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Working with survivors

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

Press releases

Refuge statement on government Rape Review
Refuge statement on government Rape Review

Refuge welcomes the government's apology for systemic failings on rape, and stands with our sector partners who are leading the response to the end-to-end rape review and continuing to hold the government to account. While Refuge welcomes the publication of this rape review, delayed since 2019, and the government’s apology for systemic failings on rape, we remain concerned that this review does not include sufficiently ambitious or timely plans to improve investigations, prosecutions and convictions for rape and sexual assault. The statistics in the review should provide a sharp wake-up call - and, while an apology from the government is welcome, that will be little consolation to the women who have been failed - like the many victims whose cases have not been progressed by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). These latest statistics show that only 1.4% of cases reported to the police result in a CPS charge and convictions are at their lowest level since 2007. What sort of message does this send to victims of rape? That they have a 1.4% chance of even having the opportunity to access justice? Is it any surprise that 41% of victims chose to withdraw support for their case? Refuge calls for a total overhaul of the rape criminal justice system – both the police and the CPS – we cannot accept such monumental failings any more. Enough is enough. The government must also urgently provide adequate sustainable funding for specialist rape services which have been seriously eroded these last few years. The government’s response to rape must become a number one priority. About Refuge: Refuge is the country’s largest single provider of specialist domestic services and supports more than 7,000 women and children on any given day. Refuge also 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. 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 http://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 also has a Tech Safety Tool.

Refuge statement on social media images glorifying domestic abuse ahead of England v Scotland.
Refuge statement on social media images glorifying domestic abuse ahead of England v Scotland.

Refuge statement on the sharing of images on social media which glorify and normalise domestic abuse ahead of England's game against Scotland this evening. Refuge unequivocally condemns the images, films and memes which are being shared on social media ahead of the England v Scotland game this evening, which glorify violence against women and girls and domestic abuse. They have turned our stomachs. They are wholly unacceptable. Two women a week across England and Wales are killed by a current or former partner, and one in four women experience domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime. Portraying violence against women and girls in this way is frankly insulting to the more than 7,000 women and children Refuge supports on any given day, and the millions more experiencing domestic abuse who have yet to seek support. What sort of message do these images send them? That domestic abuse is 'good for a laugh', that male banter about their experiences is some sort of acceptable humour? I know there will be many thousands of England, Scotland and Wales fans who will be as appalled by these images as I am. I encourage them to actively call this out on the social media where these images are being shared. Only by speaking out and challenging misogyny can we hope to achieve anything close to gender equality. While women's lives and experiences are being used in this way, remaining silent is not an option. I urge all media outlets reporting on this story to please signpost to Refuge's National Domestic Abuse Helpline -  which is freephone, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 0808 2000 247, or at www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk. To any woman who needs us - my message is clear. Refuge is here for you, before the game, during the game, after the game, and whenever you need us. We will listen, we will hear you, we will support you. You are not alone. ENDS About Refuge: Refuge is the country’s largest single provider of specialist domestic services and supports more than 7,000 women and children on any given day. Refuge also 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. 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 http://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 also has a Tech Safety Tool.

Refuge communications and external relations director receives OBE.
Refuge communications and external relations director receives OBE.

Refuge communications and external relations director receives OBE. Refuge is thrilled that our director of communications and external relations, Lisa King, has been recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honors list 2021, receiving an OBE. Lisa joined refuge 18 years ago, as a 30-year-old, who had worked in a traditional PR role. Over 18 years, Lisa has been at the centre of Refuge's growth, now the largest single provider of specialist domestic abuse services in the country. Leading the organisations communications and external relations department has seen Lisa become a regular media commentator, not only delivering Refuge's messages, but also supporting and empowering survivors of domestic abuse to tell their stories, as well as playing a central role in our advocacy to government, ensuring domestic abuse remains high on both the political and public agenda. Lisa has also brought in significant partnerships to Refuge, an ever-flourishing group of talented creatives who offer us pro bono support, as well as driving award winning campaigns. Ruth Davison, Refuge CEO said: 'We are all thrilled that Lisa has received this well-deserved recognition. Since joining Refuge in April, it's become clear just how much Refuge can utilise its brand profile, enabling us to reach women experiencing domestic abuse who need to access our services, whilst delivering real change for the more than 7000 women and children we support on any given day. The Domestic Abuse Act, which became law earlier this year, is testament too, to the way in which the women's sector has been able to collectively hold the governments feet to the fire. Lisa has played a key role in so many of Refuge's achievements to date and this honour is fitting recognition of her passion, hard work and tenacity'. Lisa King said: 'I am truly humbled to receive this honor. When I joined Refuge 18 years ago, I knew very little about the prevalence of domestic abuse in this country. Now, 18 years on, I am so proud to work with so many survivors who have really helped drive change in this country. I also know that behind the horrific statistics we repeat over and over at Refuge, are real women, brave women. Women who have helped change the landscape of the response to domestic abuse. We know we have so much work yet to do, and this honour will help drive me forward to continue the fight, until we can be sure that no woman or child is turned away from accessing the support they need, and that women can live safely, free from abuse. ' ENDS About Refuge: Refuge is the country’s largest single provider of specialist domestic services and supports more than 7,000 women and children on any given day. Refuge also 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. 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 http://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 also has a Tech Safety Tool.

