Orange is the New Black: Women’s Centres Continued


[Image belongs to Dr Nicola Harding, Lancaster University, and was accessed from Nicola’s twitter account. Nicola has written a leading text on women’s centres, you can access it here .]


My previous post on women’s centres can be accessed here. 

I have also written about them in this earlier post. 


My main arguments are:

  • That women’s centres fundamentally cannot punish women and heal them in the same place.
  • That they must drop the empty neo-liberal concept of ‘choice’.
  • That all services should be trauma-informed and facilitated by qualified staff. There is a brilliant report by The Griffins Society here.
  • Safeguarding must be observed and full records must be kept.
  • One on one work must be provided. Good rehabilitation and support costs money. The ‘pile em’ high’ policy described by Dr Nicola Harding and Dr Kirsty Greenwood must be challenged. 
  • All women’s centres should have a transparent governance strategy and boards of Trustees must act upon complaints from clients. There must be clear mechanisms of accountability.
  • We must critique the alternatives to imprisonment and identify the acute harms within them.
  • Women’s centres must offer access to accredited courses, including university credits. Women completing the same unaccredited course multiple times to fill the time is not helpful and may act as a barrier for future learning.
  • Not having the ‘bums on seats’ funding model that means some women’s centres create codependent relationships so that women do not ‘move on’.
  • Encouraging women to voice their anger and distress at the criminal justice system, abuse and trauma.
  • Allow people to respectfully challenge, complain or otherwise voice dissent.
  • We know that many women in the CJS are victims of DV and are coerced into illegal activity. The amazing Dr Charlotte Barlow and Dr Siobhan Weare write about this here.
  • Staff must be trained in mental health and in particular the stigma and harm of language. My article refers to a vulnerable distressed woman being referred to as a “fucking nutcase” for ringing 999. This is abusive and unacceptable.
  • Women should not be humiliated by wearing orange tabards. This is unnecessary and serves only to shame women and further stigmatize them within their communities. Harding writes about this here.


In the interests of transparency I will remind readers that I am not an abolitionist. I imagine a radically different and reduced prison estate, but maintain that dangerous violent and obsessive offenders must be spatially removed. Public protection is key and I am thankful for all those practitioners who work tirelessly in this oftentimes thankless area.


Legitimate charities want to engage with reasoned dissent. I am thankful for the charities that I am involved with, who speak truth to power and constantly challenge the status quo and the state. Being complicit with harmful regimes is a form of violence. Competing to be our sisters’ keepers is not a feminist act. It is not ’empowering’. Adult women making glitter wish jars as the survivors of serious DV and trauma is belittling and infantalizing.


Thank you as always to the brave women who speak out. You are stronger than you think.


Gemma x