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Press releases

New VAWG strategy must be backed up with sustainable funding, says Refuge
New VAWG strategy must be backed up with sustainable funding, says Refuge

In response to the Government's new violence against women and girls (VAWG) strategy launched today (6 March, 2019), our chief executive, Sandra Horley, says: “Refuge welcomes the Government’s refreshed Violence Against Women and Girls strategy and its ongoing commitment to address violence and abuse; an issue which is experienced by one woman in four across the country and over 800,000 children every year. “Refuge has been a lead voice in highlighting the pervasive and pernicious nature of technological abuse experienced by so many women and is heart-warmed to see the Government giving this issue more attention in today’s strategy. Given almost all of the 6,500 women and children Refuge supports every day share experiences of tech abuse, this is welcome news. “Equally pleasing is the Government’s recognition of the need to provide more support to women who experience sexual abuse; around one third of women who accessed our services in 2018 experienced sexual violence, with disclosure of sexual abuse growing year to year. “We look forward to working with the Government to bring this new strategy to bear but would urge the Government to share its plans on how not only new but current specialist services for women who experience violence will be funded. As we progress our work to build and shape the Domestic Abuse Bill, Refuge will be championing the need for increased funding to be injected into specialist services; funding which has decreased year on year. Without adequate specialist support, such as services like women’s refuges, women may be forced to stay with their violent partner, unable to escape abuse and fear. “ Find out more about the Government's VAWG strategy. For more information, please email press@refuge.org.uk or call 0207 395 7731. Outside of working hours, please call 07970 894240.

Refuge statement on the HMICFRS police response to domestic abuse update report 2019
Refuge statement on the HMICFRS police response to domestic abuse update report 2019

Today (26 February, 2019) Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Fire and Rescue Service (HMICFRS) published an update report on the police response to domestic abuse. “Five years since the first report on police responses to domestic violence, the findings of the latest inspection sadly show there is still significant room for improvement. One in four women in the UK continue to be affected by domestic abuse in their lifetime, and two women are still killed by current or former partners every week in England and Wales,” said Sandra Horley CBE, Chief Executive of Refuge. “It is important to note that there have been some reported improvements over the last five years, however the reality remains that the system continues to fail many domestic abuse victims.” While there has been a rise in reported domestic abuse, in part due to increased reporting by victims and better recording by police, the fact that arrests for domestic abuse crimes have fallen across 23 police forces is of grave concern to Refuge. This drop in arrests is all the more worrying, given that it was raised as a major issue in the last report in 2017. Equally alarming is the impact of recent changes to the Bail Act, which have resulted in a decrease in the use of police bail and, subsequently, had negative consequences for domestic abuse victims. Ms. Horley said: “The number of suspects being released on bail for domestic abuse crimes has dropped by a staggering 65%. Some Refuge services are reporting fewer cases where the police have applied bail conditions, leaving victims at considerable risk of further violence and intimidation. If perpetrators are being allowed to walk away with no restrictions in place, victims of domestic abuse are not being offered the police protection they deserve.” “Many of the women we support on a daily basis tell us they simply don’t go to the police because they fear they won’t be believed or it won’t make a difference. Many more tell us the criminal justice system is too complex, intimidating or is unlikely to bring them justice. Today’s report is a sad indictment of the poor treatment many victims receive when they are at their most vulnerable and need the protection of the police the most. We must ensure that all reports of domestic abuse are taken seriously, survivors feel protected and supported, and a strong message is sent to perpetrators that abuse will not be tolerated,” said Ms. Horley Read the full report here. For more information, please email press@refuge.org.uk or call 0207 395 7731. Outside of working hours, please call 07970 894240.

