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Celebrating the achievements of women on International Women's Day 2016


We’re supporting International Women’s Day 2016 by celebrating the achievements of women who all work to improve services and to help victims of crime recover from their trauma.

Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Sue Mountstevens, Chief Executive of Safelink, Carol Metters MBE, Detective Inspector Leanne Pook, Director of Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Support (SARSAS) Rowan Miller and Natalie Steadman, Head of Integrated Victim Care (Lighthouse) have all shared their views on what this day means to them and how they’re supporting victims of crime.


Sue Mountstevens

Police and Crime Commissioner for Avon and Somerset - www.avonandsomerset-pcc.gov.uk

My career highlights

  • I’m particularly proud of all we’ve achieved in setting up Lighthouse, the specialist victim and witness care unit, which looks after our most vulnerable victims. Now all domestic abuse victims receive dedicated support and one victim told me that they ‘now had hope.’
  • I’m proud of the part that I have played in increasing confidence of victims to report crimes committed against them.
  • Securing funding for the West of England child sexual exploitation service which means that more victims of child sexual exploitation are identified and importantly receive support.

What International Women’s Day means to me

It’s the time to celebrate equality and what women have achieved but also to remember that more than two women are killed every week by their partners.

My inspirational female

Sister Josephine – my primary school head teacher, she told us that we could achieve anything if you work hard and have faith in yourself.

How you help other women

I’m privileged to be the Police and Crime Commissioner and it gives me the opportunity to prioritise sexual and domestic violence for the police and to work with our partners to help victims. I am still profoundly struck by the day I was approached by a 70-year old women, who came to tell me that following my speech she would seek help and support after being raped at the age of 16-years old. I am always truly amazed by the courage of victims of crime.


Carol Metters MBE

Chief Executive Next Link, Safe Link and Missing Link - www.safelinksupport.co.uk

My career highlights

  • Setting up Next Link, which provides specialist domestic abuse services for women and children in Bristol including dedicated BME, South Asian and Somali services and a GP referral service. As well as Safe Link which offers support and advice for victims of sexual assault.
  • Making a difference to women and children’s lives is essential and one experience which really stands out for me was when a mother and her 15-year old daughter came to our offices. The daughter had been raped and they were both completely distraught. We managed to talk to the daughter alone where she could discuss what happened without making her mother upset and tell her about the support that we could offer. Likewise we also talked to the mother to let her know that her daughter was getting support, help and advice and to reassure the mother that it was not her fault. For me, a pivotal moment was when they left us holding hands. I knew then that we had made a real difference and that was a really motivating and inspirational moment.
  • Receiving my MBE for my work for vulnerable women and children in 2010.

What International Women's Day means to me

For me International Women’s Day is a celebration of all women. Many ordinary women do extraordinary things and I’m inspired by women every day from mothers and carers to great women who achieve notable things. Often we’re not as confident as we should be or believe in ourselves as much as we should and I would like to thank all women on International Women’s Day who have a real impact.

My inspirational female

I'm inspired by women every day. I’m inspired by Malala Yousafzai for her courage and conviction to speak up for the right of education for every child to my Aunty who is 94. She was one of the first women to go to work during the second world war. She worked in an ammunitions factory and did great things ahead of her time. I am also inspired by Assistant Chief Constable Sarah Crew who was pivotal in setting up The Bridge (sexual assault referral centre – SARC). Sarah is hugely passionate about victims of rape and sexual assault and I find the work that she does inspiring.

How you help other women

The women who use are services are the key benefactors. We are the largest provider of women-only services in Bristol bringing innovation, expertise and extensive experience of engaging women in our wide ranging support services. All our support is tailored to each woman’s needs, and builds on their individual strengths to help them to improve their well-being and sustain their long term recovery.  I also mentor women who are in management and support them to be leaders.


Detective Inspector Leanne Pook

Avon and Somerset Constabulary and South West Regional Lead for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) - www.avonandsomerset.police.uk

My career highlights

  • Despite working very hard in my job, I try hard to fulfil my other roles outside of work - I am the very best daughter, mother, wife, sister, auntie and friend that I can be, even though there are times when work pressure can make that really difficult.
  • Once, when I was a Detective Sergeant I was working alone late one Friday evening when I came across a Child Protection referral that had been filed for no further action. The concerns about the three year old child had been put down to non-criminal causes and filed as such. A 'sixth sense' kicked in and I decided that this wasn't the right decision. I arranged for local officers to attend the child's address immediately while I made my way there. We had to force entry and found the child unconscious inside. She had been the subject of a horrendous deliberately inflicted burn and this had resulted in septicaemia. At the hospital the consultant advised that left untreated she would have died within twelve hours and that my intervention had saved her life. The little girl's mum's partner was later sentenced to nine years.
  • In October 2014, I was nominated by the Integrate Bristol youth charity for a VOSCUR award for my efforts to combat female genital mutilation. Included in the nomination were the lines: "There are girls in Bristol who have been saved from FGM because of Leanne's fierce and tireless dedication to safeguarding children from its humiliating and lifelong debilitating effects". When I read those words, it was quite honestly the proudest moment of my entire service. I went on to win the award itself and while I was very humbled to receive it, the highlight for me though remains the nomination itself.

What International Women's Day means to me

It offers a real opportunity to celebrate the really significant achievements of women globally and to openly demonstrate support and solidarity for women living in oppressive regimes. While equality of the sexes has yet to be achieved anywhere, I still wake up every morning thankful for the opportunities that my daughters and I are lucky enough to have.

My inspirational female

Women who have shown immense courage at great personal risk like Irena Sendler, Rosa Parks, Malala Yousafzai. Writers like Alice Walker and Maya Angelou who have shared women's experiences on record to combat the ever present nay sayers.

