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Press releases

Domestic Abuse Bill returns, Refuge calls for threats to share intimate images to be made a crime
Domestic Abuse Bill returns, Refuge calls for threats to share intimate images to be made a crime

Refuge calls for threats to share intimate images to be made a crime, as the Domestic Abuse Bill returns to the Lords. Refuge, the largest specialist domestic abuse service provider in England, is calling for the Domestic Abuse Bill to include the provision to make threatening to share intimate images and films a crime. Hetti Barkworth-Nanton, Chair of Refuge said: “We are delighted that the Bill returns to parliament today for its second reading in the House of Lords. As a priority, Refuge would like to see the Bill incorporate a simple change to the law, which would better protect women and girls from image-based abuse. At the moment, while sharing intimate images without consent is a crime, threatening to do so is not. This is an issue affecting millions of women and girls up and down the country. Refuge research found that 1 in 14 adults in England and Wales had received such threats, with 1 in 7 young women impacted. 72% of women who received these threats experienced them from a current or former partner - making this a clear domestic abuse issue. The government has the perfect legislative vehicle to make this change with the Domestic Abuse Bill, and we hope they will seize this opportunity. Today’s second reading is a hugely important moment and one which Refuge hopes the government will seize as there is still so much more to be done” In addition, Refuge is campaigning for the Bill to ensure: That Universal Credit advances are paid as grants not loans to survivors of domestic abuse, and that they are paid, by default, into separate accounts. This is vital for women who are fleeing an abusive partner and who need financial independence from perpetrators. That the Bill carries a gendered definition of domestic abuse. The overwhelming majority of victims of domestic abuse are women and the overwhelming majority of perpetrators are men. The Bill must be grounded in this reality. That migrant survivors, often locked out of accessing domestic abuse services due to their immigration status and having ‘no recourse to public funds’, are able to access they support that they need. That the funds made available for the legal duty to fund refuges are ring-fenced for specialist refuge provision and are sufficient to ensure that no woman or child is turned away. The Bill’s journey through the House of Lords is the final chance to make these crucial amendments, and Refuge is working around the clock to help ensure the Bill is as bold and transformative as it has the potential to be. Refuge is delighted that more than 90 peers have registered to speak in today’s debate. This demonstrates the support that exists for a strong and robust Bill that helps save and change lives. Women and children cannot wait - the time to act is now. ENDS Notes to Editors Refuge supports more than 7,000 women and children on any given day, and runs the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, which is the gateway to accessing specialist support across the country. More than one in four women in England and Wales experiences domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime, and two women a week are killed by a current or former partner. With a sharp rise in women seeking support during lockdown, and as the country is moved into a third lockdown the need to address the response to domestic abuse has never been greater. Supporters can join Refuge's campaign to end the Naked Threat here. Please signpost to Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247, available 24 hours a day 7 days a week for free, confidential specialist support. Or visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk to fill in a webform and request a safe time to be contacted or to access live chat (live chat available 3pm-10pm Monday to Friday). For real time automated guidance on how to secure your personal devices Refuge has a Tech Safety Tool at www.refuge.org.uk.

The Domestic Abuse Bill returning to Parliament - what you need to know
The Domestic Abuse Bill returning to Parliament - what you need to know

On the 5th January, the Domestic Abuse Bill will return to the House of Lords for its Second Reading. This is a hugely important time. This Bill has the potential to be truly transformational, but there is still work to do before that is a reality. Refuge believes that for the Bill to be as bold and effective as it needs to be, in order to better support women and girls, that there are some significant changes that still need to be made. Covid-19 really has pulled into sharp focus the level of domestic abuse across the country and the sheer numbers of women who need the specialist, confidential support that Refuge provides. We hope that this wakeup call will push the government to do everything it can to ensure the Bill is as strong as it can be. On average, two women a week are killed at the hands of their current or ex-partners in England and Wales and one in four women will experience domestic abuse at some point in their life. Women and children’s lives depend on the Government seizing this opportunity and making the Bill the best it can be. What’s in the Bill?  A statutory definition of domestic abuse:  For the first time, there will be a statutory definition of domestic abuse, which also includes economic abuse. Recent research by Refuge and the Co-operative Bank showed that around 16% of all UK adults have identified as having experienced this form of abuse in a current of former relationship - but this same research showed that the numbers may in fact be higher as more than twice this number describe experiences which are economically abusive. Changes to the experiences of survivors in court: The Bill will also prohibit abusers cross-examining survivors in the family courts – something that Refuge, along with our colleagues in the VAWG (Violence Against Women and Girls) sector, has been campaigning for for many years. A legal duty to support survivors:  Most significantly, the Bill will include a legal duty on local authorities to assess need for and commission refuge services. This legal duty could safeguard the existence of refuges, but without sustainable and ring-fenced funding, which ensures there are enough refuge spaces to meet demand, the future of refuges is insecure and unsustainable. While the Government itself estimates domestic abuse to cost society £66 billion a year, and despite the fact that investing in specialist domestic abuse services has been shown to lead to long-term savings, over recent years Refuge has seen funding cuts to 80% of our services, with our refuge services cut by an average of 50%. Research suggests that around £173 million per year is needed to increase the number of refuge spaces available so that no woman or child is turned away. However, the Government disappointingly only committed to £125 million – falling far short of what is needed. Refuge hopes the government will reflect on this need and increase the amount of funding it has committed to, and ensure refuges are able to move away from the funding cliff-edge many find themselves on year after year. Only by securing this long term, sustainable funding, can refuges hire staff and plan for the longer term. What’s missing? There are still many essential measures missing from the Bill, and Refuge believes that in its current form, the Domestic Abuse Bill does not do enough to allow survivors to access the safety and support they need. Protection for image-based abuse:  Our key campaign ask for the next stage of the Bill is for the government to make a very small and swift legal change which will better protect the many thousands of women and girls that Refuge supports every day. Currently, while the sharing of intimate images or films without consent (also known as ‘revenge porn’’) is illegal, threatening to share them is not. Refuge’s specialist tech team identified these threats to share as being an issue faced by many survivors of domestic abuse. Refuge research found that 1 in 14 adults in England and Wales have experienced threats to share intimate images or videos - equivalent to 4.4 million. These threats are most prevalent amongst young people (aged 18-34), with 1 in 7 young women experiencing such threats. 72% of women who received these threats experienced the threat from a current of former partner - with 83% of this group also experiencing other forms of abuse, making this clearly a domestic abuse issue. The Bill gives the government a legislative vehicle by which to swiftly enact the change to the law that survivors need and Refuge is calling on the Government to do just that. Join our campaign and email the government about ending the naked threat here - it takes less than a minute. Changes to Universal Credit (UC):  Women are also at increased risk of economic abuse due to aspects of Universal Credit (UC). UC is paid as one monthly payment, into a single bank account – even if the payment is for a joint UC claim made by two individuals together. For survivors claiming Universal Credit with their abuser, this means that their perpetrator can gain complete control over the entire household income overnight. Survivors can request to split payments between themselves and the perpetrator, but this puts them at serious risk of further abuse, as perpetrators will always know the request has been made via their online account, or when the payment goes down. When making a new claim for UC, there is a minimum five-week delay between applying for and receiving payment. This leaves survivors who have fled abuse in extreme poverty while they await their first UC payment, having already left their homes with little money and few possessions. Refuge wants the Bill to include provision for making separate payments of Universal Credit by default, rather than women having to make a specific application and also for any advance payments (ordinarily given as loans) to women fleeing abusive partners to be given as grants, which do not need to be repaid. We need to ensure that women are able to safely flee abusive partners without added concerns about economic stability. A gendered definition:  Refuge also hopes that the government will ensure the Domestic Abuse Bill carries a true ‘gendered definition’ of domestic abuse. Domestic abuse is, at its core, a gendered crime which stems from patriarchy, gender inequality and power and control over women. The overwhelming majority of victims of domestic abuse are women, while the overwhelming majority of perpetrators are men. The definition of domestic abuse must be grounded in this reality so we are calling for the Government to amend the definition of domestic abuse in the Bill to do this. Protection for migrant survivors: The Bill also fails to protect migrant survivors. Large numbers of migrant women are not entitled to housing benefit because of their immigration status, and therefore unable to use this entitlement to financially support a stay in refuge. Many charities, including Refuge, do all they can to support migrant survivors, but a lack of funding sadly means too many women are left without support. We are calling for strengthened legislation which supports all women and children affected by domestic abuse – regardless of their immigration status. Women who have ‘no recourse to public funds’ must not be prevented from accessing the support that they need. It is vital that this is addressed via the Domestic Abuse Bill. Refuge wants the Domestic Abuse Bill to be truly transformative and ultimately to save women’s lives. In order to do this, we are calling for Threats to share intimate images being made a criminal offence Recognition of the reality of domestic abuse through a gendered definition of domestic abuse Women to be able to access the money they need to be as safe as possible in relationships and when they are ready to leave perpetrators by implementing separate Universal Credit payments by default and to exempt survivors of domestic abuse from repaying Universal Credit advances. These advances must be given as grants and not loans. Make this a Bill for all survivors, regardless of their immigration status by amending immigration law so that all migrant survivors can access financial support and other benefits, regardless of immigration status or visa type. Women with ‘no recourse to public funds’ must be able to access the specialist support they need. A commitment to ensure the legal duty to fund refuges provides adequate ring fenced and sustainable funding, to ensure that refuges can be placed on a secure financial footing, able to make longer term plans and ultimately increase the number of bed space available so that all women seeking safety and support can access it. This is crucial to ensure that refuges are able to move away from the funding cliff edge that many of them find themselves each financial year. Austerity cuts have decimated specialist services and this must be addressed via the Domestic Abuse Bill.

