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Press releases

Refuge responds to CPS interim guidance on rape and sexual assault
Refuge responds to CPS interim guidance on rape and sexual assault

In response to the CPS interim guidance on rape and sexual assault, Ellie Butt, Head of Policy and Public affairs at Refuge said: ‘Refuge welcomes the CPS interim guidance on rape and sexual assault, particularly the focus on rejecting rape myths and stereotypes, as well as  the relevance of the sexual history of victims when establishing consent. We hope it will help lead to more rape suspects being prosecuted and that  more women feel empowered to report rape and sexual assault and give them  confidence that the justice system will support them. The idea that women’s behaviours are in any way ‘responsible’ for attacks on them is an outdated myth which must be recognised as such, and we hope this guidance will ensure prosecutors reject these damaging stereotypes, do not allow them to influence decisions to prosecute, and that in turn we can see a rise in prosecutions and women being able to access justice. The impact of this new guidance should be closely monitored. The CPS has rightly been scrutinised as rape convictions have fallen to a record low. This is one positive step forward to address that, but much more needs to be done in order to reverse the huge declines in prosecutions over recent years.' Interviews available on request please contact the press office on 0207 395 7731 or email: press@refuge.org.uk

8.7 million people report experiencing economic abuse
8.7 million people report experiencing economic abuse