18 years of sharing survivors' stories
18 years of sharing survivors' stories

Our director of communications and external relations Lisa King has been recognised in the Queens Birthday Honours List 2021, with an OBE, for her work at Refuge. Lisa has been at Refuge for 18 years and in that time has been part of many of our key achievements. Lisa tells us what this honour means to her: A woman called Julia Pemberton. lit my passion for raising awareness of the impact of domestic abuse. I never knew Julia because she tragically died before I joined Refuge. But I had the pleasure of meeting her brother, Frank Mullane who told me her story – the story of a woman who knew she was going to be killed by her ex husband, but to whom no one would listen. That story changed me; it shocked me to my core. Why wasn’t Julia listened to, why wasn’t she believed, why did the authorities fail to protect her? Julia’s story, and the hundreds I’ve heard since, keeps the fire alight in me that will continue to burn until all women and children are safe from abuse and can live free from fear. I joined Refuge when I was 30. I’d had a good education, a great career, working for well respected PR agencies. I thought I was informed, educated, worldly-wise. Yet somehow I’d been unaware of the pervasive crime that is domestic abuse. When I first heard the statistic that one in four women would experience domestic abuse at some time in their lives I thought the figure must be an over-exaggeration – surely that couldn’t be correct. Who were, and where were, all these women? But I was wrong. And that figure was correct. I quickly learnt to be less excited about my new job when sharing the news with my friends and loved ones – nearly all of them had stories about abuse they or women they knew had experienced. When I share that statistic now I know there are real women up and down the country behind those statistics. I know how important it is to say, and remember, their names. I also know that these stats are sadly tip of a gigantic iceberg; domestic abuse is the biggest social issue affecting women and children in the UK. A so called ‘civilised’ country. Over the 18 years I’ve worked at Refuge I’ve met countless women who’ve bravely told their stories through our press, campaigning and policy work simply to show other women that there is a way to escape their abusive partners. I’ve been honoured to work with these women and support them to tell their stories. Women who so easily could also have lost their lives as Julia so tragically did. Women who have humbled me and given me the vital education I lacked. Women who replaced my judgment with humility and for whom I have deep respect, for their bravery and courage. Shelia Pound, Marie Hall, Fiona Bowman, Euleen Hope, Wendy Turner Webster, Hollie Woolford, Melanie Clarke, Natasha Saunders, Amy Aldworth – to name but just a few. I salute you all and carry you with me always. My work at Refuge, along with my two amazing sons, has been my rock and rudder through many personal challenges over the years. It has given me purpose and passion and has helped to get me through some of the toughest times of my life. The people I’ve worked with and alongside deserve much recognition too – everything Refuge achieves is a team effort. Refuge really does stand on the shoulders of around 400 giants. Many of those giants work across our frontline services - supporting women every day, giving them a place of safety, helping them to start their lives again, free from abuse and fear. I am so very grateful and honoured to receive this recognition. It has been, and continues to be, the biggest privilege of my life to raise awareness, generate support for and champion change of an issue that still claims the lives of two women every week in England and Wales and to know that the work I’ve been part of has saved and changed lives. This recognition is not just for me – it’s for every woman Refuge has supported. You are an inspiration and I stand with you today, tomorrow and into the future. Thank you for trusting me with your stories and experiences.

As a football fan - and a domestic abuser worker - this is what I want you to know.
As a football fan - and a domestic abuser worker - this is what I want you to know.

As a football fan - and a domestic abuser worker - this is what I want you to know.  Kim Manning-Cooper, Refuge head of communications Tonight, the long-awaited Euros start. The tournament that should have begun last summer, paused because of the pandemic, will be about so much more than the start of a football tournament. It will symbolise the return of a new ‘normality’, fans back in stadiums, groups gathering in pubs and in the sun to watch games, us all debating just how Gareth Southgate will arrange that back line, what formation will he go with, will Grealish make the starting 11? Foden? what about the gelling time with the squad those in the Champions League and Europa cup finals missed out on, and us all willing on Marcus Rashford, the hero to so many for his campaigning on child poverty, hoping his brilliance taking on politicians will be repeated when he takes on some of the best defenders in Europe. The tournament will also do something else - it will signal the England teams defiance to the boos that have accompanied them taking the knee - it will be an unshakeable show of support for equality, an active anti-racist message, and one which has been too long coming. Just take a moment to reflect on the abuse Rashford, for example, received following Utd’s penalty shoot-out defeat in Poland last month. Equality is everything, or it is nothing. I’ve been a football fan my entire life - a Pompey fan. I’ve been through the dizzying highs - and the inevitable lows. I’ve laughed and I’ve cried, I’ve celebrated, and I’ve commiserated. Football can make your weekend and, if the stakes are high enough, can break it too. Didn't Bill Shankly say, tongue in cheek, that football wasn't life or death for him, it was more important than that? The cold reality though, is that I work for a charity where the issue we deal with – domestic abuse – really can be a matter of life and death. 2 women a week across England and Wales are killed by a current or former partner, and 1 in 4 women will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime. That means it is almost a certainty that every person reading this will know someone who is experiencing domestic abuse. I do - I work with women every day for whom domestic abuse is a chilling reality. Football is often linked to domestic abuse, and this causes much misunderstanding and misrepresentation of domestic abuse and the experiences of women and children. You will likely read many headlines about domestic abuse reports increasing during the Euros. Domestic abuse doesn’t happen because the football is on, because England win or lose, because someone is drunk. It doesn’t happen by appointment. It happens all year round - it is a choice a perpetrator makes, stemming from power and control, from gender inequality, which misogyny and patriarchy helps perpetuate. The abuse a woman experiences all year round may perhaps be more invisible, more insidious forms of control – but no less harmful and often far more damaging. That’s what we mustn’t forget. So, while its clear football doesn't cause domestic abuse, like the lockdowns, these tournaments can aggravate pre-existing behaviours. Behaviours that are overwhelmingly more likely to be perpetrated by men, on women. The statistics don't lie. Football stadiums, as I know myself from going to them week in week out for most of my adult life are also filled disproportionately by men. That means that, for many women, the stakes are higher than they were for Eric Dier when he stepped up to take that penalty against Columbia in 2018. There will be many women who, like me, will be glued to the TV and enjoying a summer of football, but there will also be many who won’t be looking forward to the next month, who won’t be cheering every England break, dreaming of a trophy and the chance to be the top team in Europe -and their biggest fear won't be another penalty shoot-out (surely, we can win another?!) - instead many will be dreading the result, dreading a drunk partner coming home, and living in fear. To those women, I want you to know that the organisation I am proud to work for, Refuge, is there for you. We can support you, and make sure you aren’t alone. Of course, domestic abuse, so often thought about as being black eyes and broken bones, can take many different forms. From economic abuse (restricting your ability to work or access cash, running up debts in your name), to tech abuse (location tracking you via your devices, bombarding you with unwanted messages, monitoring your social media), sexual abuse (forcing you to have sex when you don’t want to), and coercive control (controlling your behaviour, who you see, what you wear, where you go). All these things are real, and they happen. I work with women every day who experience these things, and I work with them as they tell their stories to the media in order to help other women. Refuge amplifies their voices so they can support others. But today, the message comes from me - and that message is loud and clear: You are not alone. Our team of expert female staff and volunteers are here for you, and at Refuge we’ve increased the ways in which you can reach us. You can call us free (24 hours a day, 7 days a week) on 0808 2000 247, you can ‘live chat’ (with a person, not a bot) at www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk, and at the same website you can fill in a webform and let us know a safe time to contact you. So, when the teams run out on Friday night at Wembley, and Turkey v Italy starts the Euro 2020 (1) tournament, and when Wales take to the pitch on Saturday, England on Sunday, Scotland on Monday, remember that we are here for you, we will listen, we will hear you, and we will support you. We are just a phone call away. ___ To speak to Refuge's expert helpline team call 0808 2000 247. Our Helpline is free, confidential and open 24/7. You can also find support online at nationaldahelpline.org.uk, including out contact form and Live Chat (open Monday to Friday, 3pm-10pm).

