DDN September 2023 DDN September_2023_v2 | Page 7

‘ Society judges women who use drugs more harshly than it judges men , and it judges them pretty harshly .’
and actions , she stressed . A recent report into women ’ s experiences in the North East of England found that 64 per cent of women looking for help for domestic violence , substance use or homelessness had experienced discrimination from practitioners , she pointed out – ‘ the very people they were looking to for help . So we ’ re calling on all of us to get our own house
in order , which will give us the strength to tackle the wider societal and structural stigma which will be critical to our success .’
WOMEN ’ S TREATMENT When it came to women ’ s treatment , the Dame Carol Black review – while a welcome and valuable document – didn ’ t focus enough on the specific needs of women , said Hannah Shead , chief executive of Trevi , a partner in Collective Voice ’ s Women ’ s Treatment Working Group . ‘ As 52 per cent of the population , sometimes our needs aren ’ t thought about in a specialised , specific way . We can sit and talk about this stuff for ever , but we need to see things change .’ The working group was interested in the views of both women who used services and those ‘ who don ’ t come to our services ,
because they don ’ t feel it ’ s safe ’, she said . ‘ Women who won ’ t reach out for help because of the stigma , and because of the way our services work .’
‘ Society judges women who use drugs more harshly than it judges men , and it judges them pretty harshly ,’ April Wareham , director of Working With Everyone , told delegates . ‘ Even among people who use drugs , women are judged more harshly . Women have told me that there was an assumption that they were sex workers even when they weren ’ t .’ And mothers who used drugs were subject to particularly harsh judgement , she added . ‘ I ’ ve heard of women being told by hospital staff just after having a miscarriage that “ it was probably for the best , wasn ’ t it ?” For most mothers who use drugs that I speak to there ’ s a massive fear
of getting help because they ’ re scared they ’ ll lose their children .’
At a recent women-only workshop she ’ d been involved in , all ten participants reported being survivors of domestic abuse , physical abuse and emotional abuse – ‘ with a side order of gaslighting ’, she said . Eight out of ten also reported financial abuse , sexual abuse or sexual assault from an intimate partner . ‘ You talk to women and they ’ ll say , “ I thought this was normal ”.’ Women were reluctant to ask for help for domestic abuse , fearing they ’ d be blamed because they used drugs , she stated .
Most women reported that they ’ re weren ’ t offered the choice of a male or female key worker , she continued , and would not talk about issues like abuse to a man . Many areas also didn ’ t have women-only fellowship meetings ,