Gender Based Violence and Covid-19: Learning Insights from AVA Project

AVA (Against Violence and Abuse) Project share insights into how they have been supporting frontline staff and working on digital support for survivors during COVID-19.

AVA is a leading national charity committed to ending gender-based violence and abuse. Our guiding principle is that survivors are at the heart of everything we do, both in terms of ensuring they get the highest quality of support they need and deserve from frontline professionals and facilitating their expert voices are heard by the sector and beyond. We are informed by the lived experience of survivors, robust evidence and a passion for equality.

Switching to training frontline practitioners online was an important priority when the pandemic took us out of the classroom. We know that survivors benefit from frontline staff being better trauma informed and aware of their own need to manage the effects of secondary trauma. We were determined to keep the quality of our training, especially the levels of interactivity and networking that our participants value so much. By allowing participants to continue to discuss best practice and train in time frames that suit their working pattern, whether that be a half an hour every few days or a three hour session, we know survivors will benefit and professionals will feel more confident through professional development and increasing their expertise.

Very quickly it became clear that working in support roles with those who have experienced or were experiencing abuse and trauma whilst at home was having a detrimental effect on people’s work/life boundaries. The distinction between your working hours and logging off became more difficult for people without the standardisation of core working hours and commutes. Also people’s homes became less of safe space - how do you manage supporting someone through trauma whilst being in your home?

We wanted to support frontline professionals in this difficult time outside of our training sessions, so we created our Covid-19 Resource Hub. Covering supporting survivors, supporting each other and supporting yourself the hub is a varied collection of tips, tools, articles, videos and even our own podcast. By speaking to one frontline worker from a large women’s organisation and the Chief Executives from Hopscotch Asian Women’s Centre and Quetzal about how they are managing their professional and personal lives intersecting during Covid-19, as well as how they’re finding managing or working in teams whilst working remotely. This resource hub is being updated regularly and we’re continuing to offer free training around supporting survivors including children, trauma informed frontline and organisational practice and managing vicarious trauma.

AVA’s was working towards digital solutions for survivors and the pandemic solidified the need for online, 24 hour support. Our app Breathing Space has been developed through co-production with survivors of domestic and sexual abuse. Their input has been invaluable, our tech partner has been responsive to changes throughout and we are now in the stage of partnering with trusted women’s organisations who will trial it with the survivors they support. We are committed to working with survivors rather than creating solutions for them without their consultation.

If you’d like to keep up to date with AVA’s work, you can sign up to their newsletter here - you’ll receive training dates here too, or follow them on Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn.