Leeds School of Social Sciences

Evaluating the Griffin Programme: A Trauma Specific Intervention

Dr Alexandria Bradley talks about her work with the Griffin Programme, which supports the needs of women in residential recovery services, who have histories of sex work, sexual trauma, and substance abuse. 

Alexandria Bradley

When working with women in the Criminal Justice System, there is an expectation that organisations, institutions, and individuals are working in a ‘trauma-informed’ way. 

The advantage of working in this way, is to reduce the likelihood of causing additional and unnecessary harm to individuals. By increasing our awareness of trauma, we begin to see the unique legacy left behind by experiences of trauma. We also recognise how trauma can impact an individual’s perception of the world. This includes aspects such as safety and trust, which makes developing and maintaining relationships more challenging. Some more advanced and specialist practitioners have begun to infuse trauma-informed knowledge, with the specific needs of the individuals accessing their services. These tailored interventions are designed to promote more meaningful and long-term healing and/or recovery.

The Griffin Programme was developed from a practitioner-led research project (Tate, 2015). It was designed to support the needs of women in residential recovery services, who have histories of sex work, sexual trauma, and substance abuse. The 9 weekly group sessions support up to 7 women to explore their trauma histories safely, in order to develop positive coping mechanisms. The Griffin Programme has three key aims:

  1. To bring women with a sex-working history into an emotionally safe setting and create an optimum space for sharing experiences to support the building of emotional connection.
  2. To consider and discuss through group sessions, the pervasive shame and trauma symptoms as a result of sex working.
  3. To process emotional realities to re-write internal narratives and the instillation of hope.

Our evaluation was conducted in July 2019 and was funded by CeASR at Leeds Beckett University and The Nelson Trust. It included the perspectives of women who had taken part in the Griffin Programme and staff who had facilitated the intervention. The findings of this research highlighted the profound and empowering impact of a group of women sharing experiences of shame.

This encouraged a flood of emotional connection, solidarity, sisterhood, hope, optimism, love and a desire to stand up and say, ‘me too’ (Bradley, Day and Mahon, 2021). The participants within this evaluation (staff and women) talked about the development of a loving and nurturing environment within the group sessions. The evaluation also emphasised the importance of staff selection and the environment, in order to support women’s active engagement and transformation within interventions. 

Love is not a traditional word used within the Criminal Justice System, however when working with trauma, loving approaches are key to the successful recovery of women healing from trauma and sex working histories. A wise practitioner once said, “we are loving these women back to life” and this can be seen and felt within the Griffin Programme.

Alexandria Bradley and Kirsty Day (nee Tate) and Rose Mahon from the Griffin Programme

Alexandria Bradley and Kirsty Day (nee Tate) and Rose Mahon from the Griffin Programme

Publications Relating to The Griffin Programme

Dr Alexandria Bradley

Lecturer / Leeds School Of Social Sciences

Alexandria specialises in Trauma-Informed, Responsive and Specific practice for men and women accessing support in prison and post-release. Recently, Alexandria has worked in partnership with One Small Thing to develop the first Working With Trauma Quality Mark to provide a national benchmark for trauma aware, trauma informed and trauma responsive practice. In 2020, Alexandria evaluated  trauma-responsive practice in a women's centre and a trauma-specific intervention for women with sex-working histories. 

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