Refuge reassures survivors that they are not alone over the Christmas period
Refuge reassures survivors that they are not alone over the Christmas period

Ahead of the holiday period, Lisa King, director of communications and external relations at Refuge said: "Domestic abuse is the biggest social issue affecting women and children and has never been more of an issue than it is now, as COVID-19 restrictions have forced women and children to stay at home with their abusers. With a locked-down Christmas fast approaching, the end of 2020 will be a very challenging time for women and children experiencing domestic abuse across the country. Refuge wants every woman experiencing abuse this Christmas to know – if you need help, you are not alone. Call our Freephone National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247, any time of day or night, to speak to one of our highly trained female Helpline advisors who can provide you with emotional support and information on your rights and options. Alternatively, visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk to use our webform to request a safe time to be called back or access our live chat service, Mon-Fri, 3pm-10pm. Our message is clear, Refuge is here twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. You are not alone."

Year End Statement from Hetti Barkworth-Nanton
Year End Statement from Hetti Barkworth-Nanton

This year has been my first as Chair of Refuge and what a profound year it has been! We know that lockdown has significantly increased the instances of domestic abuse and it has been even more important that women and children have confidence that help is available when they need it. Our work is not possible without the continued efforts of our partner organisations – all other domestic abuse specialist services, the police, social services, GPs, hospitals, the Home Office and local government, and the general public. Without teamwork we could not identify, protect and support those suffering abuse, and for that reason I would like to express thanks to you all. It’s been a year where we’ve also seen the progress of important national legislation on domestic abuse and I am proud Refuge’s voice has been heard alongside many others, with survivor lead experiences guiding our law makers. There is much more work to do, but I am pleased that this crucial issue is now part of the national conversation. Last but by no means least I want to pay tribute to each and every member of staff and volunteer at Refuge, all of whom have stepped up in these terrible and challenging times. I would like to send many thanks to our Refuge patrons and ambassadors, donors, corporate partners, and of course the wonderful Trustees I work alongside - without whom so much of our work would not be possible. It has been wonderful to see your commitment to our work. I am confident that better times are ahead for us, as the vaccine offers hope of a return to normal life soon. But I am determined to make sure that we learn lessons from how we worked during lockdown and we ensure, together, that we are able to help even more people into a better life in 2021.

Refuge responds to news that the Domestic Abuse Bill is set to return to House of Lords on 5th January
Refuge responds to news that the Domestic Abuse Bill is set to return to House of Lords on 5th January