8.7 million people report experiencing economic abuse - and 1.6 million saw this begin as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Co-operative Bank and Refuge, the UKs largest national domestic abuse charity release “Know Economic Abuse” report – five years on from launching landmark campaign to tackle economic abuse Approximately 16% of all UK adults identify as having experienced economic abuse in their current or former relationship – but the numbers may be higher as more than twice as many have experienced economically abusive behaviours 1.6 million adults (3%) saw their economic abuse begin during the Covid-19 pandemic Report makes new recommendations for change, following successful 2015 report which led to the introduction of the UK finance industry’s Financial Abuse Code of Practice Nearly two out of five UK adults (39%) – approximately 20m people1 – have experienced economically abusive behaviour in a current or former relationship, according to a new report launched today by The Co-operative Bank and Refuge, the UK’s largest national domestic abuse charity. Despite this, only 16 per cent of people describe, or recognise, their experiences as abuse. The “Know Economic Abuse” campaign aims to raise awareness of the true scale of economic abuse in the UK. Economic Abuse – sometimes called financial abuse – occurs when someone attempts to control another’s ability to acquire, maintain access to, or use money or other economic resources on a sustained basis. This can include behaviour such as stopping someone from working, taking someone’s money, preventing someone from accessing their own or joint bank accounts, or putting debts in their name. Nearly a million people (10% of all who have experienced economic abuse) are currently in relationships with people who are abusing them economically. The report combines a study of over 4,000 adults and qualitative research interviews undertaken with 14 survivors of domestic abuse who have accessed Refuge’s specialist services. This report continues Refuge and The Co-operative Bank’s landmark research from 2015, which launched the campaign which successfully called for the introduction of the Financial Abuse Code of Practice. The Financial Abuse Code of Practice is a set of voluntary guidelines to help the financial services industry better identify and address the needs of someone experiencing economic abuse  What is the scale of Economic Abuse in the UK in 2020? The findings show that 16 per cent of adults in the UK self-identify as being a survivor of economic abuse. While survivors span gender, age and income groups, economic abuse is rarely perpetrated in isolation; 85% of people who experienced economic abuse in their current or former relationship also reported other forms of domestic abuse, including physical, sexual and emotional  abuse. Economic abuse most commonly begins early on in a relationship (18%), but other key milestones can trigger it – such as moving in together (16%), getting married (12%), or at the point a couple formally joins their finances (8%). Many people also experience economically abusive behaviour from former partners during and after separation, such as damage or theft of property, or spending money from a joint account without consent (24%). Some of the most common economically abusive behaviours, include: The restriction of a person’s income: this can include taking control of someone’s income (14%), removing access to someone’s personal bank account (11%), or not allowing them to have a bank account at all (11%). Other ways of limiting someone’s income capability includes interfering with their ability to work (11%) or forcing someone to work without pay (9%). Misuse of joint or personal funds: this can include significant financial decisions being made (e.g. purchase of a car or home) without someone’s consent (13%), theft of money (12%), theft of valuables or assets (13%), using an individual’s bank card without permission (11%) Control of spending: this can include limiting someone’s ability to make purchases beyond basic essentials (12%), placing an authorised spending cap on a partner’s bank account (10%), or demanding to monitor or track someone’s personal spending (11%). Incurring debts on a person’s behalf without consent or under duress: this can include someone having a debt placed in their name under duress (11%), debts place in someone’s name fraudulently (10%) or applying for an overdraft in someone’s name when they are afraid to say no (9%). The impact of Covid-19 For 3% of all UK adults (1.6 million) economic abuse began relatively recently, during the Covid-19 pandemic. This correlates with a broader increase in other forms of domestic abuse that came about as a result of lockdown. This correlates with the large spike in demand Refuge saw to its National Domestic Abuse Helpline during lockdown. For more than one in three (35%) of those who first experienced economic abuse during the Covid-19 crisis, their partner first became abusive when their pay decreased as a result of the lockdown. This has raised concerns that the impact of the recession, the end of the furlough scheme and an expectation of widespread redundancies across the UK could give perpetrators of abuse more opportunities to economically abuse and control in relationships. Awareness and reporting A third of people who experience economic abuse do not confide in others about their experiences (31%). In the instances that people do feel comfortable sharing their situation, they will most commonly share their experiences with a friend or family member (45%). Only 15% of people who experience economic abuse report the abuse to their bank or financial services provider. One in four people (24%) felt unable to report this to their bank, primarily because they worried that their bank would not have adequate measures in place to protect them (15%). Despite many banks having adopted the Financial Abuse Code of Practice, which guides and supports customer-services in how to spot and address signs of economic abuse. Across the UK, a third of all UK adults (31%) have heard of economic abuse. The research indicates that more needs to be done to enhance people’s understanding, so they can recognise whether they are experiencing economic abuse and know how to address this with relevant parties (e.g. banks and financial services providers). Recommendations from the Know Economic Abuse report Along with the publication of its report, which fully details the study’s methodology and findings, the Co-operative Bank and Refuge have built on the Code of Practice that was implemented in 2018, to develop a five-point plan of action to  address the issue of economic abuse further: Banks and other financial services institutions to build on the support they offer to survivors of economic abuse by: The creation of clear processes for customers who are in debt as a result of economic abuse to inform the bank of their circumstances, be supported by well-trained staff and have that debt burden reduced wherever possible The provision of information about economic abuse and where customers can seek help when customers apply for any joint financial product Credit reference agencies to take a greater role in protecting survivors of economic abuse, through the creation of a preferential ‘credit rating repair’ system. This would then be implemented by both banks and credit reference agencies The creation of a cross-government fund for survivors to assist them with the costs of leaving a perpetrator and accessing a safe place to stay Reform of welfare benefits systems to benefit survivors and current victims of economic abuse. This should include automatic separate payments of Universal Credit Universal Credit advances for those fleeing abusive partners, paid as grants rather than loans Banks, other financial services institutions, and specialist domestic abuse organisations to conduct a review of the impact of online and digital banking on survivors of economic abuse and produce recommendations for change in 2021 Maria Cearns, managing director, People and Customer, The Co-operative Bank, comments: “We are very proud of our long partnership with Refuge to help highlight and address the substantial issue of economic abuse in the UK, and we hear many stories of the difference our first campaign together and the establishment of the Financial Abuse Code of Practice has made to vulnerable individuals. However, five years on we are operating in a significantly changed world with the rise of online banking altering how abusers exert financial control and the current economic backdrop causing real concern around rising levels of abuse. As our 2020 report highlights, substantive action from banks, government and other duty bearers has never been more pressing to ensure individuals receive the help they require when facing or recovering from the long-lasting ramifications of abuse. “Throughout our history our goal has always been to use our position to work towards a better and fairer world and, as we move into a recession, we need to make sure we are doing all we can to support people who are vulnerable to this kind of money-focused coercive control. Our message to customers who might be experiencing economic abuse is we are here to help you and over the coming months we will be using the insight generated from our research with Refuge to build on the principles of the code and push for further changes. Addressing the underlying issues is vital to help victims and survivors build stronger financial futures.” Lisa King, director of communications and external relations at Refuge, says: “This research confirms that economic abuse isn’t going away, and it needs to be challenged now more than ever. Each and every day, Refuge staff support women who have had their economic independence taken away from them by abusive partners. The impact on their finances continues for many years, often long after the relationship has ended. Economic abuse rarely occurs in isolation and is frequently experienced alongside physical, sexual, or psychological abuse. Refuge is greatly concerned that such a low percentage of people recognise the signs of economic abuse, meaning there are people who simply don’t realise it is happening to them. This campaign is critical in raising awareness of this form of abuse, helping to spot the signs, and ensuring policymakers sit up and pay attention. Refuge wants women who are experiencing domestic abuse to know they are not alone. Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline is free to call and available 24/7.” - ENDS - Notes to editors The Know Economic Abuse report has been made up of two elements; a nationally representative survey among 4,009 adults in the UK, conducted by Opinium between 03 and 07 February 2020, and qualitative research interviews undertaken with 14 survivors of intimate partner violence whom had accessed Refuge’s specialist services. As the results of the first survey were being analysed the Covid-19 pandemic hit the UK. We commissioned a second nationally representative survey, again carried out by Opinium. This survey repeated the key questions from the first survey on experience of economic abuse, including when the abuse started and whether any help was sought. This second survey contained additional options related to the Covid-19 pandemic, including whether economic abuse started when the survivor lost their job, saw their income reduce or were furloughed due to Covid-19. This second survey was conducted in June 2020 and was completed by 4,008 adults in the UK. To view the full research report from Refuge and The Co-operative Bank click here:   Media Contacts  Nicki Parry The Co-operative Bank Tel: 0161 201 1590 Email: nicki.parry@co-operativebank.co.uk   Lewis Wilks Lansons Tel: 0790 3260 560 Email: lewisw@lansons.com   Refuge Refuge press office Tel: 0207 395 7731 Email: press@refuge.org.uk