Refuge supports Sally Challen’s murder conviction appeal
Refuge supports Sally Challen’s murder conviction appeal

In 2011 Sally Challen was convicted of murdering her husband, Richard, and has since been serving an 18-year prison sentence. Yet, in light of a change in the law in 2015 recognising coercive control as a crime, Sally’s conviction will now be reviewed by the Court of Appeal on 27 February 2019. This landmark appeal could set a precedent in terms of recognising the psychological impact of coercive control on victims. In response to the appeal, Refuge’s CEO Sandra Horley, said: “One in four women in the UK from all walks of life will experience domestic abuse. You don’t have to hit a woman to control her. Abuse is often subtle, insidious and incremental. In 2017-18, eight out of ten of the women supported by Refuge had suffered years of psychological abuse. They reported instances of extreme jealousy and possessiveness, monitoring their movements, their partners controlling their money, humiliating them in front of family and friends. Many victims don’t feel they will be believed, are too frightened to leave their partner, don’t know where to get help and live in fear for their lives. Sally Challen’s family describe how she was controlled and isolated from them and their father created a climate of fear and dependency. Courts need to take into account the impact of psychological harm caused to the victim, especially in cases involving coercive control.” For more information, please email press@refuge.org.uk or call 0207 395 7731. Outside of working hours, please call 07970 894240.

Refuge’s new reversible poem highlights controlling behaviour and domestic violence ahead of Valentine's Day
Refuge’s new reversible poem highlights controlling behaviour and domestic violence ahead of Valentine's Day

In the lead-up to Valentine’s Day, hard-hitting reversible poem shines a spotlight on controlling behaviour and domestic violence to offer support to women The poem tells a harrowing domestic abuse tale when read in reverse order 13 February, 2018: Refuge, the UK’s largest domestic violence charity, has created a chilling poem that tells the story of a woman who has experienced domestic violence at the hands of an abusive man. Following a successful Christmas campaign, Refuge has published a reversible poem to emphasise the severity and pervasiveness of domestic violence on Valentine’s Day, and draw attention to the various forms it can take. Even now, one in four women experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Two women a week are killed at the hands of a partner or ex-partner in England and Wales. And on average, another three women a week commit suicide as a way of escape. Furthermore, in 2018, eight out of 10 women Refuge supported had suffered psychological abuse for an average period of six years. Read one way, the poem tells the story of a whirlwind romance, but when read in reverse it depicts the terrifying reality of living with a perpetrator of domestic violence. The campaign, created for Refuge by advertising agency McCann Bristol, aims to raise awareness of the hidden, insidious nature of domestic violence, and lets victims know that, when their partner ‘turns’ and becomes controlling, they can turn to Refuge for the support they need to escape and rebuild their lives. Refuge believes that no-one should have to live in fear of violence and abuse. On any given day Refuge supports more than 6,500 survivors, helping them to escape violence and fear and rebuild their lives. Natasha Saunders, who suffered domestic abuse for eight years at the hands of her ex-husband, says: “I lived with the fear of violence every day for a decade, but the run up to Valentine’s always brought a new pressure and I dreaded the day. I was subjected to emotional abuse as nothing I did was good enough; he’d tell me there weren’t enough endearments on the Valentine’s Day card, the present wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t smiling enough, and so on. The day always ended with an argument, followed by more physical, emotional and sexual abuse. I hope that anyone reading these poems on Valentine’s Day turns to Refuge, as I did – reaching out really could save a life.” Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of Refuge, says: “For many, Valentine’s Day is a time to enjoy being with a partner. However, thousands of women and children will be spending this Valentine’s Day, like every other day of the year, in fear and terror. Refuge is urging anyone who is experiencing abuse today, or any day of the year, to reach out and access support. Remember, you are not alone – Refuge is here to support you in confidence.” Click on the thumbnail image below to read the poem in full. Get help now. If your partner turns on you, turn to us. If you are in need of support please visit our support pages. For more information, please email press@refuge.org.uk or call 0207 395 7731. Outside of working hours, please call 07970 894240.

Immense cost of domestic abuse to the British taxpayer revealed
Immense cost of domestic abuse to the British taxpayer revealed