Refuge responds to news that the Domestic Abuse Bill is set to return to House of Lords on 5th January Hetti Barkworth-Nanton, Refuge Chair, said: “Refuge is delighted to see the Domestic Abuse Bill scheduled to return to the House of Lords for its second reading on the 5th January. This legislation has been many years in the making and we are pleased to see it commence the final stages of the process to become law.  It has the potential to be truly transformational. However, Refuge believes there are still vital changes that need to be made to strengthen the Bill so that it transforms the response to domestic abuse in this country. The news just this morning shows that migrant women in particular are in need of much greater support to ensure they are able to report domestic abuse to the police without fear and seek specialist support. The work of colleagues across the sector pulls into sharp focus the need to ensure women with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) are better protected. The Domestic Abuse Bill is the perfect vehicle for the government to not only make the changes recommended in the police report published today, but to also abolish the 'no recourse' rule and ensure all survivors, including migrant women, can access vital, life-saving support. Refuge also hopes the Domestic Abuse Bill will change the law and make threatening to share intimate images a crime. Our 'The Naked Threat' campaign calls on the Government to do just that and has cross party support across the House of Lords. This simple legislative change would mean that women who receive these threats are able to report them with confidence that the law is on their side. Refuge hopes the government will start 2021 as it means to go on -  prioritising better protecting women and girls - and the Domestic Abuse Bill is the perfect vehicle to cement that commitment, by ensuring it is as bold and transformative as it has the potential to be. Women's lives depend on it and we look forward to working with the Government to ensure the Bill has a swift and robust passage into law.” ENDS Notes: Interviews available on request with Refuge spokespeople and domestic abuse survivors (who require anonymity and must be interviewed remotely).  Please contact the Press Office on 0207 395 7731 or email press@refuge.org.uk Please signpost to Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247, available 24 hours a day 7 days a week for free, confidential specialist support. Or visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk to fill in a webform and request a safe time to be contacted or to access live chat (live chat available 3pm-10pm Monday to Friday). For real time automated guidance on how to secure your personal devices Refuge has a Tech Safety Tool at www.refuge.org.uk. About Refuge Refuge opened the world’s first refuge in Chiswick, West London, in 1971. Since then, it has grown to become the country’s largest single provider of specialist support to women and children escaping domestic abuse and other forms of gender-based violence. On any given day, Refuge supports more than 7,000 women and children. Refuge’s national network of specialist services includes safe emergency accommodation through refuges in secret locations across the country; community-based outreach services; culturally specific services for women from South Asian, African and Caribbean, Middle Eastern, Eastern European and Vietnamese backgrounds; a modern slavery service; independent advocacy services for women at the highest risk of serious injury and homicide; a range of single point of access services for women, children and men across entire regions; and the Freephone 24 Hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline. Refuge also runs award-winning public awareness campaigns, advises Government and was voted ‘Charity of the Year’ 2016 at The Charity Times Awards. For more information, please visit www.refuge.org.uk or follow Refuge’s work on www.facebook.com/RefugeCharity and Twitter @RefugeCharity  

Refuge launches ‘Background of Support’ campaign, featuring charity patron Olivia Colman, as huge numbers continue to experience domestic abuse 
Refuge launches ‘Background of Support’ campaign, featuring charity patron Olivia Colman, as huge numbers continue to experience domestic abuse 

Today 15th December, Refuge launches a donation-drive to help raise funds for women and children who are suffering from domestic abuse, by harnessing an overlooked media space – video conferencing backdrops. Domestic abuse is the biggest social issue affecting women and children and has never been more of an issue than it is now, as COVID-19 restrictions have forced women and children to stay at home with their abusers. With new lockdown restrictions in place, and Christmas fast approaching, the end of 2020 is forecast to be very challenging for women and children experiencing domestic abuse across the country. Now more than ever, Refuge needs to reach survivors on a bigger scale, and must urgently generate the income needed to keep its services running. This new fundraising campaign, created by BBH, launches with a simple yet powerful idea – to turn video conferencing backgrounds into donation spaces. With tens of millions of video calls happening each and every day, Refuge has harnessed this overlooked media channel to increase support for those who need it most. The ‘Background of Support’ can be downloaded by anyone and used as a background on their video calls, to show support for Refuge. It features a powerful statistic on the number of women who experience abuse every year, in relation to the minutes spent on video calls, and a built-in QR that prompts viewers to support Refuge and help raise funds at this critical time. By turning this overlooked media space into a donation driving mechanism, Refuge is mobilising a network of supporters, helping to raise much needed funds for women and children suffering domestic abuse this winter. The campaign launches with a film featuring Oscar-winner and Refuge patron, Olivia Colman, CBE, along with Refuge supporters, who explain the new fundraising feature and how the public can get involved. By using a combination of celebrities and supporters, the film reinforces the message that domestic abuse can happen to women from all walks of life. It also demonstrates the huge potential for this simple background change to go viral. Lisa King, Director of Communications at Refuge says: “Up and down the country, women and children are experiencing domestic abuse in their thousands. They are trapped with their abusers, cut off from support and isolated. With one in four women experiencing domestic abuse in their lifetime and a shocking two women being killed every week by a current or former partner in England and Wales, statistics that even predate COVID-19, never before has raising awareness of domestic abuse and the life-saving support Refuge offers been more necessary. “We hope that, as we reach the end of the year, people will show their festive spirit and support this simple action by lending ‘the background of support’ to their video calls. Taking this simple action will raise both awareness and vital funds. It’s a powerful idea but that will change lives and will help us keep the doors to our services open into the new year.” Alongside the film, the background asset will also be visible in prominent OOH sites across the country, in which more people can simply raise their phone to the QR code and donate to Refuge. Donate or download the background here. - ENDS - Notes to editors Refuge Refuge media office Tel: 0207 395 7731 Email: press@refuge.org.uk For more information, please visit www.refuge.org.uk or follow Refuge’s work on www.facebook.com/RefugeCharity and Twitter @RefugeCharity Refuge encourages all media outlets to signpost to Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline, for free and confidential support, 24 hours a day,  call 0808 2000 247 or visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk to access live chat.

Refuge supporters unite to raise awareness of the National Domestic Abuse Helpline during 16 days of activism against gender violence
Refuge supporters unite to raise awareness of the National Domestic Abuse Helpline during 16 days of activism against gender violence

During 16 days of activism against gender violence, which runs from the 25 November to Human Rights Day on the 10 December, Refuge has worked with supporters and partners to raise life-saving awareness of the National Domestic Abuse Helpline and live chat. Highlights include a new awareness video supported by Google, featuring celebrities from sectors as diverse as sports, music and activism, and an animated information video about the Helpline which was shared by supporters. Refuge has also announced that 33 new helpline live chat advisers joined the service this week. Lisa King, Director of Communications and External Relations at Refuge said that the awareness raising was only made possible through the dedication of front line staff: “As 16 days of activism comes to a close, on Human Rights Day, Refuge is celebrating the incredible work of its Helpline staff and volunteers, who together ensure our life-saving and life-changing Helpline is able to support the women and children who need us round the clock. 24 hours a day, 365 days a year our expert staff support women who are experiencing abuse, as well as their concerned family and friends. The Covid-19 crisis saw our Helpline workers respond to more calls and contacts than ever - helping women and children find safety, and get the information they need to make the decisions that are right for them. With the pandemic and lockdown minimising the opportunities for women to pick up the phone Refuge moved quickly to digitise the Helpline service, to make sure women could access the support they need it; in secret, in safety and in real time. In May, we launched our new ‘live chat’ service, and since then, our trained staff have had more than 2,000 live chat conversations with women experiencing domestic abuse or concerned family / friends. To meet this demand and support yet more women in crisis, this week we have had 33 new ‘live chatters’ start work, meaning 33 more expertly trained women are able to offer support and information to abused women when they need us. We’ve been able to speak to women in their homes during lockdown, while they are at work on a lunchbreak, while they are on the bus home. We want every woman experiencing abuse today to know - if you need help, you are not alone, Refuge is here for you.” If you need to access support, please contact Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline (freephone) on 0808 2000 247. Or visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk to fill in a web form and request a safe time to be contacted, or to access live chat facility between the hours of 3-10pm Monday-Friday. ENDS For more information contact the press office on 0207 395 7731 or email press@refuge.org.uk Refuge encourages all media outlets to signpost to Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline, for free and confidential support, 24 hours a day, call 0808 2000 247 or visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk to access live chat.

