Unsung heroes rewarded for work with victims of domestic abuse in North Wales

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A VITAL support service that’s come to the aid of thousands of domestic abuse victims as well as helping perpetrators to change their ways has been honoured by North Wales’s policing czar.

Gorwel, which is part of Grwp Cynefin and provides a wide range of services for women, men and children who are affected by domestic violence, won the Domestic Abuse Support Award in the North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner’s Community Awards.

The organisation helps victims in Gwynedd, Anglesey, Conwy and Denbighshire and has been run for the past 11 years by support manager Gwyneth Williams, who was presented with the accolade by Commissioner Arfon Jones at a special ceremony at the Celtic Royal Hotel, in Caernarfon.

She said: “It’s so humbling to receive this award from the Commissioner. I’m absolutely made up we’ve been recognised for the work we do.

Pictured presenting the Domestic Abuse Support Award to Gorwel is North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones with, from left, Deputy Commissioner Ann Griffith, Gwyneth Williams, Valmai Squires, Bethan O’Regan, Mair Jones and Rhiannon Thomas.
Pictured presenting the Domestic Abuse Support Award to Gorwel is North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones with, from left, Deputy Commissioner Ann Griffith, Gwyneth Williams, Valmai Squires, Bethan O’Regan, Mair Jones and Rhiannon Thomas.

“We’re very fortunate to be in a position to be helping people who need it the most.
“We’ve helped thousands of people over the years. Last year we had 55 families in the refuge alone and a total of 316 referrals.

“What’s good is people are coming forward and recognise there is help to be had.
“What we have to remember is that people die from domestic abuse.

“Our aim is to keep people alive. It’s such an important service and it’s amazing to be a part of it.”

North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones told the audience: “I am very proud to give this award to Gorwel for their inspiring and innovative work under the leadership of Gwyneth Williams.

“They don’t look for any glory but they care for people and offer a holistic approach which extends to their Caring Dads programme which aims to get fathers to improve their relationships with their children and take responsibility for them.

“The funding I supply to Gorwel provides support to perpetrators to change their behaviour.”

Gwyneth, who has worked in the field of domestic abuse since 1995, added: “Domestic abuse goes both ways. There will always be a place for women only services but we have to be realistic.

“It’s not a one gender issue. We recognise that the majority of referrals are women but there are quite a lot of men too.

“That wouldn’t have been mentioned 15 years ago but it’s still very difficult for men to come forward. There is this stigma where men are told to ‘man up’ which is completely wrong.

“It’s also important to remember that abuse takes other forms. It doesn’t have to be physical, it can also be mental.

“It’s also a classless issue. It can happen to anyone.”

Gorwel’s innovative services for domestic abuse victims include support with life skills and independent living, accessing education training and employment opportunities, responding to housing issues, referrals to other agencies, and improving their wellbeing and quality of life.

They have three refuges in three confidential locations providing 24/7 accommodation for up to to nine victims and their families, an independent advisor who supports up to 250 individuals, one stop shops in Dolgellau and Llangefni offering holistic services, and a mobile unit for those living in rural areas with limited public transport.

Another aspect of the service is to focus on the “cycle of change”, which involves helping perpetrators to take responsibility for their behaviour and implement change.

Gwyneth said: “Quite often people haven’t got the knowledge of what they are doing.
“It’s about addressing that and rebalancing things happening in their lives. Looking at the beliefs behind the abuse.

“Instead of just dealing with a sticking plaster we’re looking at the root causes.
“The issue in the past has been if people want to change where do they go? We provide that information but every individual has to make an informed choice.

“They can self-refer or be referred by social services. The change has to come from them.”
An important element of the work carried out by Gorwel involves support for children affected by domestic abuse, whilst there is also a ‘Caring Dads’ programme to help fathers improve their relationship with their children.

Gwyneth explained: “We have a service just for children as they deserve a service in their own right.

“It’s where you can make the biggest change as they are the adults of the future.

“What they need to realise is they’re not alone. Abuse is not healthy and not right.

“Sometimes children carry the guilt so it’s important we make them recognise it’s not their fault.”

She added: “We also get a lot of teenagers who have taken intimate pictures which have been shared. There is a lot of pressure on young people now with social media.
“Our support is centred around getting into healthy relationships.

“With our Caring Dad’s programme we work with fathers to analyse their behaviour and how it impacts on their children’s lives.”