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Contact the Refuge press team on:

press@refuge.org.uk | 0207 395 7731 | 07970 894240 (out of hours)

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Refuge facilitates interviews between journalists and domestic violence survivors who are safe to speak out. Find out more

Press releases

BLM response
BLM response

Refuge recognises that the reality of the lives of Black, Asian, and minority ethnic groups can no longer be denied by any individual or institution. Recent events around the world have shone a clear light on the discrimination, persecution and high levels of deprivation experienced by men, women and children from these groups; experiences which lead to a much greater likelihood of lifelong poverty and contact with the criminal justice system. In line with Refuge's core values as a learning organisation, we do not absolve ourselves of the responsibility to do better. We are committed to addressing racism, prejudice and discrimination where it is found, and we are taking steps to recognise, acknowledge and challenge privilege and bias within our own organisation and beyond. We know that progress has been slow and we know there is no quick solution. We are committed to do better to bring about positive change for our black communities and to contribute to the dismantling of systemic racism in England.

Refuge launches 'The Naked Threat' campaign
Refuge launches 'The Naked Threat' campaign

Refuge launches ‘The Naked Threat’ campaign, and calls on the Government to make the threat to share intimate images a crime. As the Government begins the Report stage of the Domestic Abuse Bill, Refuge, the UK's largest specialist provider of services for survivors of domestic abuse and their children, has launched a campaign with one clear aim: to make threats to share intimate or sexual images or films a crime. Refuge's specialist tech abuse team has seen an increase in the number of women reporting threats to share intimate images, providing a unique insight into how this form of abuse is developing, and the barriers survivors face in accessing police support and keeping safe. Refuge's ‘The Naked Threat’ campaign - which is backed by the Victims Commissioner and the Domestic Abuse Commissioner - urges the Government to use the Domestic Abuse Bill to make a simple legal change that would make a huge difference to the everyday lives of the women and girls Refuge supports. A survey commissioned by Refuge found that 1 in 14 adults in England and Wales have experienced threats to share intimate images or videos – equivalent to 4.4 million. Threats to share intimate images are most prevalent amongst young people (aged 18-34), with 1 in 7 young women experiencing such threats. 72% of women who have received threats to share were threatened by a current or ex-partner and 83% of women who experienced the threat from a current or former partner also experienced other forms of abuse. This confirms Refuge’s assertion that threatening to share intimate images must be treated as a domestic abuse issue. The Domestic Abuse Bill gives the Government a legislative vehicle by which to swiftly enact the change to the law that survivors need. The impact on women experiencing threats to share intimate images is devastating. 83% said it impacted their mental health and emotional wellbeing. More than 1 in 10 women felt suicidal as a result of the threat and 1 in 7 felt more at risk of physical violence. These figures paint a stark picture of the prevalence of this form of abuse women are experiencing, and how threats of this nature are part of a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour. Ellie Butt, head of policy and public affairs at Refuge, said: ‘Refuge is launching this campaign as the Government heads into the report stage of the Domestic Abuse Bill with a clear ask: the law urgently needs to change and the Bill provides the Government with the perfect opportunity to act quickly and decisively. Sharing an intimate image is already a crime - rightly so - but now the law needs to move with the times and recognise that threats to share these images causes serious harm regardless of whether the threat is then carried out. The results of our survey are clear - this is a domestic abuse issue impacting millions of women and girls across England and Wales. 85% of respondents to our survey want to see this legislative change, and this cannot be ignored. We hope the Government will hear this call and act quickly. Refuge stands ready to work with the Government to ensure this change in the law can be enacted without delay, and ensure the Domestic Abuse Bill is as transformative and bold as possible, offering protection from abuse to as many women as possible.’ Natasha Saunders, 31, Refuge survivor said: ‘I’d been in a relationship with my ex-husband for six months when he first ordered me to remove my clothes and pose for intimate photos. In the beginning, I thought taking these photos was an act of intimacy, but they were actually being used as another form of domestic abuse – and as another way to control me. He would berate me and mock my appearance until I gave in. Posing for these photos made me feel so dirty and worthless, but I was just a teenager and I wanted to make him happy. I never imagined these pictures would become leverage for my abuser’s campaign of isolation and coercive control. The threat of those intimate photos being shared was my worst nightmare – I had no choice but to comply with his continued abuse or face potential shame and humiliation.’ The Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, Dame Vera Baird QC, said: ‘A key report - Shattering Lives and Myths written by professor Clare McGlynn and others at Durham Law School - was launched at the Supreme Court last year and sets out the appalling consequences to victims of intimate images being posted without consent on the internet. These images are sometimes sent to the victim’s children, or their parents, or their employer and frequently also posted on porn sites. Victims speak of not going out and being unable to meet anyone new because they feel sure that everyone has seen their intimate image online. One victim referred to it as ‘like being raped again and again in public. It is an increasingly used, and very potent threat by domestic abusers, especially if their victim threatens to leave. It exerts a terrible grip keeping victims in relationships with perpetrators who are obviously ruthless and cruel. It is imperative that it is made a criminal offence. The ministers taking the Domestic Abuse Bill through The Commons have shown already that they are listening to well-evidenced suggestion for important amendments and this is an exceptionally important one.’ Domestic Abuse Commissioner Nicole Jacobs said: ‘The threat to share an intimate image – so-called ‘revenge porn’ – is an insidious and powerful way that perpetrators of domestic abuse seek to control their victims, and yet the law does not provide the protection that is needed. Threats to share these images play on fear and shame, and can be particularly dangerous where there might be multiple perpetrators or so-called ‘honour-based’ abuse is a factor. What’s more, the advent of new technologies enable perpetrators to make these threats even where such images do not exist, but there is no clear criminal sanction for this behaviour. I therefore call on the Government to use the Domestic Abuse Bill to criminalise the threat to share intimate images, as well as to extend the coercive and controlling offence to post-separation abuse, both of which would go a long way in better supporting victims and survivors of domestic abuse.’ Refuge is asking its supporters to take action here calling on the Government to amend Section 33 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 to explicitly outlaw threats to share sexual images or films in England and Wales. For more information please contact the press office on 0207 395 7731 or email press@refuge.org.uk. Read the full report.