Refuge, the national domestic abuse charity, welcomes the draft Bill announced by the Government today and is pleased to see that it reflects many of the concerns of survivors of abuse and those working with them. “Refuge staff deal with the human misery of domestic violence every day. The cost to women and children’s lives is devastating. But now the immense cost to the taxpayer has been laid bare, too. Domestic violence is truly everybody’s business,” said Sandra Horley CBE, Chief Executive of Refuge. Sadly, though, it comes as no surprise to Refuge that domestic abuse is costing the British public £66 billion per year. Refuge staff know only too well the scale and hidden nature of domestic abuse in the country, with 1 in 4 women affected during their lifetime. Every day they see the devastating and long-lasting impact on survivors and their children. Domestic abuse affects women from all walks of life, much of it non-physical abuse. All too often domestic violence is still seen as a private matter. In addition to a tougher criminal justice response, we need to raise awareness of the different forms of abuse, challenge the root causes which lie in gender inequality and male control over women, and ensure sustainable funding for services to protect survivors. “This Bill represents a once in a generation opportunity to address domestic violence; but in order to do so, we must ensure its aspirations are matched by adequate resource”, said Ms. Horley. Refuge recognises the many positive provisions in the draft Bill. We applaud the Government for taking action to end cross-examination of victims by perpetrators in the family courts. Recognising the plight of abused women whose immigration status excludes them from accessing state services is also a critical step in the right direction. We welcome the inclusion of economic abuse in the Government's definition of domestic abuse. Refuge has been highlighting this issue for years, economic abuse has a crippling impact on victims and prevents many from leaving their abuser. We are also delighted that, alongside the Bill, the Government will be working on funding options for accommodation. Specialist services, including refuges, are essential to saving survivors' lives and helping them regain control of their lives. But the Government must go further and tackle some of the critical problems Refuge staff see on a daily basis, such as housing and quick access to welfare support for survivors when they flee abuse. If its aim of 'transforming the response to domestic abuse' is to be achieved, more investment will be required. Refuge will continue to work closely with the Government to ensure the final Bill truly meets the needs of the women and children we support. For more information or interviews with a spokesperson or case study, please contact press@refuge.org.uk

Government takes on board concerns around Universal Credit but must go further
Government takes on board concerns around Universal Credit but must go further

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Amber Rudd announced today that Universal Credit payments will now go to the main carer in a household, following campaigning from Refuge and other women's organisations highlighting the risks that existing universal credit policies present for survivors of domestic violence. Sandra Horley CBE, Chief Executive of Refuge, said: “Refuge welcomes the Secretary of State's decision to scrap the extension of the two child limit and to pay Universal Credit payments to the main carer in a household. We are delighted to see the Government has taken on board the concerns of our frontline staff and of the women we support. The changes announced today will mitigate some of the negative impacts of Universal Credit, but there is still further to go. Refuge urges the Government to make single payments the default for all couples, end the two child limit in its entirety, and make advance benefit payments for survivors as grants, rather than loans.”

Major domestic violence awareness raising campaign crescendos on Christmas Eve with new film, radio and digital creative
Major domestic violence awareness raising campaign crescendos on Christmas Eve with new film, radio and digital creative

Refuge, the UK’s largest domestic violence charity, launches a second phase of its major domestic violence awareness raising campaign at Christmas. Earlier this month, a series of poems were unveiled. The poems, when read top to bottom appear as ‘standard’ poems; but when read in reverse, bottom to top, reveal a chilling story about domestic abuse. Since the launch, the poems have received unprecedented media and digital exposure, gaining support from high profile individuals such as Paloma Faith, Nicola Roberts, London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Richard Herring, amongst others. To continue to spotlight domestic violence and reach even more women and children in need, the chilling poems have now been adapted into three new formats. Two powerful short films, Mistletoe and Auld Lang Syne*, a radio advert (read by long-standing supporter Maxine Peake) and an innovative mobile version have been unveiled today. Maxine Peake’s radio ad will air on Planet Rock and Heart Radio between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. One of the short films will premiere on Sky1 on Christmas Day during James Cordon’s Carpool Karaoke. Listen to the ad below and download it here   The interactive mobile versions of the Mistletoe, Christmas Eve and Auld Lang Syne poems should be viewed on a mobile device. When a device is flipped 180 degrees the poems reverse to reveal the domestic violence message. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the hidden, insidious nature of domestic violence, and let victims know that, when their partner ‘turns’ and becomes controlling, they can turn to Refuge for the support they need to escape and rebuild their lives. Even now, in 2018, one in four women experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Two women a week are killed at the hands of a partner or ex-partner in England and Wales. And on average, another three women a week commit suicide as a way of escape. Maxine said: “I’m delighted to support Refuge’s Christmas campaign to raise awareness of the terrifying reality that women and children face when they live with a perpetrator of domestic violence. “Nobody should have to live in fear in their own home at any time of the year, but for those who do, it’s a relief to know that they can turn to Refuge’s services throughout the country and know that they will be listened to, believed and supported to rebuild their lives free from violence and coercion.” Refuge believes that no-one should have to live in fear of violence and abuse. On any given day Refuge supports more than 6,500 survivors, helping them to escape violence and fear and rebuild their lives. Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of Refuge, says: “Two women are killed by their current or former partners every week in England and Wales alone. Domestic abuse is the biggest issue affecting women and children in this country today – it really is a life and death issue. Yet still too few women know how to spot the signs of domestic violence, realise that domestic abuse is a crime or know that Refuge is here to support them. “Domestic violence happens all year round – including at Christmas. We want women to know that no matter what time of year, no one should suffer in silence and they should ‘turn’ to us for support.” Get help now. If your partner turns on you, turn to us. If you are in need of support please use the information on our website. For more information, please email press@refuge.org.uk or call 0207 395 7731 | 07970 894240 (out of hours) *The TV adverts will premiere on Sky1 on Christmas Day during James Cordon’s Carpool Karaoke. Award-winning director Steve Reeves of Another Film Company created the two powerful 60-second films shot on one continuous rolling film

