Delighted to be joined by Sam Billingham, 36, from SODA on my first guest blog interview. I think you will agree once you have read this interview that the issue is the same its just polished a different way, so why is it taking so long to tackle it? Thank goodness for people like Sam that offer the help and support victims need.
Why did you set up SODA?
SODA was set up in 1999 as an online support group in the hope of raising awareness and reducing isolation. It was set up 3 years after I left my own abusive relationship. I wanted to do something to help others and give them the support I didn’t have.
What is SODA’s mission?
For the public benefit, to relieve the distress and/or suffering of people living in the West Midlands who have suffered or are at risk of suffering domestic abuse by offering access to ongoing aftercare and support.
How has abuse effected you personally?
As a victim of domestic abuse, in time, I lost my job, made to stop my driving lessons and isolated completed from family, it made me lose trust in many people.
How have you recovered from the abuse?
Providing a service for others, has been a comfort to me in my part of my recover, but the main reason I left was because of my daughter. I knew I had to carry on for her sake as much as my own. My parents were a huge support to me also.
What do SODA do to help victims?
Raising awareness is important and this is something we are keen to do, whether it is by the power of social media or the media, we take part in as many interviews that we can. We share personal experience in the hope it gives encouragement and reassurance to others that they aren’t alone and that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
SODA has an online support group which has over 900 members and is very much active! Sometimes all people want is a listening ear, many use the group on a daily basis and others use it every now and then. The most important thing is they know the group is there when they need it.
We often take calls, reply to emails and text messages any time, day or night to anyone who contacts us.
I meet with local agencies to talk about domestic abuse from a survivors view point, in the hope it helps them to support their clients better.
I attend local networking events to make links with other agencies, businesses and professionals.
I’ve been guest speaker at various events in the community too as well as taking part in media interviews.
Since setting up SODA what has been the you biggest challenge?
I think for me, it’s trying to raise the awareness and anticipating what people’s reply will be. Often talking about such a taboo issue can be difficult, especially when people haven’t had personal experience of the trauma it brings. A barrier of funding, being a lone parent and limited to travel has also been a challenge too but not wanting to give up and being so passionate about helping others and making a difference, I keep going because I know there is a need for such support.
What can others do to bring awareness to domestic abuse?
Raising awareness of this often hidden and unseen behaviour and empower women in abusive relationships can reach out and help those who might not be at the stage of speaking out yet. It can also help a person who might even know they are in an abusive relationship, awareness like this is vital.
Social media, used in the right way, is a powerful tool and the easiest way to raise awareness, just by sharing our own experiences. I think it becomes more personal and powerful hearing from others who have experienced and survived domestic abuse.
Where can we find out more?
At the moment, we are currently a voluntary group but we are working hard to becoming a charity. In 2017 we will be offering self care support groups as well as workshops working within the local community focusing on aftercare and support for those who have been affected by domestic abuse. sodaHQ.org
The group you talk about online is this your website or is this a facebook group? Do you have a link and can anyone join?
At the moment, people who want to join the support group have to send me a friend request on Facebook and then I send them a request to join. It is a locked group which means people outside of the group cannot see what is said inside the group.
Thank you again to Sam for taking the time to be with us on this guest blog. If you feel like you need to talk to someone after reading about Sam and her work then please do not hesitate to get in touch with SODA or myself.
Please share this if you’re able to, the more its seen and talked about the more awareness is increased.
If you would like to take part in a guest blog then please get in touch with me.