About Safe Spaces

Our Services are for people aged 18 or over, regardless of whether the abuse occurred recently or in the past, or whether the perpetrator is living or deceased.

Safe Spaces comprises a team of trained support advocates who have also undergone specialist training in supporting survivors of sexual violence, domestic abuse, and church related abuse. The team have received additional specific training in how the churches respond to abuse cases, the way in which faith and church-related settings have been used to conduct abuse, and the challenges affecting people who have had or still have, a relationship with the church.

Safe Spaces has been operated by First Light since January 2023

“Thanks to the support of Safe Spaces, I feel lifted, my energy is coming back and I’m finding my voice again.”

Meet the team

Manager – Martin Christmas-Nelson

Martin began his career working as classroom support for children aged 4-11 with complex needs. He completed his degree in Education and Philosophy in 2016, before focusing on outdoor education and experiences, and moving to New Zealand.

Upon his return from New Zealand, he relocated to Cornwall, and joined First Light as a Complex needs Independent Sexual Violence Advisor, before helping develop the Male Specific Independent Sexual Violence Advisor role and gaining national accreditation for this service.

He joined the Safe Spaces Team to procure and launch the service with First Light, before taking the manager’s role on a full-time basis.

In his spare time, he likes to take in the outdoors by sea swimming, walking his dog on Dartmoor, kayaking and spending time with family.

Survivor Advocate – AJ McCall

AJ joined First Light in 2022 and has worked in the domestic abuse teams in varying positions until joining Safe Spaces in early 2023. Prior to this AJ held a variety of roles within the well-being sector and partook in a plethora of volunteering projects supporting and combatting homelessness, the protection of vulnerable children, and advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community.

AJ’s passion took them as far as Costa Rica, Southeast Asia and East Africa working for NGO’s on people based projects. Before their relocation to Cornwall AJ studied Photography at university, enjoys nature, travelling, reading and walks with their dog Dave.

Survivor Advocate – Alice Mudd

Alice began her career in wellbeing as a support worker in assisted living, working with adults with complex mental health and learning needs. From this, she realised that her passion lay in helping those around her.

She completed a degree in Psychology to further her understanding of mental health and psychological development.

After graduation, she joined First Light as an adult Independent Sexual Violence Advisor; Alice loved being in a role which allowed her to support people through their criminal justice journeys, celebrating their victories and providing emotional and practical support throughout.

When the opportunity to join Safe Spaces arose, she was drawn to the opportunity for further specialism, hoping further expand her knowledge and use her skillset to support people who have experienced abuse in church settings.

In her spare time, Alice loves to bake, and spend time with her husband, two children, and ginger cat.

Support Advisor – Gemma Wilkes

Gemma began working in the charity sector as a Youth Support Worker, helping young adults develop the skills to live independent lives. From there, she moved into Substance Abuse Support and then supporting the homeless to access services including mental health support, drug and alcohol services and access to GPs and nurses.

She joined Safe Spaces in March 2023 to broaden her knowledge and focus on a new specialism, supporting those affected by church-related abuse.

In her spare time, she likes to attend live music events and go camping with her family.

Survivor Advocate – Anna Dudley

Anna began her career in a counselling role in 2018, quickly recognising the common presentation of domestic abuse in the clients she supported. Anna decided to explore domestic abuse roles all over the UK, eventually relocating for a job in Swindon at a refuge, housing high risk victims of domestic abuse. It was a privilege to work as a Resident Support Advisor, Independent Domestic Violence Advisor and Refuge Team Leader, providing her with great satisfaction and experience.

In early 2023, she made the decision to explore a new professional challenge, but still working with individuals who seek support for complex experiences. This led Anna to the role of Survivor Advocate with the Safe Spaces team.

In her spare time, Anna likes to write, spend time with family & friends, and in the summer enjoy as many motorsport track days as possible!

Support Advisor – Habiba Mahmood

Habiba joined Safe Spaces after working within care and as a family support call taker, supporting people through loss, addiction, separation, abuse and suicidal ideation, offering empathy, advice and onward signposting to specialist services.

She completed a Degree in Psychology with Criminology in 2021 and recently completed an MSc in Psychology of Mental Health & Wellbeing. She hopes to continue working within supportive roles and further her education within Mental Health.

In her spare time, Habiba finds enjoyment in reading, films, baking and most importantly, spending time with her sisters and friends. 

About Safe Spaces England and Wales

The charitable company ‘Safe Spaces England and Wales’ (SSEW) has contracted First Light to deliver the Safe Spaces service under a three-year contract from Jan 2023 – Jan 2026.

SSEW was formed by the Archbishops’ Council (Church of England) and the Catholic Church in England and Wales to ensure arms-length oversight and decision-making in connection with the project.

SSEW is chaired by an Independent Chair with 5 other directors.

SSEW Directors provide strategic direction and oversight. They are legally responsible for the activities of SSEW, and hold decision making responsibility for the company.

The SSEW Directors are supported by the Safe Spaces Advisory Committee (SSAC).  The SSAC is a group that brings together key stakeholder representatives from the Church of England and the Catholic Church in England and Wales to provide operational advice in connection with the day to day activities of SSEW, which the directors may factor into their decision making.  The SSAC consists of: 

  • Survivor representatives from each of the churches
  • Safeguarding professionals
  • Legal advisors
  • Financial advisors
  • Communications advisors

Who are the SSEW Directors?

  • Paul Langham, Independent Chair of SSEW
  • Dr Jamie Harrison, member of the Archbishops’ Council, Chair of the House of Laity (Church of England)
  • Rt Rev Paul Mason, Bishop of the Forces (Catholic Church in England and Wales)
  • Paul McCallum, Chief Operating Officer, Archdiocese of Southwark (Catholic Church in England and Wales)
  • Rt Rev Julie Conalty, Bishop of Birkenhead (Church of England)
  • Craig Russo, Independent Mental Health and Wellbeing Expert

How is the Safe Spaces service, and the charitable company SSEW funded?

The funding for the Safe Spaces service comes from the Archbishops’ Council (Church of England) the Catholic Church in England and Wales, and the Allchurches Trust.  SSEW receives additional funding from the Archbishops’ Council and the Catholic Church in England and Wales to cover the basic running costs of the charitable company.

How is the Safe Spaces service overseen by SSEW, and how is the service evaluated?

Representatives from the Church of England National Safeguarding Team (NST) and the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service (CSAS) are part of the Safe Spaces Advisory Committee.  These representatives meet regularly with First Light on behalf of SSEW directors as part of the contact monitoring process. 

SSEW Directors meet with the Safe Spaces Advisory Committee regularly to review data and reports regarding the Safe Spaces service.

SSEW has appointed Rocket Science as independent evaluators for the Safe Spaces service who will provide regular updates to the board.  The results of the evaluation will be published.

About First Light

Our Vision:

A society where we live in safety free from sexual violence and domestic abuse.

Our values:
– Trust
– Integrity
– Respect
– Progression
– Collaboration

As part of First Light’s efforts to improve the response to victims of church related abuse, we sit on a number of Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Panels and Safeguarding Subgroups across the Southwest

If you would like to know more about the work First Light does, please visit: First Light