Femicide Census tells a ‘disturbing but familiar’ story
Femicide Census tells a ‘disturbing but familiar’ story

The latest Femicide Census report, published in December 2018, reveals that 139 women were killed by men in the UK in 2017, and 42% of cases featured ‘overkilling’. The report was compiled by Karen Ingala Smith (CEO of Nia) in collaboration with Women’s Aid, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP and Deloitte LLP. Three-quarters of these women were killed by someone they knew, and more than half were killed by their partner or ex-partner. For the first time, the census collected data on ‘overkilling’ (extreme violence, i.e. use of force that was greater than required to kill the victim) and found that 42% of femicide cases featured this level of violence. Sandra Horley, CBE, chief executive of Refuge, said: “The latest femicide report tells a disturbing but familiar story: 139 women were killed by men in the UK in 2017, and (excluding terror attacks) more than half of these women were killed by their partner or ex-partner. It’s worth noting that this figure excludes cases currently going through the courts, so the actual number of femicides will be even higher. These murders often follow a clear pattern. Key themes include extreme violence (42% of deaths), the perpetrator using a sharp instrument (47%) to kill their victim, and the murder taking place in the home (59%). Most (55%) of the women killed by their partner or ex-partner were killed within the first month of separation. The police must take all reports of domestic violence seriously, and take proactive steps to keep every woman safe and prevent these atrocities from happening. We urge the Government to ensure the imminent Domestic Abuse Bill uses the full force of the criminal justice system to protect women, whilst providing adequate funding for specialist services for survivors.” For media queries, email press@refuge.org.uk or ring 0207 395 7731 (out of hours and weekend enquiries: 07970 894240)

Refuge statement on the Claire and Charlotte Hart domestic homicide review
Refuge statement on the Claire and Charlotte Hart domestic homicide review

As the domestic homicide review into the murders of Claire and Charlotte Hart is published, Refuge calls for greater awareness amongst professionals of the dangers of coercive control. In July 2016, Claire Hart was killed at the hands of her husband, Lance, before he killed their daughter Charlotte and then himself. Brothers – and Refuge champions - Luke and Ryan Hart were working overseas at the time, but have talked since about the controlling behaviour to which Lance had subjected the family for decades. While the review released today does not identify specific failings of the system, it does highlight the need for greater awareness of the risks of coercive control and the opportunities professionals and members of the public had to ask questions about possible domestic abuse. Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of Refuge said: “It is critical that all professionals who potentially come into contact with survivors of domestic abuse are able to recognise and understand fully the many forms of domestic abuse, especially non-physical violence like coercive control. Professionals have a duty to ask the right questions and offer appropriate support, as they are likely to be the first person to whom a victim might suggest they are experiencing abuse. “While the domestic homicide review that looked into the killings of Clare and Charlotte Hart did not identify any specific failings, a number of family members had been to see health professionals and alluded to problems at home. This case reflects the real need for health professionals and others to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to recognise the signs of domestic abuse and probe overtly.” Ms. Horley also stressed that everyone has a role to play in ending domestic violence and supporting women: “Domestic abuse – physical and non-physical – is not a private matter, something to leave behind closed doors, or something to be ignored for fear of being seen as interfering. It is a crime, which affects 1 in 4 women in their lifetime. Two women are killed at the hands of their current or former partners, each week in England and Wales. Domestic abuse is a matter of life and death. We all have a duty to speak out and challenge violence against women and girls.” Coercive control was criminalised in December 2015, but many people still do not recognise the signs nor realise it is a crime. “For many women, the bruises and wounds of abuse are not visible on the surface. A large proportion of victims never suffer physical abuse,” said Ms. Horley. “Eight out of 10 of the women Refuge supported last year had suffered psychological abuse, on average for a period of six years. But, still, many people do not know that coercive control is a crime. Coercive control and non-physical abuse need to be talked about far more widely in the media and in society at large.”   For media queries, email press@refuge.org.uk or ring 0207 395 7731 (out of hours and weekend enquiries: 07970 894240)  