Refuge CEO Ruth Davison responds to reports of police officers perpetrating domestic abuse
Refuge CEO Ruth Davison responds to reports of police officers perpetrating domestic abuse

  Ruth Davison, Refuge CEO, said: “It is shocking, yet sadly not surprising, to see the scale of domestic abuse perpetrated by police officers, the very people tasked with protecting women and children. What is more concerning still is that these abuses are too often perpetrated without consequence, as police officers accused of domestic abuse are a third less likely to be convicted than the general public. What message does this send to women experiencing abuse at the hands of a policeman? It’s hard enough for women to find the courage to report to the police – only around 20% ever do.  This troubling data shows that it must be yet harder for women in a relationship with a police officer to do and the chance of them receiving justice much less likely.  The police urgently need to get their own house in order before they will ever instill the confidence women who experience domestic abuse need to bravely make contact with the police. The police response must change – and fast. Refuge strongly supports the work of The Centre for Women’s Justice and the super-complaint submitted to police watchdogs.” ENDS About Refuge: Refuge is the country’s largest single provider of specialist domestic services and supports more than 7,000 women and children on any given day. Refuge also 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. 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 http://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 also has a Tech Safety Tool.

Refuge launches critical accessibility features on its National Domestic Abuse Helpline Website
Refuge launches critical accessibility features on its National Domestic Abuse Helpline Website

