Career Inspiration: Rosie – Refuge Support Officer

Career Inspiration is a new series here on Prettygreentea. I’m spending my evenings interviewing and having a good old chat with inspirational and hard-working people from the blogging world. The aim of these interviews is to help those of you looking for career inspiration, a career change or an insight into what others do. Today’s interview is very interesting and a real eye-opener.

It’s very hard to know what you want to do in life and I’ve always loved finding out about what others do and the journey they took to get there. So, I hope you enjoy today’s interview with the dedicated and inspirational, Rosie a Refuge Support Officer at Bromley Women’s Aid.


Please tell us about your role.

My official title is “Refuge Support Officer” and I work for Bromley Women’s Aid. I am based in a refuge where I support women (and their children) fleeing domestic violence. My main role is to support the women in all aspects of their lives. I’m a one woman band!

What is a typical work day like?

Honestly, there is no typical day. Every day is so different and it’s partly why I love what I do so much. However here’s an insight to a day when there is a space at the refuge.

I get in to work for 9:30 and carry out health & safety checks to make sure the house is in good order for the women staying there. If there are any repairs it is my job to report them.

If there is a space in the refuge, I wait for a referral for a woman to come through. Once that is done, I call up the woman and ask if it’s safe for her to talk. If she is away from the perpertrator, I carry out a risk assessment which is a series of questions to determine her safety and her support needs. With that completed, I would have to make a decision on whether she is eligible for the space. If she is, I arrange a time to meet her near the refuge where I will go to meet her. During the time she is making her way to the meeting point, I ensure that her room is clean and tidy for her.

Once it’s time to go and get her, I rush off and bring her back to the house and help her with her immediate needs like food, clothing, medical attention. She is then shown around the house and allowed to settle in to her room.

By the afternoon it’s time for my support sessions. Whilst at the refuge, every week the women meet with me to ensure they are getting all the support that they need. This could be anything from help with income and budgeting or to assist them with housing or support with legal action.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

I like to think that i’m quite a strong person emotionally, however there will always be the odd person who’s story really hits me. Sometimes I greet women coming into refuge and they’re covered in cuts and bruises. It’s hard to hide the emotions that I feel towards the person who could do such a thing to the person they’re supposed to love.

The different dynamics in the house (refuge) can sometimes be difficult too as it’s shared living and I’m sure some of you know it’s not the easiest of living circumstances!

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part is seeing these women grow. We use a number of different tools to show them the change in themselves and so that they are aware of how far they’ve come.

It’s one of the nicest feelings when they move out of refuge as a different woman – Strong, independant & empowered.

What did you study at university and why?

I studied Psychology with English studies.

In all honesty I wasn’t sure I even wanted to go to uni. I had always been a good student throughout school and college and came out with great grades, but the thought of further study just didn’t interest me. Perhaps I was going through some sort of rebellious stage, or it may have been the fact that I was under a lot of pressure to do well since neither of my sisters had gone on to uni. Eventually, on the last day of clearing I called up South Bank University and opted to study subjects that I had a real interest in, rather than thinking about where it would take me career wise. I chose Psychology because I find the human mind so fascinating and I wanted to learn more. I’ve always loved English and I decided to minor in it, just incase studying one subject got a bit too much for me.

After my degree I was still unsure about career prospects. I wasn’t ready to start working and with Psychology being such a broad subject, I decided to go on to study further to narrow things down. I ended up doing a Postgraduate diploma in Counselling & Psychotherapy. I really enjoyed it and I knew I wanted to work in a role that required empathy.

How did you find yourself working as a Refuge Support Officer, was it always something you wanted to do?

After studying I took some more time out to volunteer. I volunteered for a charity that fought against forced marriages and then I went on to volunteer with Refuge, working on the national domestic violence helpline The experience was amazing and eye-opening. It was after this that I knew what direction I wanted my career to be headed in. I had never experienced domestic violence myself but the issue just resonated with me and I knew that I wanted to make a difference in someones life. I spoke to one of the leading ladies at Refuge about her career path and she told me she started off by working in a refuge. I hadn’t heard too much about them so I looked into it and applied to a few. Luckily I got the job pretty much straight away and I’ve been working here since!

What advice would you give to others wanting to work at a women’s refuge?

First of all – do it! It’s such an amazing job and you will learn so much, not only about the issues around DV but about yourself.

It’s hard work but the job satisfaction is so high and to think you could be saving someone’s life.

Do you think there’s enough awareness about the importance of services like women’s refuges?

No, not at all. It’s really unfortunate that Domestic Violence isn’t talked about as much as it needs to be. We need to be talking about healthy relationships from a young age so that when our children grow to be adults, they are fully aware of what’s acceptable and what isn’t.

I think there needs to be more awareness about refuges too. Firstly because for a women who is considering escaping her controlling partner, the biggest fear is usually where will I go? and how will I cope. If she knows there is help and support out there, it will make her decision a lot easier. Additionally, funding is being cut left right and centre, if more people knew about refuges and how much of a difference they make maybe we’d be able to fund and open more rather then shutting them down.

What keeps you motivated?

Knowing that I’m making a difference and potentially saving someone’s life. For the women in refuge, I want them to be able to move on from it and in 10 years time to look back and think, if it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t be who I am and where I am today.

What direction would you like to take your career in 2015?

I always get a mixed reaction when I say this but I would love to work with victims of Trafficking. It’s another issue which isn’t talked about much and the psychological effects are heart breaking. At this stage though, I’m not too sure where my career will be headed next but that’s ok, because things usually fall into place. One thing that is for sure is that I’d like to continue to work working front line because it’s so rewarding.

On a final note, I just want to say to those struggling with figuring out their career path that it’s ok to feel completely lost. Take some time out, volunteer & try new things and find something that really makes you feel something. You spend most of your life working and most of your week at work, do something that you enjoy and is a motivation in itself.

Thank you so much to Rosie for taking part in Career Inspiration, I wish you lots of luck for your career in 2015! I’m surrounded by people working within marketing and advertising so today’s interview was a real eye-opener for me, I hope you all enjoyed it too. You can find Rosie over on her blog, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram.

If you would like to take part in my Career Inspiration series then just drop me a message on Twitter.