Refuge and Love Island star Zara McDermott take 'The Naked Threat' campaign to the gates of Parliament
Refuge and Love Island star Zara McDermott take 'The Naked Threat' campaign to the gates of Parliament

Refuge, the UKs largest domestic abuse charity, and former civil servant, and star of Love Island,  Zara McDermott take ‘The Naked Threat’ campaign  to decision makers to demand change in law. Today, Thursday 24 September, Refuge, former civil servant and Love Island star Zara McDermott, and survivor of domestic abuse Natasha Saunders, will take Refuge’s ‘The Naked Threat’ campaign to the gates of Parliament to urge the Government to ensure the Domestic Abuse Bill better protects women and girls from abuse. The campaign has already been backed by Dame Vera Baird, Victims Commissioner, as well as Nicole Jacobs, Domestic Abuse Commissioner and is now also backed by Cosmopolitan UK, which has come on board as Refuge’s official media partner for this campaign. Earlier this year, Refuge launched ‘The Naked Threat’ campaign, which calls on the Government to change the law to make threatening to share intimate images a crime. Currently, an offence is only committed once an image has been shared, meaning women experiencing these threats often face being controlled by their abusers with the threat to share an intimate image, as well as experience significant barriers when trying to access justice. Both Zara and Natasha have experienced these threats, and are championing the campaign. A representative survey, commissioned by Refuge earlier this year, found that one in 14 adults had been on the receiving end of these threats -  with young women (1 in 7) being disproportionately impacted by such a threat.  These threats were overwhelmingly made by current or former partners, making this is a domestic abuse issue, and one which should be addressed urgently through the imminent Domestic Abuse Bill. The Bill is expected to return to the House of Lords in the next few weeks Ordinarily, Refuge and Zara McDermott would be lobbying within parliament to see this simple amendment made within the Bill – but Covid-19  restrictions have prevented this so instead we’re taking a modern day ransom note to parliament to raise awareness and deliver a clear message to MPs and Peers – the law needs to change. An ad van will park outside parliament and deliver the words of Natasha’s real life threats to share experience.  Simultaneously a social-first campaign will launch taking a modern twist to traditional ransom notes. An innovative hack of Cosmopolitan’s Instagram stories will rollout – initially presenting as a harmless article which soon turns sinister, threatening Cosmo viewers with a chilling ransom note. The aim of the campaign and the social assets created is to drive supporters to sign a letter to call for a change in the law – a change that could be simple and swift and housed within the imminent Domestic Abuse Bill.  This much needed change will give protection to hundreds and thousands of women who live in our country today under the fear of the threat to share an intimate image.  The Naked Threat must be made crime – and the time to act is now. The ad van will drive past Parliament between 11am and noon . The message will run repeatedly, providing a photo and video opportunity for media, as well as interviews on site. A full suite of digital assets, created pro-bono by AMV BBDO is also available on request, strictly embargoed. Natasha Saunders, survivor of domestic abuse said: “The abuse I suffered at the hands of my ex was horrific. Not only did he physically abuse me, I also suffered rape, and threats to share intimate images.  I know only too well that these threats are not isolated incidents and are so often used as further methods of control. I was absolutely terrified these images would be shared with my family and publicly. The threat of them being shared was my worst nightmare – and meant I had no choice but to comply with my ex partner’s continued abuse or face potential shame and humiliation.” Ellie Butt, head of policy and public affairs at Refuge said: “Today, we are sending a strong message to Government – change the law and protect women and girls from the threat to share intimate images. Threatening to share intimate and sexual images and  videos is another tool a perpetrator has in his toolbox to abuse. The law has yet to recognise this devastating form of abuse. Our survey found that 83% of women who experienced these threats said it impacted their mental health and wellbeing, with more than 1 in 10 feeling suicidal as a result of the threat and 1 in 7 felt more at risk of physical violence.  These statistics should send a stark warning and a clear message to Government – act now to change the law and help protect women and girls from this form of ever increasing pernicious abuse.” Zara McDermott said: “I am so pleased to support Refuge with this important campaign. I’ve been on the receiving end of ‘revenge porn’ and know exactly how damaging it can be. I’ve heard from countless other women that they too have had similar experiences. This change in the law really could make a difference to the lives of so many women. . I used to work within the walls of Parliament, and now I’m outside, lending my voice to strengthen the call, to ensure women receive the protection they deserve.   I hope that the Government will hear our message loud and clear and push for the changes we are asking for -  a swift and simple amendment to the law really could make a difference.” Claire Hodgson, editor-in-chief, Cosmopolitan UK said: “When we learned that one in seven young women will face this threat, we knew we had to get behind the campaign. These are our readers, who every day, will be living in fear, the impact hanging over them – and affecting their mental health and feeling of safety. Which is why we’ve teamed up with Refuge, as their media partner, to call for the law to be changed and make this very real threat illegal.” ENDS Editors notes. Creative assets, kindly produced pro bono by agency AMV BBDO -  available on request including animation for digital media use. Refuge is incredibly grateful to AMV BBDO for their support. Media can only attend by appointment due to strict social distancing rules -  masks must be worn at all times -  please contact the press office to reserve a slot. For more information contact press@refuge.org.uk Join the campaign here. Read the report.