Chelsea supporters raise over 200K for Refuge and CFC matches donations
Chelsea supporters raise over 200K for Refuge and CFC matches donations

Chelsea supporters raise over 200K for national domestic abuse charity Refuge, club matches donations. Chelsea women donate WSL Championship funds also. Chelsea supporters, matched by their club, have secured more than half a million pounds for Refuge, the UK’s largest single provider of specialist domestic abuse services. At the start of April, Chelsea Football Club joined forces with Refuge to raise awareness and valuable funds to support women and children experiencing domestic abuse during the current Covid-19 crisis. As reports from around the world show that the coronavirus pandemic has led to an increase in domestic abuse incidents during periods of isolation and lockdown, Chelsea asked fans for their support and the response has been incredible. Through the club’s digital campaign with both women’s and men’s team, hundreds of season ticket holder donations and a contribution by Process Photography, Chelsea fans have now raised over £200,000 to help. From one off donations to donating the money from remaining matches that season ticket holders have been unable to attend as games re-commenced behind closed doors, Chelsea fans have dug deep to support a cause which is close to the clubs hearts. Chelsea Football Club and Refuge would like to thank every person who has donated so generously. The club will now be matching donations. The total, together with the funds donated by Chelsea women, is over £500,000. Chelsea FC Women’s manager Emma Hayes said: 'I have been proud to lead the club’s support of this worthy cause and I am proud of the response of our fans. To have raised over £200,000 for Refuge's vital work is incredible and I am so grateful for your generosity. The club and Mr. Abramovich will be matching this contribution and I hope this goes some way to helping women and children in desperate need.’ Sandra Horley CBE, Refuge Chief Executive said: ‘Refuge is enormously grateful to Chelsea supporters who have dug deep at this time to support Refuge - and to Chelsea FC for matching their donations. Since the start of lockdown, Refuge has seen a huge spike in demand for its National Domestic Abuse Helpline - indicating the sheer numbers of women who need our support. Every single penny that is raised helps us to ensure no woman or child is turned away from receiving the support they need. We are so grateful to Chelsea FC and their fans for this incredible gesture of support.’ While this campaign is coming to an end, domestic abuse will not. Chelsea are asking their fans to continue to support Refuge to keep its life-saving and life-changing services running and reach even more women and children in desperate need. Domestic abuse doesn’t come by appointment – it happens all year round. Refuge is there for you if you need their help 24 hours a day 7 days a week. For support please contact Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247. For more information please contact the press office on 0207 395 7731 or email press@refuge.org.uk.

