It all started with a wonderful lady called Jan. She had a very difficult life as a child. Her father was extremely violent and bullied his wife and children. More seriously he tried to seduce his young daughter and certainly allowed his friends to sexually abuse her. When she was about 12, Jan found her father after he had committed suicide because he had been diagnosed with a medical condition that he could not face living with.
Her mother, although free of his abuse, could not cope with life without him and began to drink a great deal. She also turned on Jan and made life difficult for her. Jan ran away from home and was detained in what was called an ‘Approved School’ as runaway girls tended to be seen as problem girls – not that they might have a good reason to run away!
At some point one of her brothers introduced her to amphetamines and then to a man who treated her like a queen. He was probably one of the first people to pay her such attention. Unfortunately he was also a pimp and, when he managed to get her even more hooked on drugs and had beaten a pregnancy out of her – he forced her into prostitution. She eventually managed to leave him but not before he had come after her with a knife and nearly killed a man who tried to protect her from him.
Several years later Jan was still struggling with life. She reconciled with her mother, was married to someone she loved dearly and had a job she enjoyed with a boss she thought the world of. Sadly it all fell apart when, in a short space of time both her mother and her boss died, she lost her job under very distressing circumstances and her husband left her.
From this point on things went downhill. Jan could not cope with life – in spite of the support that close friends tried to give her. She started abusing drugs and alcohol and became more and more sad. It seemed that the mental health services could do nothing to help her. In fact they seemed to make it worse – if that were possible! Her friends had to watch as their lovely, bubbly, kind, intelligent and warm-hearted friend began to disintegrate in front of their eyes.
Eventually it all became too much. Her body finally gave out and she died far too soon. Her friends were devastated but hoped that Jan was finally at peace. They felt let down by the apparent lack of effective services to help people like Jan. The grief and anger that they felt about all of this led one of them to look at ways in which it might be possible to use Mentoring to help women going through domestic abuse (DA) and possibly to prevent other children ending up like Jan.
It was unlikely that Mentoring would have been enough for Jan – who was very deeply traumatised. However there was the possibility that Jan’s mother might have been able to use such support to regain her strength and take Jan and her brothers and sisters out of such a violent environment – before the emotional injury was so great.
The ideas for the service were written up and informally but extensively researched through reading the literature and by talking to a wide range of people providing DA support services, survivors of DA, experienced practitioners, organisers of mentoring projects and others with wide voluntary sector experience.
Every single person approached greeted the idea with enthusiasm. One worker even said that she would ‘snatch the hand off’ anyone who could provide mentors to help her support the women she was working with.
One of the people approached during this stage had the vision to help find the funding to get such a Mentoring Project started. She was then a Sergeant (she is now a highly respected High Ranking Officer) with West Midlands Police. She gave the first project its name – The Lantern Project.
Initially the Lantern Project was run by the Police but as it developed it became clear that, as this was more of a Community Response to DA, it would be better if it became a voluntary sector project. As a result of this the Jan Foundation was set up to run the Lantern Project.
The Lantern Project has been very successful. Mentoring is particularly appropriate for survivors of DA because it is a one-to-one relationship based on mutual respect in which one person supports the development of the other while they both learn and grow from the experience.
What is most important to women affected by DA, who have constantly been told that they cannot do things, is that mentoring assumes that they are capable and that a mentor can help them make the most of their capabilities in a shorter time than if they ‘go it alone’. At the same time a mentor can assist them in finding and evaluating options and overcoming obstacles while providing moral support along the way.
The Jan Foundation then started The Guiding Light Project. This was an exciting project in which volunteers went out into the Community to talk about DA to make sure people really understood what is going on and why they are all affected by it.
Recently it was decided, for business reasons, that all the work should now be done only under the name of The Jan Foundation so that we no longer use the Lantern and Guiding Light names. Instead we now have The Jan Foundation Mentoring Project, Community Training and Community Support Network Project
We hope that Jan can see what has been done in her name and that she is pleased that her life gave us this inspiration.