The Authentic Voice Panel
To truly transform the response to domestic abuse we must place survivor voice and lived experience at the heart and start of everything we do. SafeLives Authentic Voice strategy sets out our commitment to centring the voice of those with lived experience through all our research, projects, and practice. To comprehensively embed authentic voice, its need to be more than just one ‘thing’, an approach that would encompass the diverse experience of survivors in Scotland.
Our Authentic Voice Panel was initially formed to oversee the outcomes of our National Lottery Scotland-funded ‘Whole Lives Scotland’ project. However, it quickly became clear that the panel’s insight and expertise was welcomed not only within SafeLives but to external agencies as well. Co-facilitated by a domestic abuse expert with extensive experience working in the VAWG sector, our 10-woman strong Authentic Voice Panel represents the breadth of diversity and experience of Scottish survivors. The Panel brings insight spanning topics such as service access, mental health, rurality, children and the justice system. The team work together to embed authentic voice across systems, services and organisations to improve outcomes for all survivors of domestic abuse and trauma.
The panel is supported by the Scottish Government & National Lottery Community Fund.
“We need organisations to listen at the grassroots and high up. They don’t get it yet. Organisations need to change the narrative, otherwise we [as survivors] don’t feel empowered… ‘No them and us’.”
AV Panel member
"In late 2020, I was approached and asked if I would like to consider being part of a group of women who had all experienced domestic abuse and wanted to use that experience to help others. To be honest I wasn’t entirely sure what this meant but I was intrigued and wanted to find out more. I had a zoom call with Jen & Fiona who filled in all the gaps and explained the concept that with my knowledge, gained through my experiences, I was ideally placed to help. Essentially it was not about reliving my past but about using my past to effect change.
One of the first things we had to do as a group was to decide on a name and after a fairly brief discussion and subsequent poll we decided on the “Authentic Voice Panel”, which I feel sums up quite nicely what we are about. Our aim is not to berate and moan about current policies and practices but to highlight problems and come up with realistic, workable solutions. We can achieve this because each panel member has had a different experience and it is this combined depth of knowledge that helps us. However, at the same time as working as a group, as individuals we tackle our own causes, for example some of us are currently involved with work on financial abuse, technological abuse, the criminal and civil court systems, the list goes on and on.
I know I am only one voice, BUT I am a voice within a group of similar inspirational, strong voices and together that is what makes us powerful, that is our “Superpower”. "
“I wanted to become a part of the Authentic Voice Panel as I feel that no one is better equipped than someone with experience of domestic abuse, to be able to give a real-life point of view on things that survivors experience during and after leaving an abusive relationship. By taking part and being involved in this panel I am helping to make our voice heard and if my voice can help change things for others, I know that my struggle was not in vain.
As a working-class woman, my experience is different from others on the panel. We come from all walks of life but share one common goal; to make a difference to the lives of people who are affected with domestic abuse. I feel so proud to be a part of that. One of the main benefits of taking part for me is that it reiterates that abuse can happen to anyone; being part of the team and having this common bond and the fire in our bellies to make a real change. I would never have crossed paths with many of the women on this panel, but I am so glad I have; it has opened my mind so much and changed my perception and understanding of domestic abuse.
I’ve been involved in quite a few projects with the AV Panel and can honestly say I have enjoyed every one of them! The engaging with media course was a complete eye opener for me; I learned how to frame principles and how to work on the message I want to deliver, how to present myself to the media both on a televised interview and on a recorded broadcast. The experience was invaluable and has really given me the confidence to have my voice heard and do media work in the future. I also really enjoyed being part of an academic research project, learning about how data is received and whittled down to gather statistics. The last thing that I would like to add is that I feel so humbled and honoured to be part of the Authentic Voice Panel. Together our voices are being heard and speaking from experience can help mould and change things for the future.”