With 2 in 4 women with disabilities likely to experience domestic abuse, Refuge launches critical accessibility features on its National Domestic Abuse Helpline Website on Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD)  1 in 4 women will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime. Women with disabilities are more than twice as likely to experience domestic abuse compared to non-disabled women. Women with additional sensory and mobility needs are subjected to abuse for much longer; data from across Refuge’s services shows that for women with disabilities abuse lasted on average for 9 years, compared to 6.8 years for all women. New features include support from our expert Helpline Advisers via British Sign Language (BSL) interpretation, plus changes to our Helpline website to ensure screen reader compatibility and improved keyboard accessibility for women who need it Website translated into three frequently needed languages. WATCH – Video explaining the Helpline service in BSL Refuge, the country's largest single provider of specialist domestic services, and sole provider of the National Domestic Abuse Helpline (NDAH – telephone and website/live chat) has launched a range of new digital functions to increase accessibility for those needing life-saving and life-changing support. With Refuge continuing to see around a 60% increase in calls and contacts logged on its Helpline services the charity has today launched an enhanced version of its NDAH website to ensure some of the most vulnerable women experiencing abuse can access support. Refuge consulted with Deaf women and worked in partnership with SignHealth, the Deaf health charity, to launch a British Sign Language (BSL) service on www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk. This means users can click on the BSL symbol at the top of the website to receive free, confidential support from our expert Helpline Advisers via a qualified interpreter. SignVideo will provide the interpretation, which is available Monday – Friday, 10am – 6pm.  11 million people in the UK are deaf or hard of hearing and there are 151,000 BSL users in the UK.  20% of the UK population (14.1 million people) reported a disability in 2018/19. Refuge was delighted to work in partnership with SignHealth in developing this service; their team   helped develop resources and delivered training for Refuge’s Helpline advisors, to help them understand the unique needs of callers who may come through to us on the BSL service. To enhance accessibility yet more, Refuge has also launched a new language selector feature across its National Domestic Abuse Helpline website meaning women can now read vital content in Spanish, Bengali and Polish.  We have also improved accessibility for blind and partially sighted women by ensuring compatibility with two different screen readers, NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA) and Voiceover. Keyboard accessibility has been improved so that women who use a keyboard to navigate websites can more efficiently access the information they need on domestic abuse. Refuge worked in partnership with digital inclusion experts at our web agency Wunderman Thompson, and accessibility experts Hassell Inclusion tested our changes to ensure quality. The improvements follow the launch of the Live Chat service which was implemented last year, enabling more women to access the Helpline team via digital channels. Caroline* a domestic abuse survivor with severe hearing loss said: “He used my hearing difficulties against me to degrade and control me. He knew I couldn’t hear it when he would creep up behind me. Having a hearing impairment is isolating in itself, and you can feel rock bottom, but abuse is also isolating. It’s a double whammy because an abuser has no empathy, they use it against you to make you feel inferior and you feel so alone.” Ruth Davison, Refuge chief executive said: “We know there are many women experiencing domestic abuse across the country with additional needs and we want to ensure we are reaching them. Being deaf, hard of hearing, blind or having any other additional needs should never be a barrier to accessing support; but whose data shows that many of these women are experiencing more abuse and for longer. Our message to all women is that You Are Not Alone, and Refuge is here for you.  We are committed to ensuring we reach all women who need our specialist services, and we will continue this work into the future. This has been a huge team effort and we are proud to be launching our BSL service alongside many other improvements to Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline website to ensure yet more women can access the help they need and deserve.” Marie Vickers, SignHealth said “SignHealth has been incredibly committed with working with Refuge on this project. Throughout the pandemic, Deaf women have not been able to access services via telephone helplines. This has added more barriers for Deaf women to come forward and ask for support. Refuge has listened to what Deaf women need and taken on board SignHealth's experiences of working with Deaf survivors, including the urgent need for accessible services and Deaf awareness. We are pleased that the development of BSL interpretation on the National Domestic Abuse Helpline will improve access to the service for Deaf women across the country.” Victoria Atkins MP, Minister for Safeguarding said: “Domestic abuse is a horrendous crime and sadly we know that people with disabilities are often likely to face greater barriers in being able to access support. These new accessibility features launched by Refuge are a brilliant example of the types of steps that we all need to be taking to ensure everyone gets access to the help they need. As a government we are determined to tackle domestic abuse, which is why we introduced and passed the Domestic Abuse Act, to fundamentally transform our response to tackling this crime and provide greater protections from all forms of abuse.” Jonathan Hassell, CEO of Hassell Inclusion said “Considering all your online user’s needs is important, but even more so for Refuge, who have not only developed tools to help victims of domestic abuse but have also considered their digital accessibility needs at the moment victims reach out for help - the moment of crisis. It was a pleasure to work with Refuge to help them meet their accessibility goals, and ensure that the greatest number of people can access their essential resources.” Mhairi Sharp, CEO of the National Emergencies Trust (NET) who funded the project, said: “This latest step by Refuge will make a significant difference, ensuring no-one is left behind during times of crisis. We are proud to be able to support this transformational project and inspired by how swiftly, and collaboratively, Refuge has worked to make this change happen. The safety and needs of survivors are at the heart of what we all want to achieve, and this is a huge step forward.” ENDS Editors notes: Visit the National Domestic Abuse Helpline website to see the new features. 1 in 4 women will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime (ONS, Domestic abuse victim characteristics, England and Wales: year ending March 2020). Women with disabilities are more than twice as likely to experience domestic abuse than non-disabled women with the figure being as high as 2 in 4 women. (ONS, Domestic abuse victim characteristics, England and Wales: year ending March 2020). Refuge data shows for women with disabilities abuse lasts on average 9 years, compared to 6.8 years for all women across the services. (Data from Refuge’s performance reports 2019/20) 11 million people in the UK are deaf or hard of hearing and there are 151,000 BSL users in the UK. (ONS data)20% of the UK population (14.1 million people), reported a disability in 2018/19 (DWP, Family Resources Survey 2018/19).  Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline website accessibility project, has been made possible thanks to funding from the National Emergencies Trust (NET), whose Coronavirus Appeal launched in March 2018 to support those affected by the pandemic. The National Emergencies Trust and Refuge joined forces last year to ensure dedicated funding for survivors of domestic abuse. *Name changed for anonymity   About Refuge: Refuge is the country’s largest single provider of specialist domestic services and supports more than 7,000 women and children on any given day. Refuge also 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. 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 http://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 also has a Tech Safety Tool.