Refuge statement on Eastenders domestic abuse storyline
Refuge statement on Eastenders domestic abuse storyline

In response to the murder of Chantelle Atkins by her husband Gray in Eastenders, Lisa King, director of communications and external relations at national domestic abuse charity Refuge said: ‘The scenes we have seen take place in Eastenders over the last few months are sadly reflective of what Refuge sees every single day. Women being controlled, abused, and in some instances killed by their abusive partners. Women’s lives being lost to male violence, while friends and family members are left to grieve having felt powerless to stop the abuse, or being unaware it was even happening. The team at Eastenders has done a great job reflecting on screen what is a horrific reality for so many families . Refuge has helped to support the development of these storylines which is important. Soaps are a cornerstone of our society and it is vital that they reflect what happens across the country and in our society today. Domestic abuse is the biggest issue facing women and girls and storylines like Chantelle’s, while painful to watch, are key to ensuring we continue to shine a light on domestic abuse and do everything we can to support women who need help. The behaviours displayed by Gray - controlling, monitoring Chantelle’s every move, trying to isolate her from her friends and family, tracking her movements, spying on her, manipulating the children, as well as the physical abuse she is subjected to - are all tactics that abusive partners use frequently. They are designed to exert maximum control and to prevent women from leaving. What we also know is that leaving an abusive partner is the most dangerous time for women - and is when the majority of domestic homicides occur. Once a woman threatens to leave, her abusive partner might feel his control slipping, and this can, and does, result in the murder of women across the country. 2 women a week are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales - a statistic which should horrify us all. The timing of this storyline, whilst brutal, is relevant. Any day now the Domestic Abuse Bill will return to Parliament giving the Government a real opportunity to protect and save the lives of abused women and children in this country. We hope that they will ensure it is as bold and transformative as it has the potential to be. Women’s lives, women just like Chantelle, depend on it.'

Refuge responds to Revenge Porn Helpline recording record number of calls
Refuge responds to Revenge Porn Helpline recording record number of calls

Lisa King, director of communications and external affairs at Refuge said: "These statistics are as concerning as they are horrifying – but sadly reiterates what Refuge knows only too well -  that sharing, or threatening to share, intimate images or videos is a huge issue impacting women and girls across the country." "Our The Naked Threat report showed that one in seven young women have been threatened with sharing an intimate image or film. At the moment threatening to share intimate images is not yet a crime and means millions of women  have been controlled and coerced by their abusers and are made to live with the fear that this might happen to them.  Until this threat is made a crime perpetrators of this form of abuse  will remain at large and women stand little to no chance of accessing support from the police.  This must change." "Refuge, through its The Naked Threat campaign, is calling for the Government, through the upcoming Domestic Abuse Bill, to make this legal change a reality – and in so doing give abused women and girls the protection they so desperately need and deserve." For further information, please contact press@refuge.org.uk.

Refuge responds to the latest CPS rape and domestic abuse statistics.
Refuge responds to the latest CPS rape and domestic abuse statistics.

Refuge, the UK’s largest provider of specialist domestic abuse services, responds to the latest CPS rape and domestic abuse statistics. In response to the release today of rape and domestic abuse statistics from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), Lisa King of national domestic abuse charity Refuge said: ‘Refuge is extremely concerned by these disappointing and alarming statistics. Once again, rape convictions have reached a record low. Survivors are being failed on all sides by both police and the CPS, with an 18.6% drop in the number of cases being referred by the police to the CPS compared to last year, and the number of convictions falling by 25%. Rape convictions are now at their lowest level since 2007. ‘Police referrals for domestic abuse cases dropped by 21%, which is shocking in light of the Government’s public statements regarding their commitment to tackling domestic abuse. Only 20% of the survivors Refuge supports report the abuse they have experienced to the police, meaning today’s statistics represent only a fraction of the trauma survivors face on a daily basis. ‘What message does this send to women and girls who have been subjected to this horrific abuse? How are survivors of domestic abuse, rape and sexual assault expected to have faith in the criminal justice system? ‘While Refuge welcomes efforts by the CPS to improve the number of rape convictions, we need to see comprehensive reform to the criminal justice system, both to the police and the damaging culture around reporting and prosecuting rape. ‘The Covid-19 crisis has magnified the terrifying reality facing countless victims who are trapped with abusive partners and these statistics are a wake-up call for the criminal justice system. Now more than ever women need a robust criminal justice response and must have the confidence in the system to treat domestic abuse as serious crime.’ For further information, please contact press@refuge.org.uk.