On a more personal level, I am constantly inspired by the women with whom I am lucky enough to work in our efforts to eradicate Female Genital Mutilation. My FDL within the constabulary and across voluntary and statutory partnerships know who they are and how much I value their support and expertise in this work.

If I was told however, that I was limited to one choice, it would without question be my mum, every time and for a lifetime of reasons.

How you help other women

As the FGM Lead for the force, a significant proportion of both my professional and personal time is spent working to eradicate this practice and in doing so to empower women to make safer choices for themselves and their daughters. I am very active and quite visible in this work and as a result benefit from hugely positive relationships with women and girls from affected communities who are now willing to speak to me directly for support and advice about all sorts of matters and are always happy to provide the same to me. 

I am a mentor for other female Police Officers and staff and support them to achieve their aspirations or to deal with ongoing difficult issues. No two mentoring relationships are the same: some take up a great deal of time and personal investment and others less so but again it is fair to say that there are always mutual benefits and learning for both parties.

Finally, I think it is important to recognise the importance of friendships between women and how these can sustain them through the worst and more happily the best of times. Even everyday life can be very challenging at times trying to manage the demands of families, work, illness, bereavement etc. I can think of very few lows and highs that I haven't shared in some way with my friends and there is no doubt that we have helped each other to come out the other side. The lifeline that this can provide at a difficult time shouldn't be underestimated.


Rowan Miller

Director of Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Support (SARSAS) - www.sarsas.org.uk

My career highlights

  • My top highlight was getting the job as Director of SARSAS in May 2013.  I have worked as a support worker, manager, trainer, coach and consultant over the last 20 years and working at SARSAS is definitely my career highlight.
  • Listening to and reading the feedback from women who use our services about how much better they feel and knowing that I am part of a team that has helped to make that happen.
  • Having over 120 people attend our AGM last year with queues stretching out the door to the venue! We also played a film we have made about the sexual consent campaign Pauseplaystop which really moved me.

What International Women’s Day means to me

A day to celebrate women locally and around the world. When I look at how things still are for women across the world I know there is so much awareness, education, challenge and action still needed. When I look at how things have improved in this country I am pleased but know we still have more work to do to educate and challenge old attitudes, victim blaming and inequality.

My inspirational female

There are so many…

I could say every single woman and girl who courageously talks, copes, lives with and recovers from the often devastating impact of rape and sexual abuse. One young woman I have met recently stands out for me. She was sexually abused repeatedly by a family member and she is determined to feel better and stronger now. She works harder than anyone I have ever met to rebuild her life and is on course to study law at a top University. I look forward to this lovely young woman reclaiming her power and bringing justice for other survivors in court rooms in the future.  

Laura Bates - SARSAS patron

I emailed Laura Bates, who started the Everyday Sexism Project 3 years ago, on the remote off chance she would come and speak at the first AGM I organised for Bristol Rape Crisis. I was amazed when she enthusiastically agreed. She has since become our patron and is a world class speaker. She has achieved a huge amount in only a few years and has been recognised as one of the most influential and rising feminist thinkers in the UK today. She is also genuinely lovely.

Sarah Pascoe – Comedienne

Anyone who can do stand-up I admire. I think Sarah is one of the funniest and cleverest female comedienne…ever.

How you help other women

At SARSAS we listen, believe and support women and girls and men and boys who have experienced sexual violence at any time in their lives. We help them cope and build themselves up to be more resourced and experience transformational growth.

We educate and empower individuals and communities to respond to sexual violence in a fairer, clearer and more informed way:

-          Helpline every weekday

-          Email support

-          Counselling

-          Specialist Support work

-          Self Help literature

-          Training and education for change


Natalie Steadman

Head of Integrated Victim Care (Lighthouse) - www.lighthousevictimcare.org


My career highlights


Ø  After completing two degrees and volunteering for youth and women's rights projects as part of my studies, I joined Avon and Somerset Constabulary in 2007 as an Anti-social Behaviour Officer. I then went on to become Safeguarding Manager for Bristol, where I negotiated the co-location of domestic abuse advisors (IDVAs) into the unit and worked with CAADA to improve the quality of MARACs nationally.


Ø  In 2013 I was asked to act as an Inspector for Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) and took part in the national domestic abuse inspections.


Ø  In January 2014 I was selected to lead the Integrated Victim Care programme where I led the design and implementation of a pioneering victim care approach - now called Lighthouse Victim and Witness Care. We provide vulnerable victims with an enhanced level of support from police, criminal justice agencies and specialist support providers.


What International Women’s Day means to me


International Women's Day is an opportunity to celebrate successful and inspiring women worldwide, whilst also highlighting the need for greater gender equality. Violence against women and girls is still a significant issue affecting women from all over the world, and this day gives us an opportunity to discuss the issue and call for an end to its social acceptance.


My inspirational female


I am inspired by women who work in hard and challenging careers, but still manage to have a family, hobbies and a social life. There are a number of senior leaders in this organisation, who I won't embarrass by naming, who have highly pressured jobs yet they will always make time for me, have a friendly or reassuring word when I need one. They are also mothers, wives and friends. I aspire to be like them on a daily basis.


How you help other women


In my personal life, I’d like to think that I help other women by being a good friend. I have a tight group of girlfriends I am very loyal to, and we support each other though life’s challenges. Professionally speaking I help women by working to ensure that women who experience violence and abuse are supported, and provided with the right care to enable them to cope and recover from their experiences.


International Women's Day (8th March 2016) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and this year the day's campaign theme is #PledgeForParity.

International Women's Day unites women all across the world in celebrating equal rights and inspirational females.  For more information visit www.internationalwomensday.com  

Posted on Tuesday 8th March 2016
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