Who is Ellie Cox from AVA?
Ellie joined AVA in 2018 after interning in various women’s and education charities. She previously managed a music venue and then a charity shop in North London, transforming it into one of Time Out’s 10 best charity shops in London through developing its marketing, social media and events. She holds a Masters in English Literature with specialisms in Feminist Theory and Children’s Literature. She is currently teaching herself to code and slowly figuring out the Adobe suite.
What is AVA’s mission?
To end gender-based violence.
We work nationally but a lot of our funding comes from sources in London. We train professionals how to support survivors anywhere, especially now lots of it is online!
Our project work is across the country and has a large reach, for example a project we’re currently working on with the National Union of Students means that we will have an impact on every university in England.
Our policy work, similarly, affects how women and girls are protected against violence nationally.
We collaborate with organisations which are working towards the same goal and this is a necessary part of the goal being achieved – it’s very important to us that we work in partnership with specialist organisations. We have our expertise, but it’s important to recognise that we can’t and shouldn’t try to be experts on everything.
What was the inspiration behind the creation of the charity?
Our charity recognised that the support women and girls are given can be very separate and often exclusionary or inaccessible. We want to change this so that services approach support by thinking about the individual as a whole and about possible effects from their experiences of trauma. For example, lots of services don’t consider the mental health needs of someone who has been abused, we would argue this has to be supported as trauma commonly leads to an increase in mental health needs.
If you had to name the values which guide you as a person, which would they be?
Listening to experts – We employ survivors of abuse to share their experiences and feedback to our work. For example our Experts by Experience were involved in every step of creating our digital support tool Breathing Space – for the initial idea, name, way the app looked, all of the content etc. This is built into all of our projects as a priority and necessity.
Being trauma informed – across all of our work and our internal policies we think about the prevalence of trauma, the impact it can have and how to avoid retraumatisation. Trauma-informed care shifts the focus from “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?”
Have you done any volunteer work? How did this experience prepare you for/complement your current job?
I had volunteered in women’s centres and other charities which focused on women’s education before coming to AVA. All of this experience meant that I came with a good knowledge of the barriers facing women when they’re trying to get support after experiencing abuse.
When was the last time that you were touched by a clients’ reaction?
Many of our Experts by Experience work with us on multiple projects and then go on to share their experiences in the sector, to the press and in front of the government on occasion. When recording an episode of our podcast it was so nice to hear from the contributor that working with AVA had improved her life through building her confidence.
Any exciting news about your organisation
Our team has grown a lot this year – which is especially amazing during the pandemic. We’re now at 14 members of staff, still very small, but we get a lot done!
For me it’s exciting how much digital work we have coming up – we launched our 24/7 trauma-informed support app, Breathing Space for survivors which has been received really well and services are embedding it into their frontline offer.
We’re currently working on an app for children too.
Who would you like to connect with for your organisation?
Each of our projects will have survivor voices built into it, so we are often recruiting for Experts by Experience and we’re always interested in partnerships. We tend to take an active approach to this – when applying for funding we will approach an organisation which we think is right to work with us on the project.
We recently had the brilliant charity theMovement approach us and film trauma-informed workout/stretching videos which will live on Breathing Space, so anything where people’s specialisms can combine with ours is always welcomed!
If you enjoyed Ellie Cox‘s interview, you will probably like Caron Kipping‘s as well!
This interview was conducted by Lucie Cunningham from Tell Them Well Communications in October 2021. Lucie is a freelance CV writer and web copywriter in Glasgow with over 10 years of community project management. She maintains a list of UK charities serving women and or girls. She has lived in France, England, The USA, the Netherlands and is currently based in Scotland.