Sandra Horley CBE is retiring after 37 years as the Chief Executive of Refuge
Sandra Horley CBE is retiring after 37 years as the Chief Executive of Refuge

Sandra Horley CBE is retiring after 37 years as the Chief Executive and Company Secretary of Refuge at the end of October and stepping down from CEO duties with immediate effect due to planned leave. Sandra has led Refuge since 1983, tirelessly working for the needs of women and children escaping domestic abuse and other forms of gender based violence. Sandra was awarded an OBE in 1999 ‘for services to the protection of women and children’ and CBE in 2011 ‘for services to the prevention of domestic violence.’ These notable awards illustrate her remarkable contribution to the country in placing the issues of domestic abuse and other forms of gender based violence at the forefront of society. Under Sandra’s direction and leadership over the last 37 years, Refuge as an organisation has grown from strength to strength and achieved outstanding success in becoming a credible expert in the sector and a vital support for women and children experiencing domestic abuse. We are the largest single provider of services in the UK, supporting over 6,500 survivors every day, through a 400 strong team of staff and volunteers. Sandra Horley says: “Now is the right time for me to retire from Refuge. I am proud to have led the charity over the last 37 years. It is now established as the leading service provider in this country for those fleeing domestic abuse and other forms of gender based violence. It has also been at the forefront of the campaign to change social attitudes to these issues.” On behalf of the Board and the entire staff team, the Chair, Hetti Barkworth-Nanton says: “I want to thank Sandra for her long and renowned career with Refuge and her unwavering support for the many women and children she has helped over the years. It’s an incredible achievement, devoting so much of her career and energy to a cause that we all care about so much. I wish her my very best wishes for the future and, as a Board alongside all of our staff and volunteers, we will do our absolute best to build on her legacy so Refuge can increase the support we provide for women and children escaping domestic abuse.” Refuge’s Board of Trustees will now start recruiting for a new CEO. In the meantime, the Board has appointed an experienced leader, Carole Easton, as the interim CEO. Carole will work closely with the Board and the Senior Management Team to continue delivering lifesaving services to the women and children we work with. For further information, please contact Carole Easton on carole_easton@refuge.org.uk. For all media/communications queries, please contact press@refuge.org.uk.

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.

Refuge responds to Government announcement of a £76 million fund to support the 'most vulnerable'
Refuge responds to Government announcement of a £76 million fund to support the 'most vulnerable'

In response to the Government’s announcement today of a £76m fund to support the ‘most vulnerable’, Sandra Horley CBE, Chief Executive of national domestic abuse charity Refuge said: “Refuge welcomes the Government’s announcement today to pledge further funds to specialist organisations working to address domestic abuse. This funding will help support frontline services at a time when they are needed more than ever.  Refuge has seen demand for its services increase significantly since the necessary lockdown measures were announced -  Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline has seen demand rise by around 50%, indicating the sheer numbers of women who need support. Refuge is pleased also to hear the Government announce that women escaping domestic abuse will be recognised as requiring priority housing. Refuge has long argued that the previous housing requirement to show an ‘additional vulnerability’ risked women having to make an unthinkable decision -  to stay with an abusive partner or risk homelessness. We hope this announcement will come into effect quickly and we stand ready to work with the Government to ensure swift implementation. The funding measures announced today are of particular importance to both specialist accommodation based services and community outreach.  The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) announcement of a £10 million fund for safe accommodation services offers a lifeline to refuges during this crisis. Frontline services have been decimated through years of austerity cuts and the current crisis has had a huge impact on these life-saving and life-changing services. It is crucial that everything possible is done to ensure refuge accommodation services remain safe and remain open. The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) funding to support community based  services will also provide much needed support at a time when these services look for different ways to meet demand. We look forward to hearing more detail from the Government on how this will be allocated and prioritised. The package of funds is welcome – and will help to plug some of the gaps left by a decade of austerity cuts. In addition to funding, we look forward to working with the Government to make legislative change -  starting with ensuring that the Domestic Abuse Bill, which earlier this week returned to Parliament for its second reading, is as bold and transformative as it has the potential to be. Ensuring policy change in parallel with increased funding will make a huge difference to the lives of the thousands of women and children Refuge supports on any given day. With two women a week in England and Wales killed by a current or former partner and almost one in three women experiencing domestic abuse at some point in their lives, Refuge knows just how urgent these changes are. Women’s lives depend on them becoming a reality”. Spokespeople available on request. Please contact the press office on 0207 395 7731 or email press@refuge.org.uk.