Refuge responds to Government announcement on call for evidence on tackling violence against women and girls
Refuge responds to Government announcement on call for evidence on tackling violence against women and girls

Refuge, the country's largest single provider of specialist violence against women and girls service, responds to the Government's announcement on call for evidence on tackling violence against women and girls. Carole Easton, interim CEO at Refuge said: "Refuge is pleased to see the government marking Human Rights Day with an announcement about violence against women and girls (VAWG) – the most pressing issue facing women and girls around the world. Refuge welcomes this call for evidence on tackling VAWG, and will be submitting to this important review. 'However, Refuge considers the best and most effective way to tackle and indeed end VAWG is through a comprehensive strategy that understands all forms of violence against women and girls, including domestic abuse, as a continuum of gender based violence and abuse. Separating the VAWG strategy from the domestic abuse strategy could be a step back and Refuge would welcome further clarity from the Government on how it intends the two strategies to relate to each other, specifically how domestic abuse will continue to be dealt with as part of the overall strategy to end VAWG. We look forward to formally providing the government with our evidence on what is needed to challenge and eliminate Violence against Women and Girls, and ensure the most impactful solutions are prioritised which best protect and support survivors." The call for evidence is open from 10 December 2020 until 19 February 2021. ENDS For more information contact press@refuge.org.uk Refuge encourages all media outlets to signpost to Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline, for free and confidential support, 24 hours a day,  call 0808 2000 247 or visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk to access live chat.

Google home page – for first time -  links directly to Refuge’s  National Domestic Abuse Helpline
Google home page – for first time -  links directly to Refuge’s  National Domestic Abuse Helpline

Google home page – for first time -  links directly to Refuge’s  National Domestic Abuse Helpline, which provides gateway to services for women and children experiencing domestic abuse. For the first time, the Google home page today, 8 December, carries a link which links directly to www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk , run by Refuge. This continues Google's support of Refuge's work during 16 days and follows the launch of the powerful #ISeeYou campaign, supported by Google, which was launched on International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women and Girls. #ISeeYou, featuring talent and advocates, was designed to reach victims, survivors and their families, during the annual ’16 days of activism’, and to serve as a call out to let them know they are not alone. Lisa King, director of communications and external relations at Refuge said: ‘We are incredibly grateful to Google for this show of support. More than 1 in 4 women in the UK will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime, and 2 women a week are killed in England and Wales by a current or former partner. Domestic abuse is a social pandemic in this country and we need as many women as possible to know that support is available, and how to access it. Being able to link to Refuge's life-saving services from Google's home page has the potential to save lives and change lives. This is an incredible gesture and one which will help us send a very powerful message to women and girls - you are not alone,  support is available, and Refuge sees you, hears you and believes you.  During 16 days of activism Refuge channels have been shining a light of its national Helpline, raising awareness of both the 24/7 number and live chat services, whilst celebrating the work of its staff and volunteers who have answered more calls than ever during the Covid-19 crisis. Given the window to call for help has narrowed yet more due to being locked in, the support of Google, a huge online presence which will help to drive people to our digital support, at a time when so much of our lives is lived online, helps ensure as many women as possible know how to access the vital support Refuge provides online too.’ ENDS For more information contact press@refuge.org.uk Refuge encourages all media outlets to signpost to Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline, for free and confidential support, 24 hours a day,  call 0808 2000 247 or visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk to access live chat.

Campaign calls for reform to tackle long-term financial impact of economic abuse on survivors
Campaign calls for reform to tackle long-term financial impact of economic abuse on survivors