Refuge responds to announcement of 'major overhaul' to the family courts
Refuge responds to announcement of 'major overhaul' to the family courts

Responding to the announcement of a ‘major overhaul’ to the family courts, Ellie Butt, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Refuge said: “Refuge welcomes the Government’s announcement today to overhaul the family courts to better protect victims of domestic abuse. Failings by the family courts are regularly cited to Refuge by women who have experienced domestic abuse and many of the women we support around the country have been re traumatised when accessing the family courts. Sweeping reforms are necessary - but the changes should go further. Refuge is pleased to have fed into the Government’s Family Courts Review, and amplified the demands of the thousands of women we support every day. It is especially welcome to see the ‘special protections’ being applied to victims in court. Survivors of domestic abuse must be protected from their perpetrators in court and these measures will go some way to reducing the trauma experienced by survivors going through the family courts system. Barring orders which would make it more difficult for perpetrators to drag their victims back through courts are also welcome and long overdue. Perpetrators often seek to continue abusing their victims by putting them through seemingly endless court proceedings. This is a common tool of economic abuse, which can have a lasting impact on survivors. Refuge is also pleased that the Government is launching a review into the presumption of ‘parental involvement’ always being a positive for the children who witness and experience domestic abuse. We have long called for this presumption to be overturned and while a review is welcome, we hope it will be concluded swiftly so the necessary changes can be implemented without further delay. We stand ready to work with the Government to ensure these changes make a real impact to the lives of the women and children Refuge supports.” For more information please contact the press office on 0207 395 7731 or email press@refuge.org.uk.

Refuge statement on Committee stage of Domestic Abuse Bill
Refuge statement on Committee stage of Domestic Abuse Bill

As the Domestic Abuse Bill continues through the Committee stage this week, Ellie Butt, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Refuge said: “As the Committee stage of the Domestic Abuse Bill is set to conclude over the next few days, Refuge is hopeful that Government ministers and MPs on the Committee will take this opportunity to add crucial measures to the Bill, to ensure it makes a real difference to survivors and meets the Government’s own objective of transforming the response to domestic abuse. Not all issues that are of primary concern to Refuge will be discussed this week - funding for refuge services for example - but the Committee stage is nonetheless of crucial importance to the development of the Domestic Abuse Bill. As the largest specialist service provider of services for survivors of domestic abuse, Refuge has worked tirelessly over the past few years to try to ensure that the Bill reflects what we know survivors and their children need. It is now vital that these recommendations are taken on board by those who are scrutinising the Bill. Crucially, Refuge wants the Domestic Abuse Bill to include a clear gendered definition of abuse. Of course, anyone can experience domestic abuse, regardless of their gender, but as Refuge knows only too well, the overwhelming majority of victims are women and the overwhelming majority or perpetrators are men. Domestic abuse is a cause and consequence of gender inequality and it is crucial that the Bill reflects this reality. How we define a problem determines our response to it. This week, the Committee will also have the chance to consider vital amendments that would exempt survivors of domestic abuse from repaying Universal Credit. Making sure that the benefits system works for women fleeing domestic abuse is one of the most important changes the Government can make. If women do not have confidence that they will be able to find safety and feed themselves and their children, they may not feel able to leave their perpetrator, and remain trapped in fear of abuse. In Refuge’s experience it is not uncommon for women to return to abusers after experiencing the abject poverty caused by the five-week delay in receiving Universal Credit. For many women, leaving their abusive partner will be the first time they experience the benefits system. Many will have been denied access to money by their abusive partners, others may have been prevented from working or will have to leave their jobs because it is just too dangerous for their perpetrator to know their place of work after they have fled. Women often leave with just a bag of clothes and a few pounds – relying on foodbanks until they receive their benefits. Ensuring benefit advances are non-repayable would be a significant step towards ensuring women can really break free of their abusive partners, enabling them to rebuild their lives and homes. Refuge also hopes that the Government will ensure that women with no recourse to public funds (NRPF) are protected by the Domestic Abuse Bill. Migrant survivors with no recourse are currently locked out of the benefits system, left facing destitution and street homelessness when leaving their abusive partners. Migrant survivors’ access to safety must be guaranteed by ensuring all survivors, regardless of immigration status, can access public funds and regularise their immigration status independently of their abuser. The Domestic Abuse Bill, years in the making, and the result of an incredible amount of work across the Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) sector, has a chance to be truly transformative. Coming at a time when Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline has experienced more demand than ever, the need for specialist domestic abuse services has never been greater. Refuge hopes the Government will use this opportunity to introduce real, lasting change. Women’s lives depend on it. For more information please contact the press office on 0207 395 7731 or email press@refuge.org.uk

