Linda Stevenson has been nominated by her colleague, Joe Luscombe of Caring Dads, Leeds City Council. Linda says “I have worked in homelessness, different voluntary sector projects and in various domestic abuse services including the Domestic Homicide Review. I wanted to work in the field of domestic violence in a way that was positive – that had the effect of reducing the abuse.
I’ve got many positive men in my life, including a son, and I don’t want to be in a world where we think ‘that’s that’, you know, somehow writing off men because we know about the structural and systematic oppression of women and about the abuse. The reality is that inequality and power abuses are often damaging everyone in families – including men.”
Who have you helped/do you help?
“Primarily, and importantly, it’s about children in Leeds. Then, also it’s dads, mums, families. We are also helping workers in developing their understanding of dads and how to work to help change occur. Thankfully we know more and more about trauma and distress, and the effect it has in relationships and families.
I want to engage with people as people, while at the same time to recognising the importance of a broader understanding of gender violence. I suppose although I understand the global reality of women’s oppression, I feel that a theoretical response is not enough, for me. It’s got to be about people.”
All the work I’ve done has been about equality, justice really. Whether it has been in the area of homelessness, disability rights, sexual health community projects, working with services to evaluate their response to domestic abuse, the theme has been the same. I feel passionate about working to support people who are seen as unworthy by society.”
“I think it’s about being open-minded, not having rigid views about what works. Having an understanding of what the evidence is, but seeing everyone as a human. So much of it comes down to relationships. Understanding that men also do have some disadvantages, in the area of childcare in particular.
Of course I get why the opposite is true, and also why women would keep hold of that power, but in reality there are mixed messages – a man who wants to be involved in a child’s life in a caring capacity is not always treated fairly. There are huge pressures for women in the area of childcare, but it is not always as straightforward as men simply don’t want to do it.”
What have you learnt? Any challenges?
“Mostly the benefits of understanding all perspectives in a situation – allowing a space for people to be heard, if they are going to move forward. Binary right and wrong is often not real, not helpful. Relationships are complicated – you’ve got to be able to hear what people have to say. If you’ve got a formula in your approach to an individual you won’t get that.”
“Of course we need more resources, got a big list of things we would like to do. I would like to see more work with children, more work with families. For us all to get cleverer about understanding about how relationships really work. Personally, I think that I would definitely benefit from a greater understanding of how mental health conditions impact behaviour and the ability to engage in behavioural change.
We seem to be moving to more acknowledgement of trauma, of the impact on adults of neglect as children but also of the positive effects of warmth and love. We mustn’t lose sight of the big theoretical frame around gender violence but think we are also progressively showing more nuanced understandings of how to help people who can change, do so.”
Why we’re sharing these stories
An individual or organisation from each of our five categories will be recognised at our Igniting Inspiration recognition event in November, but we want to publish all relevant stories to spread awareness of all the positive work that goes on in the North!