Peter Blake and the Paul Stolper Gallery support Refuge
Peter Blake and the Paul Stolper Gallery support Refuge

One of Peter Blake’s ‘Rainbow Target’ to be sold in aid of UKs largest single provider of specialist domestic abuse service’s Refuge. On Friday 1 May a ’Rainbow Target’ by Peter Blake will be sold via through the Paul Stolper Gallery, during the London Original Print Fair. 100% of the proceeds will be given to charity, 50% of which will be donated to Refuge in a generous gift from the artist and gallery. Since lockdown began, Refuge has seen a spike in calls to its National Domestic Abuse Helpline of around 50%. This shows the sheer numbers of women living with abusive partners and the need for specialist services. Blake, who rose to prominence painting the sleeve to ‘Seargent Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band’, one of the most iconic album covers of all time, and Stolper, who runs the Paul Stolper Gallery, wanted to show their support for Refuge during lockdown after seeing media coverage of the numbers of women contacting Refuge’s Helpline needing support. Paul Stolper, owner of the Paul Stolper Gallery said: ‘Peter and I were really keen to do something, and this was a simple way in which we could show our support. Refuge have experienced a large spike in calls and we know that the lockdown is having cost implications for Charities across the Board. I wanted to support a charity that was directly supporting women and children. That made my decision to support Refuge an easy one.' Sandra Horley, CBE, Chief Executive at Refuge said: ‘Refuge is incredibly grateful to Paul and Peter for their generosity. Every donation we receive ensures we can support abused women and children across the country who are living in fear.“‘ ENDS For more info please see @paulstolpergallery IG // @paulstolper Twitter

Refuge responds to the second reading of the Domestic Abuse Bill
Refuge responds to the second reading of the Domestic Abuse Bill

In response to the second reading of the Domestic Abuse Bill in Parliament today, Sandra Horley CBE, Chief Executive of national domestic abuse charity Refuge said: “Refuge is delighted that the Bill returned to Parliament today for its second reading, and that the ‘virtual Parliament’ system allowed a lengthy debate where MPs from all parties were able to raise issues of great concern to Refuge and the women we support. The Bill, which was delayed following the snap election last year, is a product of many years hard work. We thank all those MPs who spoke passionately today, and helped ensure change will be achieved through this Bill Refuge agrees with all the MPs who welcomed the Bill, but urged that it be strengthened so that it makes a significant positive difference to the lives of survivors of abuse. Of particular importance today were the calls to fund specialist services for survivors of domestic abuse. Austerity cuts over the last decade have decimated specialist services. The current Covid-19 crisis has shone a light on the need for specialist services and Refuge is hopeful that the Government will move quickly to implement its commitment to a legal duty to fund refuges with enough funding to ensure that no women or child is ever turned away. We also hope that the Bill will provide solutions to the many difficulties women face when trying to access emergency safe housing. No woman should ever be forced to make a choice between facing homelessness or staying with an abusive partner. Also significant today were the repeated references to the Domestic Abuse Bill needing to include a gendered definition of abuse. While of course anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse, we know that the overwhelming majority of victims are women with the overall majority of perpetrators being men. Domestic Abuse is rooted in power and control, and in gender inequality. It is vital that the Domestic Abuse Bill reflects this reality. Many MPs raised the impact of economic abuse and the need for the benefits system to support women experiencing abuse. We strongly support the calls for Universal Credit to be reformed so that separate payments are made by default. Protecting women with insecure immigration status must also form a key part of the Domestic Abuse Bill. No woman should feel afraid to seek help because of her immigration status and no woman should be denied support because she has no recourse to public funds. Whilst the additional funding for women with no recourse funds is very welcome, we argue that the suggested pilot is not needed and the Government should act to protect migrant women with immediate effect in this Bill. We know there are many MPs who are working so that this forms part of the Bill and we extend them our thanks. It was encouraging to hear MPs speak out today about the ‘rough sex’ defence. No woman can ever consent to harm, and this defence has long been used to try and excuse acts of violence because they occurred during sex. It is crucial that the Bill commits to outlawing the ‘rough sex’ defence. We also hope that the Bill will make the threats to share intimate images a crime -  which it currently is not – and can be used as a further tool of control by perpetrators. For the last three weeks, Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline has seen a consistent increase in demand of 45-50%, demonstrating the sheer scale of domestic abuse and of women needing our help. With public awareness of domestic abuse heightened now more than ever, the time for a bold Government response has never been more necessary. Across England and Wales two women every week are killed by a current or former partner and almost one in three women between 16-59 will experience domestic abuse at some time in their life. The need for a Bill which is strong and transformative has never been greater. Women’s lives depend on it.” Spokespeople available on request. Please contact the press office on 0207 395 7731 or email press@refuge.org.uk.