Refuge responds to The Sun front page
Refuge responds to The Sun front page

Responding to the front page of The Sun on Friday 12th June, Jane Keeper, director of operations at Refuge, said: “The front page of The Sun this morning is as irresponsible as it is disappointing. It would ordinarily be troubling for such an editorial decision to be made - but to run with this during lockdown, when demand to Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline have increased by 66% is shocking. What this has done is give national media coverage to a perpetrator of domestic abuse to attempt to justify his actions. It is never acceptable to hit a woman. The first ‘slap’ can lead to a pattern of violence - and domestic abuse is against the law. Domestic abuse can and does result in domestic homicide - 2 women a week in England and Wales are killed by a current or former partner. This is not an issue to be taken lightly. In England and Wales one in four women will experience domestic abuse at some point in their life. What sort of message does this front page send to survivors? That their abuser will be given national media headlines to justify their actions? That their abuse is legitimate? That it doesn’t matter? That they are ‘fair game’? To every survivor of domestic abuse who reads these headlines today - Refuge hears you, we see you, and we believe you. We are here to support you. To every media outlet who carries this story today - we urge you to signpost to Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline - 0808 2000 247 / www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk.” ENDS For more information please contact the press office on 0207 395 7731 or email press@refuge.org.uk

National Domestic Abuse Helpline website to be accessible free of data charges
National Domestic Abuse Helpline website to be accessible free of data charges

Refuge welcomes the agreement reached between the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and mobile phone providers to make access to websites which are providing support during the Covid-19 crisis data free of charge. Commenting on the announcement Refuge's Director of communications and external relations, Lisa King said: "Since lockdown began, Refuge has seen a spike of more than 950% in visits to its www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk -  many thousands of women every day need the specialist support Refuge provides and now more than ever need to access this information digitally. We know that during periods of isolation the window in which women experiencing domestic abuse are able to call our Freephone Helpline becomes narrower -  so ensuring women are able to access Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline website which hosts our contact form and live chat support, free of charge and without using their data allowances, is an important step in ensuring more women are able to access the support they need."

Chelsea Women’s prize money donated to Refuge
Chelsea Women’s prize money donated to Refuge

Chelsea Women’s prize money donated to Refuge – ‘the best way to demonstrate support’ says Emma Hayes As part of their ongoing campaign with Refuge, Chelsea will be making a further contribution to supporting women and children experiencing domestic abuse during the current coronavirus pandemic. The prize money for winning the 2019/20 Barclays FA Women’s Super League is being donated to the charity. It was announced on Monday that Chelsea had secured the WSL title, based on a points-per-game basis. Emma Hayes and her squad were unbeaten throughout the season and had defeated title rivals in head-to-head games. The prize for winning the Super League is £100,000 and the donation to Refuge, which was agreed by Chelsea Football Club and the Chelsea FC Women management team, continues Chelsea’s significant support for the charity that began in April. Reports indicate the current Coivid-19 crisis has led to an increase in domestic abuse incidents due to the periods of isolation and lockdown. UK charity Refuge, the country’s largest single provider of domestic abuse services provides specialist, confidential support to women experiencing domestic abuse. Chelsea Women are proud to have been have at the forefront of promoting the club’s support for Refuge. ‘It’s a charity that’s close to the hearts and minds of the Women’s team,’ Hayes confirms. ‘Up until now our involvement was about supporting the campaign publicly with a call to action but we all wanted to do more than that and if donating our prize money can ease some of the concerns and worries people have then it’s the least we can do.’ ‘It’s an important message. It’s a campaign that’s really dear to us and the best way we can demonstrate our support further is by committing our prize money towards it and helping those in need.’ Sandra Horley, CBE, Chief Executive of Refuge said: ‘We are incredibly grateful to Chelsea women. Refuge has seen a huge increase in demand for its Helpline and website services during Covid -19 which has shone a light on the thousands of women who need our support across the country right now. Chelsea Women have not only helped Refuge raise awareness of domestic abuse, they have also supported us with a significant financial commitment - this is a fantastic gesture.’ ‘Every penny we raise helps Refuge to provide life-saving and life-changing specialist services. The Covid-19 crisis has placed a huge financial strain on domestic abuse services and the generous support of Chelsea women will help Refuge to ensure that no woman or child is turned away from safety.’ Spokespeople available on request. Please contact the press office on 0207 395 7731 or email press@refuge.org.uk.

