Bridget Smith*, 26, moved to another town when she felt she was in with a bad crowd in her home town.
“I think I knew if I stayed there I would go off the rails and needed a new start,” says Bridget. “I thought I might find that new start in in a new town. To begin with I was living in a hostel and things seemed to be going fine.”
However, Bridget got involved in a brawl at a party when she tried to intervene and break up a fight in which one of her friends was being attacked.
“I was charged with ABH which stopped me dead in my tracks,” says Bridget. Assault occasioning actual bodily harm (ABH) is a statutory offence of aggravated assault in England and Wales and is taken very seriously by the courts.
“I supposed I was lucky in a way,” recalls Bridget. “I was put on remand for six months which was later suspended by 12 months for two years and that’s when I got involved in the women’s group.
“That really opened my eyes to what I could be. Working through the women’s group has given me the strength and ability to believe in myself. It’s given me a new perspectives and new opportunities.”
“Working through the women’s group has given me the strength and ability to believe in myself. It’s given me a new perspectives and new opportunities”
Bridget was so inspired by her experiences working alongside other service users within the women’s group she volunteered to become a peer mentor. She says: “The staff and everyone involved was so supportive – they really changed my life. I got me thinking if they can do that why can’t I do it too. I felt I could give something back.
“I get so much satisfaction out of what I do and how you really can help women change their lives. And you can see how they change from when they walk in the door to their first meeting to when they walk out the door. They change even to the way their present themselves.”
What would Bridget say to service users considering becoming a peer mentor? “Just do it! Don’t even think about it. It’s so rewarding. No two days are the same and you are always seeing new challenges.
“I’ve enjoyed it so much I am now looking for a career in probation as a case manager or programme manager.”
*Bridget Smith is a pseudonym. Picture courtesy of Pixels