‘Hub’ launches to support sexual assault victims in Staffordshire

Staffordshire University is leading a new initiative to improve support for victims and survivors of domestic abuse and sexual offences

A woman's hands wrapped around a mug

The VAWG Hub will bring together organisations involved in supporting victims and survivors of domestic abuse and sexual offences

There are lots of people out there working really hard to address these issues. However, there is often a disconnect between different organisations and we are seeing increased competition for funding. We want to provide an opportunity to come together, share best practice and help to shape future provision in the region.

Dr Em Temple-Malt, PG Course Leader for Sociology and Social Justice

The Staffordshire University Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Hub is a new network designed to enable organisations involved in supporting victims and survivors to connect, learn, collaborate and share ideas.

A launch event is taking place this week on Thursday 27 October at the University’s Stoke-on-Trent campus and organisers are keen for practitioners and community members from across Staffordshire and the West Midlands to attend.

In the year 2021, 1,377 counts of sexual violence were perpetrated against females of varying age ranges in the county of Staffordshire. Moreover, sexual violence and other sexual offences are purportedly the most committed crime in various areas across Staffordshire, including, Burton town, Uxbridge, Penkull and Stoke.

Dr Em Temple-Malt, co-founder of the VAWG Hub, explained: “Reaching out and supporting survivors or victims of sexual violence and abuse is a complex task because this group are typically ‘hard to reach’. The sensitivity, stigma, perceived shame and personal nature of sexual violence can discourage people from coming forward to seek support.

“There are lots of people out there working really hard to address these issues. However, there is often a disconnect between different organisations and we are seeing increased competition for funding. We want to provide an opportunity to come together, share best practice and help to shape future provision in the region.

“Our aspiration for the Hub is to connect professional support services but we’re also keen to involve any community organisation that is likely to come across people who are experiencing, fleeing or recovering from abuse.”

The creation of the Hub was prompted by a recent report commissioned by Staffordshire Women's Aid to explore the needs of sexual offence victims and survivors from ethnically diverse communities. The project was led by Dr Em Temple-Malt and Dr Laura Walton-Williams, working alongside students from Centre for Crime, Justice and Security, who reached out to women from minority groups and professionals working in the county to better understand their experiences and the barriers to seeking support.

The team identified a variety of factors which might prevent victims reporting offences such as language barriers, wanting to protect their children, feared stigma and shame within their community or not wanting to fuel negative perceptions about their community.

This research led to a publication of a report, the delivery of training events and an online webinar to raise awareness of the particular needs of victims from BME communities. Interview data was also used to inform the production of five scripts and short films showcasing ‘Survivor Voices’ which are available to watch on Staffordshire Women’s Aid YouTube channel.

Dr Em Temple-Malt added: “This is just one example of the professional research that has been produced working alongside our students and we are keen to build on this. The VAWG Hub is an exciting opportunity for organisations in a range of fields to come to us with issues or predicaments that they don’t fully understand and need support with.

“The launch event will provide a chance for you to learn more about what we do, contribute to how the Hub operates and to have coffee, cake and mingle with fellow delegates. We hope to see you there!”

The Staffordshire University Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Hub launch takes place on Thursday 27 October at 10am – book your place.

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