Row Barber (They/Them), Our LGBTQ+ Independent Domestic Violence Advisor
The LGBTQ+ IDVA role has been running for a year now, and Row works across Cornwall in partnership with the Intercom Trust, and a counterpart role that covers the Devon area.
Giving a voice to LGBTQ+ Survivors is at the heart of the role. There is a real need to have a strong presence advocating for people within queer community to be able to access all the services that everyone else can. It’s really important for LGBTQ+ people to have support and understanding from someone who can identify with, and help them to overcome the stereotypes and assumptions that can so often be made about their gender or sexual identity.
Kim Jewell (she/her) is our LGBTQ+ Independent Sexual Violence Advisor
The essence of Kim’s role is creating connection within the LGBTQ+ community and making them aware of the support that’s available to them – working with clients within the LGBTQ+ community and build a good working relationship with local LGBTQ+ support services and organisations.
Kim is putting the groundwork into building those networks so people feel they’re able to come forward and there will be specific LGBTQ support for them when they do.
By working in an LGBTQ+ specific role, Row and Kim ensure that, at an extremely difficult time in their lives, LGBTQ+ survivors are understood.
It’s really important that, whilst also processing their experiences, people don’t also have to advocate for themselves or find themselves explaining some of the complexities that come with different types of relationships, or the barriers that come with accessing services. This is particularly challenging for trans people and people who identify with a gender that is not binary.
We also recognise that we may not have all the tools to support someone’s complex needs, and so we also work in close partnership with other organisations, meaning we can signpost to community groups and supporting services that are more suitable or comfortable for the person.
These are extremely important roles, which go back to the idea that the community is underrepresented in the support services that are available. The roles were created specifically to give the community a voice.
Row hopes to lessen some of the demands placed on LGBTQ+ survivors so that they can focus on taking steps towards a future free from abuse.
Being a member of the LGBTQ+ community herself, Kim hopes that people feel like their support team can empathise with the queer experience and that will make them feel more comfortable coming forward and seeking support.
Feedback from clients shows that knowing that Kim belongs to that community has really benefitted them, because ‘you just get it’.
Partnership with the Intercom Trust for the LGBTQ+ IDVA Role:
Row is employed by First Light but the role is designed to complement and to run alongside The LGBTQ+ support offered by The Intercom Trust.
This works in partnership with the Intercom Trust’s focus in Cornwall, which includes outreach into schools and supporting young LGBTQ+ people with some of the challenges they face. They also offer practical support with accessing queer resources – where there is a particular need to support trans people to access the healthcare they need.
Why First Light?
Row: It’s important for people to feel represented and understood, and feel like their advocate ‘gets’ them, so they don’t have to explain the LGBTQ+ aspects of their lives. A significant proportion of Queer people face barriers to being accepted for who they are, and to living their lives without additional oppressions every single day. To have to navigate these barriers during a traumatic time can become overwhelming.
Kim: I have personal lived experience, and as a member of a particularly high risk community I’ve unfortunately always been surrounded by sexual violence and of supporting others through it. I think for me, the best thing about my job is that it’s allowing me to take a really bad experience that myself and people I know have been through, and being part of the change. Taking the worst thing that could happen and making something positive come of that. And that when it comes to clients, I can truly say ‘I understand’.
If you’d like to be supported by one of the LGBTQ+ Team at First Light, call our helpline on 03008 444 7 444