Campaign calls for reform to tackle long-term financial impact of economic abuse on survivors One in five survivors (21%) left unable to repay debt and 26% have a negatively impacted credit rating Survivors of economic abuse in debt will owe £3,272 on average – however one in four have debts in excess of £5,000 The Co-operative Bank and Refuge’s “Know Economic Abuse” report calls for credit reference reform to avoid financial exclusion of economic abuse survivors Experian announce they are working closely with the campaign to improve access to credit reports, training and Victims of Fraud support to address the long-term burden on survivors A large proportion of personal debt in the UK could be the direct result of economic abuse, according to a recent report by The Co-operative Bank and Refuge, the UK’s largest national domestic abuse charity. On average, a survivor of domestic abuse who was left in debt will be indebted to the tune of £3,272 as a direct result of economic abuse perpetrated by a current or former partner. One in four will have debts in excess of £5,000 (24%). On average, women survivors of economic abuse were in significantly more debt than men survivors, with an average debt of £3,818 compared to £2,926. This means that approximately £14.4 billion in the UK can be attributed to some form of economic 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. The study, previously conducted in 2015, expanded its research this year to look at the long-term financial impact of economic abuse on survivors. The campaign has now partnered with leading credit reference agency Experian to raise awareness of financial coercion in the context of domestic abuse. Experian will work closely with the campaign with the aim of improving the process for survivors to inform lenders that debt was caused by economic abuse and aid lenders in reducing the long-term debt burden on survivors. This includes plans to improve access to credit reports, training and Victims of Fraud support to help clear of the financial mess left behind by an abusive partner. How does economic abuse lead to long-term debt? 57% of those who had experienced economic abuse said that they were in or had been in debt as a result – this accounts for 4.7 million people. This debt can develop in a number of ways due to the actions of perpetrators. People who experience economic abuse often see their partners make significant financial decisions, without discussing it with them, such as buying a new home or purchasing a new car (13%). Perpetrators will often also put debts in a partner’s name under duress (11%) or even do so fraudulently without their consent or awareness (10%). In some cases, these debts come with particularly high interest rates attached to them, such as ‘payday’ loans (9%) or overdrafts (9%). While many people are aware of the illegality of an abuser opening accounts in their partner’s  name without knowledge or consent , Experian has also clarified that in instances in which a survivor was coerced into opening an account, this can also be disputed as fraudulent. Impact of long-term debt One in four survivors find themselves struggling financially as a result of economic abuse (27%) and 21% will face debts that they are unable to repay. This was even higher for survivors who first experienced economic abuse during the Coronavirus pandemic, with 32% saying that they were struggling with debt and 31% saying that they could not afford basic living costs. In 40% of cases, it will take a survivor years to pay off the debt, if they are able to at all. One in four survivors (26%) will end up with a negatively impacted credit rating as a result of economic abuse. This significantly impairs their ability to gain economic stability and make financial choices; in some cases it can create barriers for survivors who wanted to leave their abusive partner and live independently. For example, 45% said they had been unable to get a credit card and 32% said that they had only been able to access a credit card with a high interest rate. 30% said they had been unable to get a personal loan due to the impact of economic abuse on their credit rating. Almost a quarter had been unable to buy a home as a consequence of their damaged credit rating. Maria Cearns, managing director, People & Customer, The Co-operative Bank, comments: “Something we have learned in our ongoing interactions with vulnerable customers who have suffered some form of economic abuse, is that the ramifications of abuse can continue to have a profound impact on someone’s financial wellbeing for years to come. It was a stark realisation for us that some of the survivors we polled five years ago as part of our original study would still be subject to long-term debt, damaged credit ratings and limited access to financial products and services, due to circumstances that were completely outside of their own control. Our findings have shown that long-term debt accrued as a result of economic abuse is significant and we will work diligently with Refuge and Experian on this.” Lisa King, director of communications and external relations at Refuge, says: “Economic abuse is a huge issue facing women across the country and, as our report shows, can leave women struggling with debt for many years, with their ability to leave their abusive partner affected. “The long term impacts of debt as a result of economic abuse should not be ignored - and action needs to be taken to ensure women are able to rebuild their financial stability and gain economic independence following abuse. “Domestic abuse is not limited to physical violence and our report should be a wake-up call that action must be taken to address all forms of domestic abuse -  there are simple steps that the banking and financial industry can take which will better protect women and we hope they will seize this opportunity to make the necessary changes.” John Webb, consumer affairs executive at Experian, comments: “Survivors of economic abuse who have had accounts opened fraudulently, can suffer long-term financial consequences. Experian’s Victims of Fraud Team can help victims dispute these accounts with all lenders, on their behalf. “Survivors of economic abuse may have fraudulent accounts opened in their name, without their knowledge or permission. However, victims of economic abuse can also be coerced (forced) to open accounts, which can also be disputed as fraudulent. “It’s important that survivors of economic abuse can clear up their credit reports, by removing fraudulent accounts, in order to access financial services as they rebuild their lives. Experian can help people dispute any fraudulent accounts with lenders directly, helping to clear up the record for victims of economic abuse.” To view the full research report from Refuge and The Co-operative Bank visit: Click here Spokespeople are available for comment and interviews. Case studies are also available on request.   - ENDS - Notes to editors 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  further address the issue of economic abuse. A number of these recommendations refer directly to action needed to tackle the issue of long-term debt: 1.       Banks and other financial services institutions to build on the support they offer to survivors of economic abuse by: a.    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 b.    The provision of information about economic abuse and where customers can seek help when customers apply for any joint financial product 2.       Credit reference agencies to take a greater role, 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 3.       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 4.       Reform of welfare benefits systems to benefit survivors and current victims of economic abuse. This should include a.    Automatic separate payments of Universal Credit b.    Universal Credit advances for those fleeing abusive partners, paid as grants rather than loans 5.       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 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 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 media office Tel: 0207 395 7731 Email: press@refuge.org.uk The Co-operative Bank The Co-operative Bank plc provides a full range of banking products and services to retail and SME (Small and Medium Sized Enterprises) customers and is committed to values and ethics in line with the principles of the co-operative movement. The Co-operative Bank is the only high street bank with a customer-led ethical policy which gives customers a say in how their money is used. Launched in 1992, the Policy has been updated on five occasions, with new commitments added in January 2015 to cover how the Bank operates its business, products and services, workplace and culture, relationships with suppliers and other stakeholders and campaigning About Refuge Refuge opened the world’s first refuge in Chiswick, West London, in 1971. Since then it has grown to become the country’s largest single provider of specialist support to women and children escaping domestic abuse and other forms of gender based violence. On any given day, Refuge supports more than 6,500 women and children. Refuge’s national network of specialist services include: safe emergency accommodation through refuges in secret locations across the country; community-based outreach services; culturally specific services for women from South Asian, African and Caribbean, Middle Eastern, Eastern European and Vietnamese backgrounds; a modern slavery service; independent advocacy services for women at the highest risk of serious injury and homicide; a range of single point of access services for women, children and men across entire regions; and the Freephone 24 Hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline. Refuge also runs award-winning public awareness campaigns, advises Governments and was voted ‘Charity of the Year’ 2016 at The Charity Times Awards. For more information, please visit www.refuge.org.uk or follow Refuge’s work on www.facebook.com/RefugeCharity and Twitter @RefugeCharity Refuge encourages all media outlets to signpost to Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline, for free and confidential support, 24 hours a day,  call 0808 2000 247 or visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk to access live chat.

Refuge launches National Domestic Abuse Helpline digital animation #16Days
Refuge launches National Domestic Abuse Helpline digital animation #16Days

