special to me.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone considering this career, what would it be?
I would let them know that although they can’t save everyone, just making one person’s day a bit better, one survivor feel a little safer or one victim feel valued and believed is unspeakably powerful and incredibly worthwhile. We all wish, constantly, that we could do more, but it is important to step back and look at how sometimes the smallest of gestures, kindnesses or uplifting and supportive words can make such a huge difference to someone else. This is particularly true of survivors of domestic abuse whose gratitude, often for the smallest of acts, never fails to ground and humble me. And of course….look after yourself too!
Bridie’s nominator said “It is clear [Bridie] has extensive knowledge of domestic abuse and risk management from her work across the public and private sector. She was able not just to engage officers of varying levels of experience through her service as a PC but encourage a depth of understanding of the victim’s journey which promotes empathy and emotional intelligence in crisis situations where everything may not be as it initially seems.”
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.