When I tell people I have been in an abusive relationship, they give me ‘that’ look. You know the one, the sad eyes and the sympathy and the puzzled look on their face because they don’t really know what to say to me. “It’s OK” I tell them “it’s all OK now”.
After the wave of relief has crossed their face, I start to tell them about RISE. An organisation in Brighton, Hove & West Sussex that helped me then and continues to help me today. RISE have helped a ridiculous amount of women and children in so many different ways, and they also offer services to young people and LGBTQI who have been affected by Domestic Abuse.
In 2010, RISE approached me after a referral from Sussex Police. They ‘scooped’ me up and guided me through the minefield that comes with trying to unpick an emotionally abusive relationship. They offered me safety advice, cups of tea, support with starting a new life and the hope that everything was going to be OK. They helped me make sense of the past 10 years of my life but most importantly they helped me understand that what had happened to me was not my fault.
When the time was right, I approached RISE and offered my skills as a volunteer. My experience as a service-user, coupled with the desire to turn negative energy into something positive enabled me to slot in with the Fundraising and Communications team. I wanted to say thank you to this incredibly hardworking organisation and I did that by rolling up my sleeves and getting stuck in.
My role within the organisation has a few different elements. I am invited to speak at a variety of events about my experience; I really love this part and am very grateful that I have the opportunity to express myself. I volunteer within RISE and assist with marketing and event support, from creating a monthly newsletter to stage managing a recent Brighton Festival panel discussion, it really is a case of all hands on deck. The biggest thing I am grateful for is the space that RISE give me to try to add value where I can and experiment with new ideas.
I have had an incredible experience over the past four years. From utter despair, frustration and confusion to feeling supported, believed, valuable and most importantly feeling like one of the family. Bottom line is, these guys are awesome. They are the reason that that everything is now OK.
One measure of their awesomeness is a recent Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK) IMPACT Award they won in the first half of 2014. RISE is currently carrying out ground breaking work with the South East Ambulance Service to help staff and crews identify the signs of Domestic Abuse and intervene safely to secure a positive outcome. With the hope that this innovative model can be rolled out nationally, RISE is showing that it is not just a one town wonder and that local organisations can make a difference on a national stage.
Find out more about RISE by visiting their website: www.riseuk.org.uk/