Refuge launches digital animation on what to expect when calling its National Domestic Abuse Helpline as part of the UN Women’s 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence Today, during the UN Women’s 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence, Refuge launches a new digital animation to reach abused women who may need to access support from its National Domestic Abuse Helpline. The animation forms part of Refuge’s ongoing campaign to share the Helpline number and live chat resources with as many women as possible.  As we live through a second lockdown, more women than ever are experiencing domestic abuse and are isolated and alone with their perpetrators for long periods of time. Right now their need for support may be greater than ever.   Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline is free of charge and runs twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. It is a confidential and non-judgmental service, run by a close-knit team of highly trained women. Helpline advisers will never tell a woman what to do, but will give her space to talk about what is happening to her, provide her with emotional support and information on her rights and options. The expert team will help her access other services, like legal advice and support, counselling and mental health support, and housing options such as refuge accommodation.   The carefully created warm, engaging and reassuring animation gives information on the different ways to get in touch with the Helpline, providing critical information for women whose safe window for making contact may have narrowed due to lockdown. If it is not safe to speak, women may wish to use our newly-extended live chat service, which operates online via www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk from Monday to Friday, 3-10pm. Refuge knows that making contact can feel daunting for women, it may be the first time they’ve ever spoken to someone about what is happening to them. It is important for them to feel as comfortable as possible when reaching out for help, which is why the Helpline offers an  interpretation service so women can speak to advisers in their own language.   Lisa King, Director of Communications and External Relations at Refuge said: "The latest statistics from ONS showed that 1.6 million women in England and Wales experienced domestic abuse last year alone, and we know that reports of domestic abuse increased significantly during the first lockdown. We want all women to know that domestic abuse services, including the Helpline, are still available and waiting to hear from them. The Helpline is for all women, whether they are still in a relationship with their perpetrator, thinking about leaving, or are worried about a loved one. No matter how big or small their question is, whatever their age, background, beliefs or experience, the Helpline is ready and waiting to hear from them. We hope that people will watch and share our animation far and wide – to do so will save lives.”   If you need to access support, please contact Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline (freephone) on 0808 2000 247. Or visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk to fill in a web form and request a safe time to be contacted, or to access live chat facility between the hours of 3-10pm Monday-Friday.   ENDS Animation link: https://youtu.be/HXN-hw2WV0o For more information contact the press office on  0207 395 7731 or email press@refuge.org.uk Refuge encourages all media outlets to signpost to Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline, for free and confidential support, 24 hours a day,  call 0808 2000 247 or visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk to access live chat.

Refuge launch #iSeeYou, a video campaign supported by Google UK
Refuge launch #iSeeYou, a video campaign supported by Google UK

To reach women experiencing domestic abuse during Lockdown 2 and mark the International day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls, which starts the annual ‘16 days of activism’, Refuge, has launched #iSeeYou, a video campaign supported by Google UK. Right now hundreds of thousands of women are trapped at home with their abusive partners in lockdown conditions. Living in fear day in day out, unable to access support. For most women experiencing domestic abuse this won’t have been their first lockdown - they will have spent years isolated and trapped with abuse escalating over time. This campaign is a call out to let them know that they are not alone and Refuge is there to support them – every hour of every day. Google and Refuge worked together to create the #ISeeYou campaign following reports of a surge in demand during lockdown one earlier this year. By developing an organic social media campaign, led by talent and advocates, Refuge hopes to reach thousands more victims, survivors, and their families. The video features, among others, Denise Lewis OBE, Malin Andersson and Alex Winter, who have lent their support, voice and time free of charge to take part in this vital campaign. With two women being killed every week by a current and former partner in England and Wales, with deaths escalating during the pandemic, this campaign has the power to save lives. Lockdown has meant restrictions on movement - the window to call for help, ordinarily very limited, has been reduced yet more. This campaign couldn’t be more urgent. Since the first set of lockdown restrictions, Refuge launched a ‘live chat’ service, which gives women who are too afraid to pick up the phone a way to access support online with specialist Helpline staff. When so much of our lives are lived online it’s crucial that the Helpline is both promoted, and accessible to women without compromising their safety. Lisa King, director of communications and external relations at Refuge said: ‘We are incredibly grateful to Google for lending us their support. We know only too well at Refuge how crucial it is that women know how to access help – particularly during lockdown when their options might feel more limited. We want every woman experiencing domestic abuse to know that Refuge is here for them every moment of every day – our services are open and they are safe. A call to Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline or connecting via livechat could be the start of a new beginning for many women – the start of a journey to safety. This video, and the talent who have given their time, is a powerful way to reach women and share our services.’ Denise Lewis OBE, who features in the #ISeeYou campaign video said: ‘I am delighted to support this important campaign and use my voice to help amplify Refuge’s message. 1 in 4 women will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime and it’s more important than ever that we ensure Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline number – 0808 2000 247 - is as visible as possible. This number, and the team of trained experts who answer calls, can change lives and save lives. Please reach out to Refuge if you ever need help or support.’ Johanna Yaovi, marketing programme manager at Google said: ‘We are extremely proud to have supported Refuge in the creation of the #ISeeYou campaign, using our network to involve inspiring talents and promoting the initiative on some of our owned channels. During these uncertain times it is essential for everyone to have access to available resources, especially considering the surge in cases of domestic abuse since the start of the COVID crisis.’ The #ISeeYou video will launch on 25th November – International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and will be featured on Refuge’s owned and operated channels. Any woman who needs support should call Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247 – free, and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Or visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk to access live chat (available between 3pm-10pm Monday to Friday) or to fill in a webform and request a safe time to be contacted. Refuge want women to know #ISeeYou and are there to support you. You are not alone. ENDS For more information contact the press office on  0207 395 7731 or email press@refuge.org.uk Watch the video here. Refuge encourages all media outlets to signpost to Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline, for free and confidential support, 24 hours a day,  call 0808 2000 247 or visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk to access live chat.

Refuge response to funding boost for rape and domestic abuse services
Refuge response to funding boost for rape and domestic abuse services

In response to the government’s announcement of a funding boost for rape and domestic abuse support services, Lisa King, director of communications and external relations at Refuge said: ‘Refuge welcomes this new funding pot for rape and domestic abuse services. The Covid-19 crisis has amplified what we already know -  that funds are urgently needed to ensure vital frontline services are able to plan ahead. The pandemic has had a huge impact on survivors – from being kept waiting for Universal Credit payments, to experiencing difficulty in obtaining ‘move on’ accommodation, and the rise in demand for Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline. Of course this new funding is welcome, but it isn’t the long term solution so desperately needed. Specialist domestic abuse services have already been decimated as a result of austerity cuts. Short term funding means we are unable to recruit staff and longer term planning to meet the needs of survivors  is impossible. Long term, sustainable funding which allows frontline services to plan, hire staff and move away from the funding cliff edges is what is needed -  this is the only way to ensure no woman or child is turned away from accessing the support they need.  Specialist services need stability, not uncertainty, and the way to resolve that is with long term funding, rather than short term fixes. Refuge also welcomes the government’s commitment to raising awareness of domestic abuse via its #YouAreNotAlone campaign, but urges a focus on promoting Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline as a priority.  Refuge’s Helpline is a lifeline to abused women and gives 24 hour access to specialist support services across the country. Priority should be placed on promoting 0808 2000 247 and live chat support via www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk Monday-Friday 3-10pm. Women’s lives depend on it.’ ENDS For more information contact the press office on  0207 395 7731 or email press@refuge.org.uk Refuge encourages all media outlets to signpost to Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline, for free and confidential support, 24 hours a day,  call 0808 2000 247 or visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk to access live chat.