Refuge response to Home Affairs Select Committee report on domestic abuse during Covid-19
Refuge response to Home Affairs Select Committee report on domestic abuse during Covid-19

In response to the Home Affairs Select Committee report on domestic abuse during Covid-19, Sandra Horley CBE, Chief Executive of national domestic abuse charity Refuge said: ‘Refuge welcomes the publication of this important report, which highlights the huge risk that women living with abusive partners face during lockdown. The stay at home measures are of course a critical part of the Government’s strategy to save lives during this crisis, but it is important to look at the implications of those measures when home is not a safe place. For many women isolating with an abusive partner is a matter of life and death – in a very different way. Refuge knows first-hand the huge need for specialist frontline services across the country - calls to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, run by Refuge, have spiked significantly during the lockdown - seeing an on average increase of around 50% in calls and over 400% in visits to its website since lockdown measures began. Refuge strongly supports the Committee’s recommendation to increase refuge capacity and funding for specialist services. Cuts since 2010 have decimated frontline services and the need for increased funding and more services has never been greater. All women who need to escape during lockdown and beyond must be assured of a safe place to stay with specialist support - and this must include ensuring provision for those with insecure immigration status. No woman should be denied safety because she has no recourse to public funds. The recommendations given by the Committee are sensible, realistic and would make a significant difference to the women and children we support. What is needed now is a coordinated Government strategy to implement them with urgency. In parallel, the Domestic Abuse Bill, which comes back to Parliament this week for its second reading, gives a perfect opportunity for quick action and implementation in law. Refuge is hopeful that the Government will implement a strategy which prioritises the legal duty to provide refuges and which incorporates the recommendations from the Committee’s report, as well as both oral and written evidence provided by Refuge. Across England and Wales two women every week are killed by a current or former partner and almost one in three women aged between 16-59 will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime. Refuge stands ready to work closely with the Government. Now, more than ever, we need a robust and bold response. Women’s lives depend on it.' Spokespeople available on request. Please contact the press office on 0207 395 7731 or email press@refuge.org.uk.

Refuge response to Domestic Abuse Bill second reading announcement
Refuge response to Domestic Abuse Bill second reading announcement

In response to the announcement that the Domestic Abuse Bill will return to Parliament on Tuesday 28th April, Sandra Horley CBE, Chief Executive of Refuge said: “Refuge is pleased that the Domestic Abuse Bill, which was delayed as a result of the snap election last year, is set to return to Parliament for its second reading. The Bill, many years in the making, is the product of hard work across the women’s sector and its need has never been greater. The last few weeks - as the UK has been under necessary strict lockdown measures - have highlighted more than ever just how many women are at risk of domestic abuse and the stark need for specialist services. On one day alone, Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline saw a 120% increase in calls, whilst our website www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk saw a 700% increase when compared to the previous day. Refuge is hopeful that the Bill will be truly transformative, bold and will address the funding shortfalls that specialist services have seen over the last 10 years. This is an unique opportunity to transform society’s response to domestic abuse, to ensure survivors are able to access the support that they need and rebuild their lives free from violence and fear. Public awareness of domestic abuse has never been higher. This is surely the time for the Government to be ambitious in its response. Lockdown is a reminder that when women need to flee abusive partners, that there must be somewhere safe and secure for them to go. Ensuring refuge accommodation is properly funded across the country and prioritised in the Domestic Abuse Bill will be first step to ensuring no woman or child is ever turned away. The Government can achieve this by committing to fully funding its new legal duty to provide refuges. Across England and Wales two women every week are killed by a current or former partner. Almost one in three women aged between 16-59 will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lives. The need for specialist services has never been greater, and Refuge hopes the Government is able to cement its commitment to addressing domestic abuse by ensuring the Bill is as strong and transformative as it has the potential to be. Women’s lives depend on it.” ENDS

Refuge response to Home Secretary announcement of support for domestic abuse victims
Refuge response to Home Secretary announcement of support for domestic abuse victims

Sandra Horley, CBE, chief executive of national domestic abuse charity Refuge says: “Refuge welcomes the Government’s support at this critical time. We have worked around the clock to ensure our frontline specialist services remain open and accessible to women experiencing domestic abuse. “Last week, following a targeted media push, on Monday 6th April, calls to Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline soared by 120% and visits to our Helpline website rose by a phenomenal 700% compared to the previous day. This demonstrates the sheer scale of need for frontline domestic abuse services. “What is needed now, more than ever, is to ensure every woman experiencing domestic abuse is aware of the confidential support available. Women are not alone. Refuge stands with you today, tomorrow and in the future. If you need support, you can call free, anytime of day or night on 0808 2000 247. For further information visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk where you can let us know a safe time to contact you. “We hope the Government’s campaign will reach the tens of thousands of women experiencing domestic abuse. Refuge is here to provide confidential help and support - you are not alone.” Spokespeople available on request. Please contact the press office on 0207 395 7731 or email press@refuge.org.uk. Editors notes: Refuge has issued a guide for survivors, which is here.

Refuge sees online traffic to its National Domestic Abuse Helpline website rise by 700%.
Refuge sees online traffic to its National Domestic Abuse Helpline website rise by 700%.

