West Sussex Connect: Domestic abuse survivor helps launch support project

Some of the West Sussex Connect project team at the launch of the pilot in Chichester
Some of the West Sussex Connect project team at the launch of the pilot in Chichester

A pilot project developed by survivors of domestic abuse will help families and individuals in West Sussex.

The three-year programme adopts ‘a whole family approach’ to supporting victims and survivors of domestic abuse and their families – with West Sussex being one of only two ‘beacon’ sites to pilot the work.

Domestic abuse survivor Rachel Williams at the launch of the West Sussex Connect project in Chichester

Domestic abuse survivor Rachel Williams at the launch of the West Sussex Connect project in Chichester

Launched at the Assembly Room, in Chichester, on Wednesday (November 14), the West Sussex Connect project is a partnership between West Sussex County Council, UK-wide domestic abuse charity SafeLives, and specialist frontline services.

Representatives from each of the partners gave speeches at the launch, including Rachel Williams, a SafeLives pioneer and domestic abuse survivor who has published a book about her experience.

Talking about the project, Rachel said: “As a survivor myself of domestic abuse and violence, whilst I was on my own journey to freedom, no one ever asked me what ‘I’ wanted.

“Some services presume they know what is right for those sadly finding themselves on similar journeys, without actually taking the time to ask them.

“I am elated to say that Connect is a result of asking what the victims and survivors want and need.

“This truly is a service that has been put together through the voices of those who have been and will be using it in the future.”

A county council spokesman said the project would provide a package of support for individuals and families experiencing domestic abuse, helping people recognise the signs of abuse before it escalates and offer a range of new interventions to address needs.

Specialist support will be given to children and young people as well as those with complex needs, such as substance misuse and mental ill health, the council said.

Support will also be given to people who are still in a relationship or living with the perpetrator of abuse.

As part of the work, a project is also underway to work directly with perpetrators to challenge their behaviour and encourage change.

Debbie Kennard, West Sussex County Council cabinet member for safer stronger communities, said: “We are delighted to be working with SafeLives and other partners on this innovative programme which will develop complete care pathways to support victims and help them recover from harm.

“West Sussex Connect will enhance the established high-risk domestic abuse services we already offer to some of the most vulnerable people in West Sussex and will be driven by their voices throughout.”

The work will be delivered by The YOU Trust, Aurora New Dawn, The Hampton Trust and the eight Connect members of staff.

Tonia Redvers, head of hidden violence at YOU said: “We have been working together over the last couple of months getting ready to launch this brilliant new service and we are very excited that this day has finally come.

“This pilot gives choices for change and includes those where a relationship has ended and those who are not ready to end but want to be safe and the abuse to stop.

“We will work safely with all members of the family, offering support for the victim, and any children, and interventions for perpetrators that challenges their behaviours and helps them to understand their responsibility for their actions.

“If you, a family member or friend would like to find out more then please contact us.”

Anyone who needs or is aware of someone needing support for domestic abuse across West Sussex should ring 07834 968539 or 033 022 28181 or email domesticAbuse

ServicesCentral@westsussex.gov.uk. In the event of an emergency dial 999.