Refuge statement on latest lockdown period
Refuge statement on latest lockdown period

As the country moves into a new period of lockdown and restrictions, Jane Keeper, Refuge’s director of operations said: ‘This is of course a time of great concern for women living with abusive partners. We know that the window to get help is ordinarily very limited -  that window narrows even further when isolated at home with an abusive partner. What we saw earlier this year as the country entered the first stage of lockdown was a large spike in demand for our services. We are fully prepared for that to continue as we move into new restrictions. I want to reassure any woman who needs us that our services have remained open and have remained safe during lockdown. There were no disruptions and women who needed us were able to reach us and access the help they needed. The necessary changes to our services were put in place very swiftly earlier this year, as the first wave of lockdown started, meaning Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline, ordinarily run from a cyber secure, impenetrable office, was quickly adapted to run as a remote service. That continues, and our services will remain open for any women who needs to access our support.  Additionally, in preparation for any second lockdown,  Refuge has also extended the hours of its live chat facility. Now, between 3-10pm Monday to Friday, any woman needing our support can access live chat with an expertly trained Helpline worker, by visiting www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk. It is vital women have a variety of ways in which they can access help and we have ensured there are ways in which this can happen online, when we know calling for help is more challenging. With so much of our lives being lived online, it is vital that the support women can receive is digitally accessible too. ‘ ENDS For more information contact the press office on  0207 395 7731 or email press@refuge.org.uk Refuge encourages all media outlets reporting on lockdown to signpost to Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline, for free and confidential support, 24 hours a day,  call 0808 2000 247 or visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk to access live chat.

Refuge responds to Johnny Depp losing his libel case
Refuge responds to Johnny Depp losing his libel case

In response to Johnny Depp losing his libel case against The Sun. Lisa King, Refuge’s director of communications and external relations said: ‘This is an important ruling and one which we hope sends a very powerful message: Every single survivor of domestic abuse should be listened to and should be heard. No survivor should ever have her voice silenced. A common tactic used by perpetrators of domestic abuse is to repeatedly tell victims that no one will believe them -  and to use power and control to try and silence them. What we have seen today is that power, fame and financial resources cannot be used to silence women. That is a welcome message for survivors of domestic abuse around the world.  We stand in solidarity with Amber Heard who has shown immense bravery in speaking up and speaking out. One in four women will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime – it is the most pressing issue facing women and girls. Domestic abuse is a crime and it is vital that it is treated with the seriousness it deserves. If you need support Refuge is here for you. We will believe you and you will be heard. You can call us free, 24 hours a day on 0808 2000 247, or visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk. You are not alone’ For more information contact press@refuge.org.uk

Message from Sandra Horley on her retirement
Message from Sandra Horley on her retirement

