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Freebridge supports domestic abuse charity in West Norfolk


A West Norfolk domestic abuse charity has been given extra funds to help with training, thanks to the Freebridge Community Fund.

The Pandora Project, based in King’s Lynn, will be using the money to train an extra member of the team as an Independent Domestic Violence Advocate (IDVA). This intensive training will mean that they can help support higher risk clients.

They don’t normally deal with high risk victims as standard, usually passing them over to Leeway or the Police. But Tracy, Pandora’s CEO, explains that having someone in their team trained in this way is so important for consistency: “On first contact with us, very often clients will tell us their whole life story – which often they’ve never told anybody before. When people are that open and telling you really difficult things and reliving that trauma the last thing they want to hear is ‘oh right, you don’t belong to me, you belong to someone else so off you go and start again’.”

The intensive IDVA course will allow the team to learn more about abuse and how it affects people, as well as how it can escalate, what can be put in place, and safety planning. And all of this is more important than ever as Pandora have had a challenging year because of Covid-19 restrictions.

“From March we were only able to speak with people via the telephone and it was quite a challenge” Tracy explains. “The majority of our clients have left the abusive relationship and are recovering but we have some that are still living with perpetrators. It was a real concern that we couldn’t ring the women. We spoke to them when we could and said ‘just ring us when you can’. It became a 5/10 minute call when they were going out to the shop or while their partner was watching telly.”

Referrals for their help stopped almost instantly as the first lockdown came in and then restarted slowly after about six weeks, probably due to support systems being reduced across the board and people struggling to find time to talk. However throughout the summer and into the autumn they have been getting busier and busier.

The team are now preparing for how to deal with the current lockdown as Tracy tells us: “I don’t think it’ll be as bad or as big a shock, I guess time will tell really. This lockdown feels a little different as kids are back at school. That was a big complication with the first lockdown as women were at home with their kids and couldn’t talk when they were around. It might be a little easier this time. Even just getting out of the house for half an hour twice a day for the school run will be a help.”

While many people have struggled with the restrictions imposed throughout 2020, those suffering domestic abuse have had a particularly difficult time: “Imagine you’re living with an abusive partner and normally go to work so you’ve got that outlet. Or you could go to shop or to see a friend. But all of a sudden you’re locked in 24/7 with someone who’s absolutely awful. Some of the stories we heard were really heart-breaking.

The Pandora Project say they’re available to anyone who needs to talk, who doesn’t know what to do or where to turn. They can be contacted via their social media pages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – and they also have a webchat service on their website www.pandoraproject.org.uk/. If it’s an emergency or you’re in immediate danger always call 999.

The funding from Freebridge’s Community Fund is part of a number of grants provided to West Norfolk charities and community groups by the housing association. Thirteen projects across the area have benefitted this year, with each being awarded amounts up to £1000. This year Freebridge raised the amount available to the fund to £10,000, double the £5000 that is normally offered, to mark the fact that they've been providing this money to groups for a decade.