Working to Fight Violence Against Women and Girls with Isabel Chapman and Sandra Onai

This week, Hannah chats to Domestic Abuse & Sexual Violence Advocates Isabel Chapman and Sandra Onai about how to ensure that the voices of victims are heard within an under-funded system. Isabel and Sandra dispel the myths around domestic abuse, and discuss the barriers that prevent people from accessing support, as well as the importance of including healthy relationships as part of sex education. They talk about the different types of abuse, and what the new law around domestic abuse actually means. Finally, they discuss with Hannah the importance of making sex education accessible.


What we chat about…

  • How we often view the UK as a progressive society but, on average, two women every week die at the hands of their current or former partner

  • Isabelle and Sandra’s work as advocates, and how they support victims through the different services they engage with, and make sure their voices are heard

  • What the role of an advocate is, including keeping the process being about what the victim wants

  • How there can sometimes be a conflict between organisations about what is best from the victim, with researcher Marianne Hester’s Three Planets model outlining these different spheres that the victim interacts with

  • Myths around domestic abuse, including that it’s not a gendered issue

  • The importance of early intervention and prevention, which includes making healthy relationships part of education in schools

  • Art Against Knives and the In Our Hands training programme

  • The importance of giving victims a space where they won’t feel re-traumatised in talking about their experience, and also giving them the time to create a relationship with an advocate

  • Barriers to people accessing support, and the need for more funding and sharing responsibility beyond it being purely on advocates

  • Impact of tech on relationships

  • What the new law around domestic abuse means

  • Financial abuse and the impact of universal credit

  • The Level Up organisation and how domestic abuse is reported in the press: ‘Loving father is overwhelmed’

  • The pressure we put on victims to be responsible for what happens around abuse, when we need this responsibility to also be on perpetrators

  • Isabelle and Sandra’s work with perpetrators to give them strategies to deal with situations and unpick the ‘red mist’

  • Perpetrators not looking how we expect them to - they can be charming, intelligent and manipulative

  • Making sex education accessible, by understanding the same sex ed can’t be applied to everyone in a copy and paste way - we need to meet people where they are at and understand the ways different communities work and support them in making safe choices

  • Code switching

  • The importance of curiosity and learning from each other

  • Where to go if you are a victim of domestic abuse (links below), but in an emergency, always call 999.

Useful Links


Isabel Chapman is Communications, Inclusion and Diversity Specialist. She is a qualified Young People's Violence Advisor & an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor. Having spent the last 10 years working in a variety of settings including the Criminal Justice System, Housing, Grassroots Organisations, Violence Against Women + Girls and Tech, she is experienced in engaging hard to reach communities. Isabel is an established public speaker, including chairing debates in parliament and speaking on the ‘Women in Tech’ panel at the Parliamentary Internet Conference. Isabel also gave a TEDxClapham talk on sexual assault in 2015.

Find out more about Isabelle on her Twitter.


Sandra Onai is a Domestic Abuse & Sexual Violence Specialist with experience working in the Violence Against Women and Girls sector for over five years. She is an experienced practitioner in domestic abuse, sexual violence, forced marriages, so called "honor" based violence and safeguarding.




Want early and ad-free access to episodes?

Hannah Witton