Southall Black Sisters provides information, advice, advocacy, practical help, counselling and support to women and children experiencing domestic and other forms of gender-related violence. Our holistic services are aimed at helping all women escape violence and abuse and to this end we address a range of inter related problems such as:
- Rape and sexual abuse
- Forced marriage
- Honour crimes
- Sexual harassment
- Dowry related abuse
- Matrimonial issues
- Child residence and contact
- Housing and homelessness
- Immigration and asylum
- Suicide, self harm, mental health and depression
- Policing and crime
We can advise you in English, Hindi, Punjabi, Gujarati and Urdu and arrange interpretation in Somali and other languages. We mainly support women from West London although we will take enquiries from across the UK and if necessary refer to relevant local agencies.
We arrange access to legal advice and representation and will support women in taking legal action to secure their protection and rights. This can also include action against public bodies such as the police, social services and coroner’s courts for failing to protect or to carry out their investigative functions properly.
Subject to capacity, we can also provide expert reports in legal cases in respect of gender related abuse and violence including forced marriage and honour crimes and family, immigration, criminal and other cases.
Our other services include undertaking policy and research, running campaigns and working with a range of professionals, academics and organisations to develop specific projects.
We have also developed training programmes aimed at improving awareness and understanding of gender-related violence and the experiences of black and minority women and children. We have considerable experience in delivering training on domestic and other forms of gender-related violence, including forced marriage and honour crimes and domestic violence interrelated with immigration and no resource to public fund problems as well as other gender equality matters.
We provide general and specialist advice on issues such as domestic violence, forced marriage, honour killings and their intersection with immigration and asylum matters, welfare rights, homelessness and poverty.
We receive telephone calls from individuals, refuges, women’s organisations, police, social services, advice agencies, solicitors and many other individuals and professionals.
We provide advice on what immediate steps need to be taken if a woman and/or her children are at risk of violence and need protection. We also provide advice on securing long term support and assistance.
If a woman is within our catchment area of The London Borough of Ealing, we can make an appointment in the office for further advice and support and allocate a caseworker if necessary and if we have the capacity.
We do take on cases from outside our catchment area but this does depend on the type and urgency of the situation, practicalities and our resources.
In all cases, we will provide emergency advice to all women who need it and refer women outside of our catchment area to local agencies, refuges and, if relevant, a solicitor or other professionals.
For more information on what to do in an emergency go to our emergency page.
Advocacy and Casework
Women experiencing violence
If there is no immediate emergency, a woman will initially be given an appointment with one of our caseworkers. The caseworker will take detailed information from her and then assess the urgency of the situation. She will advise on what practical steps need to be taken to ensure immediate safety and will help assist in dealing with this and any other related issues.
In the first instance, in an emergency, we can advice on seeking legal and/or police protection and help to identify emergency accommodation. Where appropriate, we can also accompany a woman to return to her matrimonial home with a police escort to gather essential personal belongings and documents. We can also help women collect children from school or take immediate steps to protection children.
Where a woman wishes to stay at home we can refer her to a family law practitioner for legal advise and representation on obtaining protection orders and advise her on how to stay safe until a protection order is in place. If she wishes to inform the police, we can also contact the police and accompany her to a police station to report the violence and to continue to liaise with them on her behalf. If a woman needs long-term assistance to resolve her matrimonial, housing, children and immigration matters or needs support with criminal or legal matters, we will work closely with legal advisers and other professionals and support her through the process by advocating on her behalf. Where necessary, we will accompany a woman to legal or other official appointments and to court hearings.
Suicide, Self Harm and cases of suspicious deaths of women and children
We provide advice, advocacy and support to friends and family members of women who have died in suspicious circumstances. We also refer families to specialist legal advisers, especially if there are concerns about any failure of investigation by the police or coroner’s courts or other professionals. Subject to our resources, we will also support a family seeking to campaign to highlight issues that arise in addressing suicide and suspicious deaths in circumstances where domestic or other forms of gender-related abuse is suspected.
Subject to resources, where a case raises issues of wider public interest, we will campaign on that individual case or draw attention to it as part of a broader campaign. From time to time, we also undertake general campaigns to create or increase awareness or bring about change in the law or social policy and practice in the areas that are reflected in our daily casework. See our Campaigns page for information about past and current campaigns.
Counselling and support
We encourage women to empower themselves and to lead independent lives by providing support groups and therapeutic, educational and social activities which enable them to make new friends, build self esteem and confidence, learn life skills, and overcome trauma arising from their experiences. We provide the following services:
We provide one-to-one therapy for traumatised women with a qualified psychotherapist in English, Hindi and Urdu. This service primarily targets existing users; however we keep an emergency session available for women who require urgent therapy. We offer a minimum of 26 weekly sessions.
Users who have come to the end of their one-to-one therapy will be offered a space in group therapy. Group therapy takes place once a week and is facilitated by a therapist.
Users who do not need or want to take part in therapy are offered the opportunity to be part of a weekly self-help group based at the office. The group is usually facilitated by the users themselves.
Long residential weekends:
Resources and funding permitting, we aim to arrange at least one residential week/weekend outside of London for a small group of our existing users who are particularly vulnerable and experiencing acute isolation, depression and low self-esteem or have mental health needs. At least two caseworkers, one with experience in supporting women with mental health problems accompany the users. Previous residential trips have included spas and retreats in Cornwall and Devon. The purpose of the weekend is to enable the women to overcome isolation, build self esteem and manage depression or other mental health problems. At such weekends, we try to organise activities such as arts and crafts classes and alternative therapy treatments.
Other support services
When funding and resources are available we try to provide the following services:
Support group for users:
We run a weekly support group at the offices for our users to encourage them build friendships and broaden their skills. In the past we have organised activities such as drama, arts and crafts, photography and writing workshops. Women from the group have had their writing performed by actors and they have presented their own writing at the Waterman’s Theatre in Brentford and exhibited at the Barbican.
Outreach in schools and college:
We work in local secondary schools on a regular basis to facilitate debates and discussions on racism, sexism, gender-related violence and human rights. At the moment we are running regular workshops on forced marriage for local governors, teaching staff and pupils. It is part of a preventative project on gender-related violence funded by the Charity Comic Relief.
If you want us to facilitate a session at your school/college please contact the office. There is no charge for this service.
After school club:
In the past, we have organised an after school club on a weekly basis for the children of our users who need help with their homework. Users should contact Southall Black Sisters to find out whether any such activities are currently running.
Expert Advice and Reports
Resources permitting, in some instances, we provide expert reports for the courts in criminal, family and immigration cases focusing on largely South Asian women’s experiences of domestic violence and other forms of gender related abuses such as forced marriage, honour killings and suicide. We highlight how black and minority women respond to these issues, the cultural and religious context in which domestic violence takes place, the exit options that are available and the risk of gender persecution and lack of state protection on return to Pakistan, India and Bangladesh in particular. Legal advisers should contact Southall Black Sisters regarding information about such reports.
Information and resources
SBS seeks to influence policy by undertaking original research, preparing submissions in response to policy documents from the Government and other sources. We often organise seminars/consultation events, public meetings and conferences with women’s organisations and professionals across the UK. See our Research & Briefings and Publications pages for reports to download and/or purchase.