Today is my final day as Chief Executive of Refuge, an organisation I have led, and loved, for nearly four decades. A lot has changed in the world during this time – and at Refuge – but one thing remains the same: domestic abuse is a horror that millions of women around the world live with every day. Forty-two years ago, I first started working in women’s refuges at the Haven Project in the Midlands. Back then, it was generally accepted by society that a man had a right to hit his partner and a woman just had to put up with it. Abused women (or “battered wives” as they were labelled then) had no money, nowhere to go, and no one to turn to for support.  Refuge, and others, led the march - step by step, towards change. As I retire, I am proud to reflect on what Refuge has achieved, but there is still so much work to do.  That is why the time is right for me to step aside and hand the reins to others so they can build on Refuge’s achievements.  I am glad that as I leave the charity, it is stronger than ever, financially secure, with dedicated staff and a talented senior leadership team who will ensure that no woman or child is turned away from the help they need. At Refuge we have been tenacious, resilient and not afraid to speak truth to power. I am confident that every team will continue to advocate powerfully and effectively for the women and children we support and whose safety and wellbeing are always the priority. I will never forget one of the first women I supported. A woman whose husband had taken a hammer and chisel to her face. 250 stitches needed to be administered and there was no skin on her face which was not stitched together. I fed her liquids through a straw. It was at that moment that I made myself a promise – that I would always use my voice for women whose voices were not heard. That I would do whatever it took to keep them safe. More than four decades later, domestic abuse has never been higher on the political or public agenda, and I am incredibly humbled to have played my part in making that the case.  But it was by no means easy. Sometimes I was threatened and followed by perpetrators.  Men would try and break into refuges. Policemen – incredible but true – would bring abusers carrying a bunch of flowers to the door of the refuge and say:  “He says he is sorry, now can you fetch his wife so he can take her back home?”  I was constantly challenging the police and governments to improve their responses to domestic abuse. Refuge’s roots are in Chiswick, where the world’s first safe house was opened by Erin Pizzey in 1971. Nothing like this had ever existed before. I became the director of the Chiswick refuge in 1983 and was shocked by the conditions. Women escaping abusive men had flocked to our doors and this safe space was full to overflowing. Although the conditions were far from perfect - a rundown old house, with women and children sleeping head to toe on mattresses on the floor – at least they were safe. Even with cockroaches, mice and holes in the wall, the refuge provided safety, shelter and support for women when they were most in need. Women told me that living in squalor was better than being terrified at home with a violent partner.  I am so glad that today Refuge provides safe accommodation in clean, well-maintained and healthy environments - another achievement over the years. . Under my leadership we launched Refuge under its new name in 1993 in the presence of the late Diana, Princess of Wales.  Now, nearly five decades on from its humble but important beginnings, Refuge has grown from one house in Chiswick to become the largest single provider of specialist domestic abuse services, supporting more than 6,500 women and children on any given day. I am immensely proud to have overseen this growth. When I first started, I had one colleague and a handful of volunteers. I admitted thousands of women and children into the refuge and listened to their experiences.  In between supporting traumatised women, I began negotiating for funds from the local authority, the Greater London Council and the government, approaching benefactors and donors to ensure our doors stayed open.  The original Helpline was in the refuge lounge, but calls were diverted to my bedside telephone when I went home in the evenings and at weekends. I am so proud of the professional Helpline Refuge now runs, after these basic beginnings. At the start of my journey I was a lone voice, and the police simply did not want to know about domestic violence. They dismissed it as a “domestic”, a private matter, to be kept behind closed doors. There was no government funding and no adequate homelessness legislation to give survivors a right to housing. Back then women leaving violent men were told they had made themselves ‘intentionally homeless’ and therefore not entitled to accommodation or they had to provide proof of violence before they could access emergency accommodation. Now, domestic abuse is rightly seen as a crime, and it has been pushed up the political agenda. The Domestic Abuse Bill is soon to return to the House of Lords, following its passage through the Commons. My early days in the Chiswick refuges were long, and they were tough. But together we started to move things forward. In 1984 the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) was passed giving police more powers to arrest in order to protect a vulnerable person. In 1990 the Home Office issued a Force Order to police forces in England and Wales, recommending that they adopt a more interventionist approach, arresting perpetrators to protect and support victims.  I was invited by the Home Office to explore the Canadian Government’s approach to addressing domestic abuse, which led to the establishment of the first domestic violence units in police stations in London. In 1990 we fought successfully to make rape in marriage illegal. I gave speech after speech, willing duty bearers to do more. Refuge has achieved so much. Not only has it grown its refuges and community-based services, but it has also enhanced the Home Office funded National Domestic Abuse Helpline. Every single minute of every single hour of every single day, women can call Refuge’s specialist team and receive confidential support. Whether they are ready to flee their abusive partner and need emergency accommodation, or they need guidance on accessing the legal system, or simply want to talk and be heard, Refuge’s team is ready to listen, and to help. If there is one message I want every woman reading this to see and remember, it is that you are not alone. Help really does exist, and lives can be saved, and changed. Refuge has become a modern, professional organisation, and I am very proud that it has achieved British Standards Institute (BSI) ISO9001 accreditation.  In 2016 the New Economics Foundation (NEF) carried out an independent evaluation of social return on investment in Refuge’s services.  Their findings were, in their words, “extraordinary, that for every £1 invested, clients, their families and society at large reap a reward equivalent to £4.94”. Further, NEF’s team was able to calculate that if Refuge’s services had not been available, it would have cost the State an additional £5.9 million a year. Since Covid-19, we have taken extra steps to ensure women can contact the Helpline in different ways, by digitising it, including implementing a live-chat facility. As technology becomes more advanced, so must our abilities to communicate with the women who need us. We were also able to secure funds from the Government to help us do this swiftly, including funding from the National Emergencies Fund which meant that our services were not compromised during the necessary Covid-19 restrictions. Within days of lockdown being announced, our Helpline was running remotely, meaning women who needed us could still reach us during a pandemic. Refuge’s growth has not been without challenge. Sometimes it has felt like one step forward and two steps back. Specialist domestic abuse services have never been properly funded – often running with hand to mouth budgeting. Austerity cuts led to a reduction in services, with the real victims of these cuts being the women and children who needed them most. But Refuge did not let these cuts stop us. While it is true that 80 per cent of Refuge’s services have seen funding cuts since 2011, and that some areas of the country have no refuge provision at all, we have increased our support to women and children. Often, Refuge’s generous supporters have stepped in when Government funding was not forthcoming.  Major donors have stood shoulder to shoulder with me over many years, making long-term gifts to keep services running. Other supporters up and down the country make a monthly direct debit donation. Every single person who has ever donated to Refuge has helped a woman or child in need. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. There has also been the support of our wonderful and talented patrons. So many people with big profiles and even bigger hearts have helped us along the way - people who have been able to help us amplify the voices of the women we work with and put domestic abuse on the political map and on the public agenda. If I named every single one of them I would probably need several more months until retiring – but I cannot retire without mentioning people like the late Diana, Princess of Wales who stood alongside us when we needed her, Dame Helen Mirren, Sir Patrick Stewart OBE, who has always been so generous with his time and profile. As a survivor of abuse as a child his story has undoubtedly helped many young people deal with the trauma they have experienced. I am grateful to Dame Stella Rimington, my mentor and Refuge patron, for her unstinting support and Baroness Helena Kennedy, QC, former trustee and patron, who has championed our cause for decades and asked me to be the first expert witness to give evidence on ‘Battered Woman Syndrome’ in a British court. My heartfelt thanks to Helena Bonham-Carter, Jo Brand, Olivia Colman and Fiona Bruce, brilliant women who have given their time over the years to stand in solidarity with the women we support as well as raise much needed funds. During my time at Refuge, I have been awarded two honours, an OBE, followed by a CBE.  I am proud to have these letters after my name but more important, they reflect the new recognition that domestic abuse and violence against women and children, matters. As policies and legislation have changed, Refuge’s message has remained clear. Domestic abuse is a crime, women and children have a right to live safely and without fear. Domestic abuse is rooted in power and control, and gender inequality. To challenge domestic abuse, and other forms of violence against women - modern slavery, rape and sexual abuse, honour based violence and forced prostitution - we must challenge the patriarchal culture which perpetuates these crimes. As I stand back from my role, I leave a message for the Government: the imminent Domestic Abuse Bill has the potential to be hugely transformational. However, that potential will only be realised if it makes a meaningful difference to the women and children it is meant to protect. I hope you will show the courage and leadership to ensure this Bill is as bold as it can be and that it also protects migrant survivors who have no recourse to public funds; that the Bill recognises the gendered nature of abuse - almost always perpetrated by men, against women; and it ensures that women have the resources to flee and are able to access emergency housing. Most important, I hope the Bill provides sustainable, ring-fenced funding for women’s refuges. I am hopeful that the Government's commitment to providing a legal duty to fund women’s refuges will come to fruition. I know the political will is there, I have seen it first-hand.  We continue to co-operate with government departments and former and current Home Secretaries: Jacqui Smith, Theresa May, Amber Rudd and Priti Patel have all come to Refuge to learn more about the issues surrounding domestic abuse and all forms of violence against women and girls.  Now, we need action and I stand ready to support making this a reality however I can. I may not be leading the charge anymore, but I am on the side-lines, ready to do what is needed for women and children, and I always will be. As I step back and reflect on our achievements at Refuge, I know how much I owe to the incredible and committed staff with whom I have had the privilege to work - many have been with us for decades. The honours I have received are dedicated to you all, on the frontline, and to the women needing Refuge’s support in the past, present and future. You are my inspiration. I hope for a world in which no woman faces abuse, where every woman can live in safety and without fear and where refuges are not needed. Until then I am grateful that Refuge is the fine, life-changing and life-saving organisation that it is. We have come a long way, but there is still a long way to go.  I am enormously grateful to all of you who have accompanied me on this journey – volunteers, staff, donors, civil servants, politicians, Refuge trustees and patrons.  I am confident that you will continue to succeed in protecting and preserving the rights of women and children. Au revoir. Thank you. Sandra Horley, CBE 31 October 2020

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.