Refuge, UK’s largest domestic violence charity, unveils chilling reversible poems to expose hidden nature of domestic violence at Christmas
Refuge, UK’s largest domestic violence charity, unveils chilling reversible poems to expose hidden nature of domestic violence at Christmas

Hard-hitting reversible poems to spotlight domestic violence and offer support to women and children this Christmas Refuge initiative launches on day nine of ‘16 days of action’ – a global initiative to raise awareness of violence against women and girls Poems tell harrowing domestic abuse tale when read in reverse order 3 December 2018: Refuge, the UK’s largest domestic violence charity, has created a series of menacing poems that tell the story of women and children who have experienced domestic violence at Christmas. Even now in 2018, one in four women experience domestic violence in their lifetime.  Two women a week are killed at the hands of a partner or ex-partner in England and Wales.  And on average, another three women a week commit suicide as a way of escape. To raise awareness of this growing epidemic, which is often overlooked during the festive season, Refuge is publishing a series of three reversible poems, to emphasise the severity and pervasiveness of domestic violence at Christmas. Read one way, the poems tell a positive story, but when read in reverse they depict the terrifying reality of living with a perpetrator of domestic violence. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the hidden, insidious nature of domestic violence, and lets victims know that, when their partner ‘turns’ and becomes controlling, they can turn to Refuge for the support they need to escape and rebuild their lives. Actress Maxine Peake is supporting this campaign by reading one of the poems.  Maxine said: “I’m delighted to support Refuge’s Christmas campaign to raise awareness of the terrifying reality that women and children face when they live with a perpetrator of domestic violence. Nobody should have to live in fear in their own home at any time of the year, but for those who do, it’s a relief to know that they can turn to Refuge’s services throughout the country and know that they will be listened to, believed and supported to rebuild their lives free from violence and coercion.” Refuge believes that no-one should have to live in fear of violence and abuse. On any given day Refuge supports more than 6,500 survivors, helping them to escape violence and fear and rebuild their lives. Men who abuse their partners are often charming and charismatic at the beginning of the relationship, and then ‘turn’ into controlling and often violent aggressors over time. This campaign aims to capture this experience and reassure victims that they are not alone. Two of the hard-hitting poems tell the stories of female victims, and the third tells the story of a child who witnesses and experiences domestic violence at Christmas. Refuge’s reversible poems campaign launches on day nine of ‘16 days of action,’ a global movement to raise awareness of violence against women and girls. From 25 November, the International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence campaign is a time to galvanise action to end violence against women and girls around the world. Refuge’s reversible poems highlight this crucial issue and offer victims support, no matter the time of the year. Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of Refuge, says: “Two women are killed by their current or former partners every week in England and Wales alone.  Domestic abuse is the biggest issue affecting women and children in this country today – it really is a life and death issue. Yet still too few women know how to spot the signs of domestic violence, realise that domestic abuse is a crime or know that Refuge is here to support them.  Domestic violence happens all year round – including at Christmas.  We want women to know that no matter what time of year, no one should suffer in silence and they should ‘turn’ to us for support.” Get help now. If your partner turns on you, turn to us. If you are in need of support please visit: www.refuge.org.uk   Coverage of the poems in: The Drum Cosmopolitan Marketing Week Campaign Charity Digital News Third Sector For further information and press queries to Refuge, please contact: Email press@refuge.org.uk or ring 0207 395 7731. Lisa King, director of communications can respond to out of hours and weekend enquiries on 07799 712293