Refuge launches Tech Safety Website
Refuge launches Tech Safety Website

Refuge launches Tech Safety Website amid increase in numbers of women experiencing complex tech abuse New website, created with survivors, offers step by step guidance for securing devices Website also includes chatbot in multiple languages offering real time automated guidance Refuge, the country’s largest single provider of specialist domestic abuse services, today launches its new website, www.RefugeTechSafety.org, with dedicated resources for survivors, after seeing an increase in the number of referrals of complex cases of tech abuse. Between April 2020 and May 2021, Refuge has seen on average a 97% increase in the number of complex tech abuse cases requiring specialist tech support when compared to the first three months of 2020. In the last 5 months, this number has jumped to an average of 118% more complex tech abuse cases compared to before March 2020. Complex tech abuse cases supported by Refuge’s Tech Abuse Team often involve perpetrators using multiple accounts and devices to abuse, control and monitor their partners. The technology harnessed can range from everyday devices and accounts, to sophisticated, malicious software. A recent report from one of Refuge’s digital security partners Avast found a 93% increase in the use of malicious stalkerware and spyware apps when compared to the same time last year. Such abuse commonly happens alongside physical, sexual, emotional and/or financial abuse. Refuge knows that many women experiencing tech abuse feel they have no choice but to stop using online spaces or their devices, which further compounds their isolation. The new Tech Safety Website has been created in consultation with survivors and provides women with resources for recognising tech abuse and using technology safely. www.RefugeTechSafety.org hosts a short, animated film which illustrates common forms and experiences of technology facilitated abuse. The website also provides 17 step-by-step support guides covering a range of device and account settings, created specifically with domestic abuse survivors’ safety in mind. The guides provide easy to follow instructions on how to secure the settings for a range of commonly used devices and accounts, with cautions provided throughout where an action could notify an abuser. The website also includes an interactive Tech Safety Tool (chatbot) with video guides for securing accounts and devices in English, Urdu, Polish and Spanish. Ruth Davison, Refuge Chief Executive Officer, said: “Refuge is thrilled to be launching www.RefugeTechSafety.org, created together with survivors, to empower women and children to use technology safely. In the past year, many of us will have turned to technology to keep in touch with loved ones and to connect with the world “However, at Refuge we’re aware that perpetrators of domestic abuse often use technology as a tool of abuse – this can force survivors offline and further isolate them from their support networks. In the past year, we’ve seen growing numbers of complex tech abuse cases that require our specialist support. With the government’s Online Safety Bill due to be published today, Refuge is disappointed that the government hasn’t committed to ensuring that violence against women and girls is specifically addressed in a bill that has the potential to tackle tech abuse and protect women.” No survivor of abuse should feel the need to stop using online spaces. That’s why we’re now sharing our resources and expert knowledge with the public, so women can protect themselves from abuse and not be forced offline due to domestic abuse. For any woman experiencing tech abuse, you are not alone, Refuge is here for you.” Amy Aldworth, survivor of tech abuse supported by Refuge, said: “Refuge’s Tech Abuse Team supported me when I was being stalked and harassed online by a man I had met via a dating app. At the time, the abuse felt insurmountable and my mental health and ability to work were severely affected. My Refuge Tech Advocate supported me to secure the privacy and location settings of my online accounts, helping me feel safer online. She also assisted me in gathering evidence for the police and with her support I was able to secure a Stalking Protection Order against my abuser. Often women in my situation may not know where to turn to or what their options are which is why I’m so pleased to have been involved in the creation of www.RefugeTechSafety.org. Along with other women Refuge has supported, I gave my insights to ensure the website works for women experiencing tech abuse. It’s great to see that the resources that helped me through such a difficult time of my life will be available to other women in similar situations.” Sasha Wiggins, Barclays Group Head of Public Policy and Corporate Responsibility said: “Whilst technology is a great help and source of support for many – especially so over the course of the last year – some of this technology is sadly being misused by abusers to facilitate harm. Refuge play a vital role in raising awareness, providing support to, and empowering the survivors of this domestic abuse, and so we are proud to be supporting the creation of their new Tech Safety website, allowing Refuge to reach even more women across the UK.” – ENDS – With thanks to the Barclays £100m Covid-19 Community Aid Package which funded the creation of Refuge’s new Tech Safety website: resources designed to provide survivors and professionals with the tools to recognise, understand and respond to abuse perpetrated through the misuse of technology. Raising awareness and supporting survivor safety. Visit Refuge’s Tech Safety Website at www.RefugeTechSafety.org for information on tech abuse, watch our animation and find guidance on how to secure your personal devices. For real time automated support Refuge also has a Tech Safety Tool. You can call Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 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). About Barclays Community Aid Package Barclays £100m COVID-19 Community Aid Package is supporting charities that are helping vulnerable people impacted by COVID-19, and the associated social and economic hardship caused by the crisis. Alongside matching colleague donations and fundraising efforts, Barclays are partnering with a number of charities in the UK, Americas, Asia and Europe, delivering help where it is needed most. For more information contact press@refuge.org.uk.

Blog: The Domestic Abuse Bill receives Royal Assent
Blog: The Domestic Abuse Bill receives Royal Assent

