Women’s Aid – Leave no woman or child behind”: Women’s Aid launches 16 Days campaign

“We were always treading on eggshells. I felt the fear but didn’t know what was going on” – Child survivor of domestic abuse. 

Women’s Aid has today released new statistics on the number of women and children unable to access a place in a lifesaving refuge to mark the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence, which commences on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on the 25th November. Our research reveals that far too many women and children are not able to safely escape from domestic abuse as well as highlighting the hidden, devastating and long-lasting impact that domestic abuse has on children.

As the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence (Saturday 25th November – Sunday 10th December) begins, refuges are facing an even more precarious future as a consequence of the Government’s proposed changes to supported housing. These proposed changes will remove refuges’ last secure form of funding, forcing them to reduce provision or even face closure, leaving even more women and children with nowhere to turn. Only through urgent Government action can we save the specialist domestic abuse refuges that protect and support survivors and their children to ensure that no woman or child is left behind in their escape from domestic abuse.

Over half of the residents in refuge are children and they need to be supported and protected in their recovery from domestic abuse too. Domestic abuse has a serious impact on children’s wellbeing, mental health, development, education and poses risks to their safety too. Sadly, demand for refuges far exceeds supply with 94 women and 90 children being turned away from a refuge on just one day this year.

Demand for refuges far outstrips supply:

  • 94 women and 90 children were turned away from refuge services on just one day this year
  • 2182 women with 2336 children were staying in refuge at responding services on the Day to Count 2017
  • One third of refuges are unable to provide a children’s support worker

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said:

“It is completely unacceptable that refuges had no choice but to turn 94 women and 90 children away on just one day this year. We’ve launched our 16 Days campaign to call on the Government to protect lifesaving refuges so they can continue the vital work that they and other domestic abuse services do in helping survivors and their children escape domestic abuse. We are also using this moment to shine a light on the long-lasting, devastating impact domestic abuse has on children. Sadly, in some cases abuse results in the tragic loss of women and children’s lives.

“Demand for refuges currently far outstrips supply. The Government’s new funding model for refuges could be the breaking point for these life-saving services which have already been operating for far too long on short-term, shoestring budgets. These proposed reforms mean that many refuges will be faced with the awful reality of either turning more women and children away or closing their doors forever. Without a safe place to escape to, more women and children will be put at risk.

“We urge the Government to protect refuges not only for women escaping abuse but for their children too. Only by creating a long-term and sustainable funding model for a national network of refuges can we ensure that every woman and child can safely escape domestic abuse.”

Many survivors report that their children are experiencing anxiety, behavioural issues and problems at school as a result of witnessing domestic abuse; one survivor we supported confided that her son began self-harming. Tragically, between 1st January 2016 and 31st December 2016, 26 children under the age of fourteen are known to have been killed alongside their mother, according to new data from the forthcoming Femicide Census report.

“On the 19th July 2016 our father shot and killed our mum Claire and our 19 year old sister Charlotte. It was the result of decades of abuse and controlling and intimidating behaviour. Our father was a terrorist living within our own home; he had no cause but to frighten his family and to generate his own esteem from trampling and bullying us.

“Since the 19th July last year, it’s become clear to me that I wouldn’t be here without my little brother. Even when we struggled through our darkest moments against our father, Ryan dared to remain resistant when I had broken down and couldn’t face any more. He was still able to love and believe in a world that our father had filled with hate. For that Ryan suffered the strongest wrath from our father.

“Nothing can ever replace what we lost on the 19th July and no words can describe what we have endured. Every day I still feel the panic and scramble for the reset button.”

 – Luke Hart, survivor who lost his mum and sister to domestic abuse 

“Every therapy session is different, as is each child who sadly must come into refuge. I’ve seen children and young people who are withdrawn, truanting from school, with low self-esteem, who are self-harming, experiencing night terrors or wetting the bed. Every child is affected differently. It is heart-breaking witnessing children suffer but their strength never ceases to amaze me.

“Our aim is to strengthen fractured bonds between families and having fun together is a great way of achieving this. It’s a privilege to work with such amazing children. Their ability to smile even in the most difficult of time inspires me to get up the next day for round 2.”

 – Emma Armstrong, play therapist at Reigate and Banstead Women’s Aid Refuge 

The Government has promised to transform the national approach to tackling domestic abuse through their landmark Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill, and declared that the state “will do everything it can to both support [survivors] and their children.” Women’s Aid calls on the Government to follow through on its commitment by working with us to protect refuges. We want to work with the Government to create a long-term and sustainable funding model for a national network of refuges, which will increase the number of bed spaces and support provision available to match the level of need, to ensure that every woman and child can escape domestic abuse.

For more information, please contact the Women’s Aid press office: press@womensaid.org.uk / 020 7490 8330.

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