From the first time I met Sarah it was clear that she is a passionate and enthusiastic advocate for survivors of domestic violence.  Whether in her role as a researcher, trainer, writer, supporter, or community activist, she brings a powerful balance of theoretical and practical knowledge.  Sarah can work on her own to deadlines and equally well in a team.  She is rigorous in her research and academic writing, and never afraid to take on new challenges and to learn new skills.   Sarah is also a delight to be around and brings positivity to what is a difficult research field.

Dr Emma Williamson, Head, Centre for Gender and Violence Research, Faculty of Social Science and Law Research Ethics Officer, University of Bristol

Sarah has brought a fantastic understanding of nutrition and the way food works to the Public  Health England and NHS funded National Diabetes Prevention Programme. She is able to hold an intellectual understanding alongside communicating in a down-to-earth way about diabetes prevention, talking about the subtleties of the Glycemic Index while using a Weatherspoons menu as a discussion starter. She takes a holistic approach to working with our participants and is able to build rapport quickly.

Charlie Ferdinando, Southmead Development Trust

Sarah has used her knowledge and experience in the field of DVA to input into a programme of research at the University of Bristol where she provided an in-depth mapping exercise of services for children exposed to DVA and also for organisations that provide support for diverse and minority populations.

Given the brief, Sarah worked independently on this task and completed it within the given timelines, to a high standard.  We wouldn’t hesitate in using Sarah’s expertise again should the need arise.

Dr Jayne Bailey, University of Bristol

Sarah has been involved in the piloting of the general practice-based training intervention around DVA and children (RESPONDS). Her excellent communication with general practice clinicians as an IRIS Advocate-Educator during the training sessions was key to the success of the training. Her intricate knowledge of the DVA and health field together with her many years of front-line work experience stood out during the training sessions. She explained to GPs how the Advocate Educator can support general practice teams and how GPs can reduce missed opportunities to support DVA victims and their children. She helped general practice teams to translate their theoretical knowledge into safe and effective domestic violence related strategies.

Sarah is a very skilled, reliable, hard working colleague, but I find Sarah’s very positive personality and her tremendous dedication to improve outcomes for DVA victims being her greatest strengths.

Dr Eszter Szilassy, University of Bristol

As Principal Investigator for the CEASE study I have known Sarah Blake since March 2012. She worked as a part-time Research Associate at the Centre for Academic Primary Care, University of Bristol for the CEASE study. The CEASE study aimed at evaluating biological and psychological outcomes of domestic violence and abuse in women.

As Research Associate Sarah was responsible for diagnosis/selection of research participants (abused women and non abused controls), recruitment participants through local domestic violence agency and local communities in South Gloucestershire, informed consent procedure, physical examination, laboratory specimen handling, maintenance of regulatory documents, and data management.

From my point of view Sarah’s strength is a combination of brilliant communication skills and considerable experience of work with women exposed to domestic violence and abuse. She can easily establish and maintain long-lasting researcher-participant relationships with women. In addition Sarah is able to be a valuable member of a research team. I would definitely employ her again because of her personal and professional skills which I find perfectly suitable for research in the area of domestic violence and abuse and health.

Dr Natalia Lewis, Research Fellow in Primary Care, University of Bristol

Sarah Blake worked as an Independent Domestic Violence Adviser for Survive in South Gloucestershire, an independent domestic violence agency, for 6 years, from 2008-2014, and I was her manager for most of that time.

Sarah worked with a consistently high caseload. Her service users were typically dealing with extremely complex situations, where severe and repeated physical and emotional abuse was often exacerbated by other issues such as poverty, disability and immigration. Sarah gave them consistent, knowledgeable support.