Ruth Davison, Refuge's Chief Executive, on the Domestic Abuse Bill becoming law as the Domestic Abuse Act. It is just two weeks since I took the reins at Refuge, the largest single provider of domestic abuse services in the country. As committed feminist and activist, joining a charity which is committed to driving forward a progressive agenda, with supporters and survivors at its core, is hugely exciting. Refuge has been supporting survivors of domestic abuse since 1971 and has won many battles over that time, with another being won today as the Domestic Abuse Bill receives Royal Assent. I’m so proud of my colleagues – and our allies across the sector – for all their work in bringing this Bill to fruition. The Bill could really transform the response to domestic abuse and contains some vital provisions which Refuge congratulates the government on introducing. But sadly, it has also fallen short on some key areas - as an organisation that supports upwards of 7000 women and children on any given day, it is incumbent on Refuge to spell out those omissions and recommit our efforts to campaigning for swift solutions. Refuge, along with sector allies, survivors and supporters, have held the government’s feet to the fire throughout this process and pressed for the Bill to be bold and robust. And it is; in part. Refuge successfully campaigned for the Bill to make threats to share intimate images a crime - a campaign which was won in less than a year. Now the Bill has become law, women will be protected from threats to share intimate image with the intent to cause distress and we are working with the Law Commission to see how the law can be even further strengthened in this area. The Naked Threat campaign success is a huge win and must be celebrated. For the first time, the Bill also explicitly recognises economic abuse as a form of domestic abuse. Refuge and our colleagues at Surviving Economic Abuse have long argued for better support for survivors of economic abuse both via specialist support service provision as well as directly from banks and other institutions across the financial sector. Refuge's work with The Cooperative Bank and Surviving Economic Abuse led to the establishment of the UK Finance first eve Financial Abuse Code of Conduct. Refuge’s recent report showed that nearly 2 out of 5 adults in the UK - approximately 20 million people - have experienced economically abusive behaviour, but only 16% of the population identify it as such. Recognising economically abusive behaviours as domestic abuse is central to ensuring the banking sector can better support women and girls. The Bill also criminalises non-fatal strangulation and abolishes the 'rough sex' defence to murder and cause serious harm. For too long, perpetrators have been able to claim that women's lives have been lost to 'rough sex gone wrong'. Women’s lives being lost to male violence must stop, now, and the ability for men to avoid murder charges for the deaths of women must be halted. Activists, including the campaign group 'we can't consent to this' should rightly be proud of this victory. Refuge is also delighted that the Bill recognises the housing needs of women fleeing abusive partners. Until now, survivors of domestic abuse needed to prove an 'additional vulnerability' before being recognised as being in priority need for homelessness support. We are proud of our work with Crisis and others across the sector to change homelessness law so that all survivors will be automatically considered in priority need. Refuge hopes this will ensure that women experiencing domestic abuse will no longer be faced with the impossible choice of remaining with an abusive partner or facing homelessness. We are also pleased that the Government has committed to a legal duty to assess need for and commission domestic abuse safe accommodation. This is a welcome provision and one which could lead to the much-needed increase in emergency refuge spaces. But the government has committed only £125 million for this purpose - falling way short of the estimated £174 million necessary to ensure provision matches need. If the government is serious about ensuring no woman or child is turned away from accessing specialist services, then it must ensure the duty is fully funded. Regretfully, the funding shortfall is not the only shortcoming of the Bill. While this was a chance to ensure all women experiencing domestic abuse are afforded protection, the government has fallen short of doing this in practice. By failing to adopt the amendment to the Bill which would protect all migrant women, the government has effectively said that not all women are worthy of protection. Refuge knows only too well that migrant women are often locked out of accessing specialist refuge accommodation because they cannot access financial support from the state to support their stay. Insecure immigration status should never be a barrier to accessing support, and the failure to adopt this amendment sends a concerning message to women with no recourse to public funds and insecure or irregular immigration status. Does this mean their lives are less important, their experiences less valid? Refuge calls on the government to quickly right this wrong and ensure migrant survivors can access the services they need easily and quickly. The work of Southall Black Sisters, the Latin American Womens Rights Service and the step up for migrant women campaign should be celebrated in bringing this issue to the fore - and we hope the government will work with them and us to find solutions. The Bill also represented a unique opportunity to change the way Universal Credit is paid. Universal Credit is paid by default into a single account when being claimed with a partner, meaning perpetrators have been able to use this to gain total control of the household income overnight and economically abuse women. Refuge hoped that the government would take this opportunity to reverse this default position and pay this benefit into separate accounts by default for all joint claims. By doing this, and by ensuring advance payments of Universal Credit were paid to survivors of abuse as grants and not loans, the government could have ensured that women fleeing abusive partners did not risk being thrown into abject poverty. Sadly, this opportunity was not taken. We hope that the government will recognise this omission and ensure women who flee abuse are able to do so without the added burden of facing economic insecurity. We will not stop until these vital amendments are made. So, while Refuge and survivors of domestic abuse are rightly delighted to finally see this legislation come to fruition, we cannot help but also feel disappointed. What had the potential to be truly transformational has taken one step forward - but it needs to go much further. The activist in me means that I, and my colleagues at Refuge, won’t stop campaigning until we are assured that all women will be protected, and that the government has done all it can. Until then, you can expect us to keep holding the government to account- that is our job, and one which I’m delighted to be leading. Women’s rights and gender equality should never be a compromise - and our response to it must be bold and radical, if we are going to achieve our aim of ending domestic abuse in our society today.

Refuge responds to Crown Prosecution Service report and additional funding
Refuge responds to Crown Prosecution Service report and additional funding

Refuge responds to Crown Prosecution Service quarterly report and news of additional funding for courts over the next year Cordelia Tucker O’Sullivan, Refuge senior policy and public affairs manager said: “Refuge welcomes the news that the limit of working days for Crown Courts has been lifted for the next financial year. The increased budget for courts over the next year is a necessary step to tackle the backlog of cases that has been exacerbated by the past year and that leaves survivors of domestic abuse in a state of limbo as they await justice. However, this funding provides only a sticking plaster solution – the court system needs sustained, increased funding to truly tackle this issue, including opening more courts to tackle the enormous backlog of cases. The huge delays to trials that survivors of domestic abuse have been faced with over the past year are likely to have had a severe impact on safety and also their mental health and ability to move on after abuse. Delays increase the likelihood that survivors will drop out of the criminal justice process. It is of the utmost importance that the Ministry of Justice and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) urgently invest the resources needed to ensure that survivors are not left awaiting justice for months or even years, while potentially dangerous perpetrators are free to continue their abuse while waiting for trial. Refuge is also extremely concerned to see new data released by the CPS which paints the picture of ongoing low prosecution and conviction rates for domestic abuse and rape cases; yet this comes in the context of a spike in numbers of women reaching out for support from Refuge’s specialist services. The criminal justice system needs wholesale reform if it is adequately to do its job in protecting survivors of abuse and holding perpetrators to account.” Notes to editors Despite police referrals to the CPS for domestic abuse offences staying relatively stable over the past year compared to the previous year, the number of suspects charged fell 8%. Convictions in cases of both domestic abuse and rape offences have fallen by 15.8% and 31.75% respectively for this year compared to last. This will be at least in part due to the ongoing Covid pandemic. Calls and contacts logged on Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline rose by an average of 61% between April 2020 and February 2021 Refuge would like to see investment in specialist support services for domestic abuse and sexual violence which have faced a funding cliff-edge over the last decade. ENDS For more information contact press@refuge.org.uk. About Refuge: 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. 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 also has a Tech Safety Tool.