Following a media push to ensure women experiencing domestic abuse know how they can access help and support during periods of lockdown, Sandra Horley CBE, Chief Executive of national domestic abuse charity Refuge said: “We have today reviewed the statistics for the National Domestic Abuse Helpline website, run by Refuge. Traffic to this website, designed by survivors for survivors and which contains valuable information for women on how they can access life-saving support rose by 700% on Monday compared with the previous day. In fact the website visits on Monday alone were greater than the combined number for the previous five days. The website, a critical function of Refuge’s Helpline also contains a webform in which survivors can request a safe time to be contacted. What this shows us is, as we anticipated, women under lockdown who are experiencing domestic abuse are finding the window in which to call us - already ordinarily very limited - has further reduced, and are seeking support online. Whilst we have also seen calls and contacts to our National Domestic Abuse Helpline sharply rise, the spike in visits to ‪‪nationaldahelpline.org.uk have been phenomenal and shows us that women are turning to Refuge’s digital tools and resources as a way to get in contact with us and access critical information. We hope that around the country women will be reassured to know that even during these unprecedented times, Refuge is there for them. With one in three women across England and Wales between 16-59 experiencing domestic abuse at some point in there lives, it’s never been more important to know the National Domestic Abuse Helpline details - ‪0808 2000 247 / ‪http://www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk/. Please share these details as widely as you can. Women’s lives depend on it.” Spokespeople available on request. Please contact the press office on 0207 395 7731 or email press@refuge.org.uk.

Refuge sees calls and contacts to  National Domestic Abuse Helpline rise by 120% overnight.
Refuge sees calls and contacts to National Domestic Abuse Helpline rise by 120% overnight.

Refuge, the UKs largest domestic abuse charity, sees calls and contacts to its National Domestic Abuse Helpline rise by 120% overnight. Following significant media coverage of Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline, calls and contacts logged on the 06th April were up by 120% compared to the previous day. While this dramatic increase shows that more women are asking for support during lockdown it is important to recognise that lockdown itself is not a cause of domestic abuse. Domestic abuse is rooted in power and control and stems from gender inequality. It does not occur by appointment – it happens all year round. We know that abusers systematically isolate their wives and partners. During lockdown this may be exacerbated with abusers using isolation as a tool of abuse. The increase in calls and contacts to the helpline demonstrates why, more than ever, women need access to immediate help and support. However, Refuge’s concerns remain that women may find it more challenging to call for help during periods of protracted isolation. The true number of women experiencing domestic abuse is likely to be much higher and is why Refuge has also developed an online webform which women can use to access support if they are unable to call. This webform allows women to specify a safe time in which they can be contacted. Sandra Horley CBE, Chief Executive of Refuge said: ‘On Monday, Refuge released the first set of statistics which indicated an average increase in calls and contacts to its National Domestic Abuse Helpline of 25% since the UK entered lockdown measures. After significant media coverage directing women to Refuge’s Helpline, our statistics show that the number of calls we logged increased by 120%. This is an enormous increase which underscores what we already know - domestic abuse is a scourge on society and must be addressed. Two women a week are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales. Domestic abuse is a crime and it must be addressed. We know that some forms of abuse are not as widely recognised as others. Domestic abuse is not just physical violence - it can be misuse of technology, economic abuse and coercive control. We hope that women seeing our public communications will feel reassured and supported and recognise that what they are experiencing is against the law and not acceptable. Women are not alone and Refuge is here to provide support. Domestic abuse is a crime, and it is a choice a man makes. Only he is responsible for changing his violent behaviour. We extend our thanks to media outlets who have diligently helped Refuge to make sure as many women as possible know the number for its National Domestic Abuse Helpline. 0808 2000 247 can save lives and we want every woman across the country to know that Refuge is providing round the clock support” Natasha Saunders, a domestic abuse survivor who accessed the Helpline said: “Living with my ex was like being inside a prison. He raped me repeatedly and he tried to control every aspect of my life. I can’t imagine being in this lockdown with him. Home was not a safe place for me - and it’s not a safe place for thousands of women living with abusive partners. I understand the panic, fear and claustrophobia these women must be feeling at the moment, but help and support is out there. With the support of the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, run by Refuge, I was able to leave my ex-husband and start a new life with my family. The female adviser on the phone reminded me that I wasn’t alone. She validated my concerns and the abuse I was experiencing. She gave me the courage to phone the police and ultimately saved my life. If you’re living with abuse during this pandemic, please know that you are not alone. The Helpline is there 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. All you need to do is call.” If you need support, you can call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, run by Refuge, any time of day. At the start of lockdown procedures being announced, Refuge undertook a huge technological operation and moved its entire Helpline, usually located in a cyber secure office environment, to an entirely remote system. This happened quickly and smoothly. Refuge has a full team working round the clock to ensure as many women as possible who need support are able to access it. Almost one in three women across England and Wales, aged between 16-59, will experience domestic abuse at some point during their lifetime. Now, more than ever, women need to know that confidential help and support is available and that Refuge stands with them today, tomorrow and in the future. Victims of domestic abuse are not alone. Spokespeople available on request. Please contact the press office on 0207 395 7731 or email press@refuge.org.uk.