Refuge announces new Chair of its governing board
Refuge announces new Chair of its governing board

Refuge, the national charity which provides specialist support to women and children escaping domestic abuse today announced the appointment of a new Chair. Hetti Barkworth-Nanton succeeds Maggie Rae whose term as chair of the governing board ends in June. Maggie Rae said she was delighted with the appointment: “We have conducted a very thorough and exhaustive search to find the right person to take over this very challenging role. We are privileged that Hetti has agreed to succeed me, and I know she is the right person to guide Refuge through the next phase of its hugely influential work in fighting domestic abuse.” Currently the CEO of Ploughshare Innovations, Hetti is an accomplished leader with an admirable career spanning 25 years of financial, commercial and transformation leadership across major blue chip organisations, including Vodafone, Centrica plc and British Airways. She is also a facilitator at The Windsor Leadership. Hetti is a former Chair of the Joanna Simpson Foundation and, until recently, was a Pioneer at Safe Lives. The Foundation was set up after Hetti’s best friend, Joanna Simpson, was killed by her estranged husband in 2010. The tragedy led Hetti to campaign for increased awareness of domestic abuse and a few years ago, at a Safe Lives reception, she caught the attention of the Duchess of Cornwall who has since spoken publicly about the need to combat the scourge of domestic abuse. Hetti Barkworth-Nanton said she was honoured to take on the role of the Chair of Refuge: “I would like to thank the Trustees who have put their faith in me. I face a huge challenge in succeeding Maggie Rae who has given years of commitment to Refuge as a Board member and then Chair. As a family lawyer, Maggie has supported the Refuge team to grow the charity to become the country’s largest provider of specialist domestic abuse services to women and children, supporting over 6,500 survivors every day. I am proud to take on this vital role with Refuge to help advance their transformational work. Refuge's CEO, Sandra Horley and the entire team have been a driving force in the sector and their deep commitment to victims has improved the lives of many. Domestic abuse is a crime which affects the lives of millions of women and children every year. Despite huge campaigning work, improvements to our laws, and commitment from so many, the number of deaths committed by violent partners increased by almost 30% last year, and sadly since the COVID-19 pandemic we have seen a huge escalation of abuse and suffering across the world. I am committed to fighting this crime and supporting abused women and children whose lives are blighted by this most insidious of crimes and look forward to bringing my business leadership expertise together with my knowledge of the sector to the wonderful and tireless work that Refuge delivers day in and day out.”

Refuge reports further increase in demand for its National Domestic Abuse Helpline services during lockdown.
Refuge reports further increase in demand for its National Domestic Abuse Helpline services during lockdown.

Since the start of lockdown, Refuge, the country’s largest single provider of specialist domestic abuse services, and sole provider of the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, has tracked the demand for its Helpline and the number of visits to its National Domestic Abuse Helpline website, which have spiked significantly over the last eight weeks. The spike in demand for the Helpline shows the extent of support required during lockdown. The window for women experiencing domestic abuse to reach out for help is ordinarily very limited -  with this window narrowing further when isolating with an abusive partner. This spike in demand points to the sheer number of women affected, and why the confidential, specialist support that Refuge provides is needed more than ever. Responding to this increase in demand, Sandra Horley, CBE, Chief Executive of Refuge said: “Since the Covid-19 crisis began, Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline has seen a sharp and escalating rise in demand. During the initial stages of the Covid-19 crisis, Refuge reported around 50% increase in demand to its Helpline, and a 300%+ increase in visits to its National Domestic Abuse Helpline website. However, demand has spiked again significantly -  calls and contacts to the Helpline have risen to a weekly average increase of 66% and visits to our website (where women can request a safe time to be contacted) have seen a phenomenal 950% rise compared to pre Covid-19. While lockdown itself does not cause domestic abuse, it can aggravate pre-existing behaviours in abusive partners. Women up and down the country are isolated with abusive partners -  and children will be witnessing and in some cases experiencing domestic abuse. This is a terrifying ordeal and Refuge wants women to know they are not alone. Right now women’s lives depend on them being able to access the specialist services Refuge provides, and now, more than ever, we must continue to provide the confidential support needed. Women are not alone, Refuge is there and support is available." Spokespeople available on request. Please contact the press office on 0207 395 7731 or email press@refuge.org.uk.