Domestic Abuse Bill receives Royal Assent
Domestic Abuse Bill receives Royal Assent

Refuge is delighted that the Domestic Abuse Bill has today received Royal Assent and been signed into law, becoming the Domestic Abuse Act. The Act is the product of many years of work across the women's sector and is designed to transform the response to domestic abuse. Domestic Abuse Bill signed into law, concluding many years work across the women's sector and becoming the Domestic Abuse Act Refuge delighted by progressive provisions in the Act but disappointed by key omissions - failure to protect migrant women and amend aspects of the Universal Credit system that facilitates and exacerbates economic abuse. Refuge calls on government to move swiftly to rectify key omissions and ensure all women are protected As the largest single provider of specialist domestic abuse services, Refuge has played a pivotal role in the development of this primary legislation, successfully campaigning for the Act to make threatening to share intimate images a crime. Until now, only the sharing of intimate images has been illegal - leaving millions of women vulnerable to coercive and controlling behaviour from abusers who threaten to share their intimate images or films. Women were facing huge obstacles when trying to report such threats - police and prosecutors can only protect women where the law allows them to. This vital change in the law, secured by Refuge and survivors of domestic abuse, will protect millions of women from image-based abuse. Refuge also commends the government for ensuring the Act explicitly recognises economic abuse as a form of domestic abuse, for criminalising non-fatal strangulation and abolishing the 'rough sex' defence. Equally, Refuge is delighted that provisions in the Act mean that women who flee their abusive partners and need emergency housing no longer need to prove an 'additional vulnerability'. This will mean women no longer have to make the impossible choice of remaining with an abuser or facing homelessness. The Act also cements the government's commitment to a legal duty to fund emergency accommodation refuges. This has the potential to make available many more emergency beds - but this commitment must be met with adequate funding. The £125 million pledged falls way short of the estimated £174 million pounds needed to ensure funding matches need. But while the Act is a positive piece of legislation which will protect millions of women, Refuge is concerned by two major omissions. The government’s failure to adopt the amendment which would provide protection to migrant survivors means that the Bill will not protect all women. Insecure immigration status should never be a barrier to accessing support, and Refuge is concerned about the message this send to women who have 'no recourse to public funds' or insecure immigration status. Are their lives not as valuable and their experiences less valid? Refuge urges the government to right this wrong and move quickly to abolish the no recourse to public funds condition and ensure that all migrant survivors can apply for indefinite leave to remain independently of their perpetrator. Refuge is also disappointed that the government did not use the Domestic Abuse Bill as an opportunity to make vital reforms to the way it pays Universal Credit. Currently paid by default into one account, Universal Credit risks giving perpetrators total control over the entire household income overnight, thereby facilitating economic abuse. Refuge calls on the government to overturn this position and pay Universal Credit separately by default when it is claimed jointly with a partner. Universal Credit advances must also be paid as grants rather than loans to survivors of domestic abuse. Failure to do this means that women who flee abusive partners face being thrown into abject poverty when they flee. Ruth Davison, Refuge chief executive said: 'Refuge is delighted that the Domestic Abuse Bill has completed the parliamentary process and has been signed into law with royal assent. The now Domestic Abuse Act is the product of many years work across the women’s sector and will provide increased protection to millions of women across England and Wales, including by criminalising threats to share intimate images - a product of Refuge's successful The Naked Threat campaign. However, Refuge is concerned that the Act fails to ensure protection and support is available for all migrant women and address the aspects of the Universal Credit system that facilitates and exacerbates economic abuse, namely the single household payment and five-week delay. This is a missed opportunity to ensure all woman experiencing abuse are protected and we hope the government will move swiftly to rectify this. Refuge stands ready to work with the government both in ensuring all aspects of the Act are implemented effectively and without delay as well as implement these other vital changes, to ensure all women are protected and able to access support. Refuge also calls on the government to ensure that the legal duty to fund refuges is met with adequate ring-fenced funding, which matches need. Only then will frontline services be able to step away from the funding cliff edge they so often find themselves on, and ensure no woman or child is turned away from accessing specialist support.’ ENDS For more information contact press@refuge.org.uk. About Refuge: 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. 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 also has a Tech Safety Tool.

Refuge statement on migrant women amendment in the Domestic Abuse Bill
Refuge statement on migrant women amendment in the Domestic Abuse Bill

Refuge statement on migrant women amendment in the Domestic Abuse Bill Cordelia Tucker O'Sullivan, Refuge senior policy and public affairs manager said: 'Last night the Domestic Abuse Bill, many years in the making, took another crucial step towards becoming law.  Refuge is delighted that the government listened to Refuge and survivors, and that the Bill will make threats to share intimate images a crime, and we look forward to the Bill becoming law later this year. However, the rejection of the amendment to protect migrant women experiencing domestic abuse is a huge disappointment. Frontline organisations, such as Refuge, Southall Black Sisters, and Latin American Women's Rights Service who work with migrant women every day know just how important it is to ensure they too, are protected, regardless of whether they have the 'right' type of visa. Refuge stands in solidarity with the Step Up Migrant Women coalition and wholeheartedly support repeated calls for the protection of migrant women, who are so often locked out of accessing the specialist support they need. This was a real opportunity for the government to ensure that all women, regardless of where they happen to have been born, have access to the life-saving protection they need and deserve. Insecure immigration status should never be a barrier to accessing support and Refuge will continue to fight for all women to have access to the protection they need. The falling of this amendment sends a very worrying message to migrant women, and Refuge hopes the government will think again and ensure a solution which supports women with 'no recourse to public funds' or with insecure immigration status is swiftly forthcoming. Women's lives depend on it'. ENDS Notes to Editors For more information contact press@refuge.org.uk. About Refuge: 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. 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 also has a Tech Safety Tool.