Sarah had a strong aptitude for: Representing and advocating for her service users in formal meetings, for instance, the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference, Understanding the complexity of an individual’s situation and networking accordingly, Understanding the individual woman’s legal position and the remedies available to her, Making strong, functional relationships with her service users so as to create trust, Making effective relationships with other local agencies, Making accurate risk assessments, Maintaining her knowledge and skills through independent study

Sarah also showed strengths in developing new projects. For instance, she was instrumental in setting up an A&E-based project, providing training for hospital staff and an effective referral system for female hospital patients at risk of DV. This project required determination, systemic understanding and flexibility to see it through, and Sarah was able to exhibit all these qualities.

Sarah is a creative thinker who is intellectually curious as well as hard-working. She is a stimulating colleague who I always found rewarding to work with.

Terry Jones, Refuge and Outreach Services Manager, Survive 2008-2014

It was my privilege to work alongside Sarah several years ago, whilst she worked for Survive.  I counselled clients, who were referred to me for counselling through the charity.  Many of the clients’ knew Sarah personally and spoke very highly of her.  Her ‘down to earth’ approach and emphatic understanding enabled these individuals to feel safe, valued and respected.  Her passion and enthusiasm shone through and alongside her professionalism made her a joy to work with. 

Tracey Hyde MBACP (Acc) Integrative Counsellor 

My relationship with Sarah is that of colleague in the multi-agency domestic violence sub committees of ‘public awareness’ and ‘training’ where we represent our different agencies. In this role, Sarah has always shown a deep knowledge of and commitment to the issues surrounding domestic violence and has been a key member of both sub-committees. 

I also have a lecturer/ student relationship with Sarah since she enrolled on the Postgraduate Certificate in Professional Development: The Dynamics of Domestic Violence. In this role, I have found Sarah to be a keen, enthusiasts and an able student who is able to deal with difficult concepts and ideas in a thorough way. She is also a central character of the student group, bringing her ideas and experience as well as her warm nature and sense of humour.  

Sarah has excellent oral and written communication skills and is more than aware of confidentiality and it’s limitations, non-judgmental working and diversity and is able to form relationships with people from a wider range of backgrounds.

Dr Ruth Jones, The University of Worcester, OBE

As a Shared Care Worker for ROADS (Recovery Orientate Drugs & Alcohol Service) at Bristol Drugs Project I have regular 1:1 sessions with clients at their GP surgeries. One difficult dynamic that regularly crops up at some point during treatment with women in particular is around current domestic violence. My main recourse in the past was to try and refer clients onto Next Link who would then try and liaise with the client. Too often this has not resulted in the clients engaging with the Next Link service for a variety of reasons. This is why I was so happy to start working with Sarah Blake, IRIS Advocate-Educator with Next Link. Sarah has been able to come to my Shared Care appointments and enter into 3 way discussions where the client is in a safe and nurturing environment. Once Sarah has had that first contact she is then able to meet and assist clients to help meet their needs in the community. I feel that for certain situations this service has been indispensable and without it the clients would not have been able to engage at all. 

Adrian Benson, shared care worker at BDP

Working alongside Sarah with Bristol practices has been fantastic. The engagement with the MARAC process is much greater from IRIS practices (compared to non IRIS). GPs are more confident in the referral pathway for victims of DVA, and the number of “panic” calls I receive is virtually nil. Having attended a training session that Sarah has delivered, I can see why GPs work well alongside her; she is extremely knowledgeable and really brings the victim into the room. The cases she brings to MARAC are always complex and high risk, assumingly reflecting how challenging her caseload is. 

Rachel Griffiths, MARAC Liaison Nurse 

Sarah has been involved in local public awareness campaigns and cares passionately about wider domestic abuse issues. Sarah has worked well with outside agencies and has been a valuable and conscientious staff member

Michelle Coates, Service manager, Worcester domestic abuse services

Sarah, I am not usually good at writing thank you letters but I really do need to say thank you for helping not just me but my children too.

If I did not have you to help me and support me through this difficult time in my life I would have given in and would probably still be living the nightmare, but I’m not and me and my family are very grateful for all your help

Domestic abuse survivor