• "My head was like a washing machine on spin": (improving) women’s experiences of accessing support

      Neale, Jo; Hodges, Kathryn; University of Bedfordshire; St. Mary’s University (DigitalCommons@URI, 2021-02-01)
      This paper draws on data collected as part of two larger studies to set out the differences, according to women seeking support, between the feminist responses of the specialist women’s sector and the issues-led responses of other agencies. The first study examined the processes by which women enter, endure, and exit relationships with abusive men. The second study explored the barriers to help-seeking for those accessing a service for women involved in prostitution. Taking a feminist poststructuralist approach, the authors point to the gendered nature, both of the experiences that propel women toward help-seeking and of the responses they receive from agencies. They note the current socio-economic context within which those experiences and responses are set and the importance, for women, of the specialist women’s sector. Data were collected via narrative-style interviews with twenty-five women with lived experience of the issues being explored. Many women noted that, when initially seeking support from agencies, they had either been offered no service or inappropriate services. They spoke of being required to engage with multiple services, constantly retelling their stories, and the competing and conflicting demands made of them by professionals. These accounts were contrasted with the service they received from the specialist women’s sector. The findings are presented in terms of their meaning for and impact upon women accessing professional support. The implications for practice are discussed: the case for professionals’ proactive sourcing/using information about women’s services operating in their locality; the importance of effective communication, both within and between agencies; and the shared benefits of working alongside the specialist women’s sector.