New Economics Foundation (NEF) analysis of Refuge's specialist services
New Economics Foundation (NEF) analysis of Refuge's specialist services

Refuge announces New Economics Foundation (NEF) analysis of spend on its specialist services. For every £1 invested, £8.24 of social value is generated; a 100% increase in just five years In 2020, Refuge, the country's largest provider of specialist domestic abuse services, commissioned NEF Consulting (NEF) to carry out an analysis of how much societal (i.e. social and economic) value is delivered from every £1 it spends on its services. Over the year period NEF found that for every £1 Refuge spends on services it generated an average of £8.24 of social value (this represents a near doubling of value created compared to 2016 when NEF last undertook this evaluation).   NEF estimates the total social value generated by Refuge’s specialist services at £86 million per year. Jane Keeper, director of operations and services at Refuge, said: “Refuge supports around 7,000 women and children on any given day. Our frontline services not only change and save the lives of women and children experiencing domestic abuse in this country – but also bring wider societal value to the women we support. The analysis also found that savings to the State from Refuge's services were highest in the area of health, followed closely by safety, through reduced costs to the criminal justice system.  It is wonderful to see – and testament to our amazing frontline workers – that NEF has been able to show the value our services deliver which is more than eight times our spend. “This evaluation makes a very strong and clear case for funding specialist domestic abuse services. We hope these figures will be well received by our commissioners and donors and make them feel yet more confident that when they support Refuge’s specialist services, we will use their money wisely and maximise the outcomes we deliver for women and children.” Beti Baraki, Consultant, NEF Consulting, said: “We have been commissioned by Refuge to prepare a social valuation of its services. The study analysed the impact generated by Refuge’s services for three sets of stakeholders: women, their children, and the State. The study found the social value generated by Refuge’s services is eight times greater than the amount of money invested in them, demonstrating the vital support Refuge provides for survivors of violence. Yet violence against women remains widespread with devastating impact on survivors, their children and the wider society. This study is a clear indication of the need for a long-term, sustainable funding for specialist domestic violence services, which reflect the social value they generate”. ENDS Notes to editors: To arrive at this calculation, NEF analysed Refuge’s anonymised IMPACT case outcome data and assigned financial proxies to each outcome,  to 'value' the social value or change Refuge made to the lives of the women using its services, their children and the State Outcomes, or the changes in women’s lives, were then identified and grouped into four categories; safety, health, social wellbeing and economic wellbeing The analysis found that State savings were highest in the area of health, followed closely by safety through reduced costs to the criminal justice system Distribution of benefits: Of the three stakeholders groups (women, their children, and the State) women capture the largest share of benefits at 82%. Children capture 20% of the value and the State incurs a net cost of 2%. The distribution of benefits by outcome domain is unequivocal: safety accounts for 59% of the social return on investment; social and economic wellbeing account for 21% and 11% respectively; with health accounting for the remaining 8% NEF Consulting is the consultancy within the New Economics Foundation. To contact or for more information on their analysis they can be contacted via research@nefconsulting.com or visit www.nefconsulting.com. Read the report here. About Refuge: 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. 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 also has a Tech Safety Tool.

A year of lockdown: Refuge releases new figures showing dramatic increase in activity
A year of lockdown: Refuge releases new figures showing dramatic increase in activity

A year of lockdown: Refuge releases new figures showing dramatic increase in activity across its specialist domestic abuse services. Between April 2020 and February 2021 calls and contacts* logged on Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline (NDAH) up by average of 61% 72% of people supported by NDAH were women experiencing abuse Women supported in multiple languages by specialist staff 4,481 referrals made to secure refuges across country 11,616 safety plans created Average of seven-fold increase in visits to specialist website www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk More than 5,200 'live chats' have taken place since new service launched in May 2020 Refuge, the country's largest single provider of specialist domestic abuse services, marks one year on since the Prime Minister announced the country would go into immediate 'lockdown' by releasing a consolidated overview of activity across its specialist services between April 2020 and February 2021. During this period (April 2020 – February 2021), Refuge has, on average, logged more than 13,162 calls and contacts* to its specialist National Domestic Abuse Helpline services per month (up from an average of 8,176 per month between January and March 2020), pulling into sharp focus the sheer number of women needing support. This is a worrying trend, particularly as being isolated with an abusive partner is likely to have made reaching out for support more challenging. During the reporting period, 72% of those supported by Refuge’s specialist Helpline team were women experiencing violence and abuse. Women of all ages called us during this period, but the most common age-bracket was 30-39. Our specialist team also spoke to professionals, such as police, social workers and healthcare staff (11% of those we supported) and members of the public who were concerned that a friend, family member, or neighbour was experiencing domestic abuse (10% of those we supported). Domestic abuse is, of course, more than just physical violence. It can be economic, sexual or emotional abuse, coercive control or abuse perpetrated through the misuse of technology. During the pandemic, our Helpline team received calls from women who were being terrorised in their own homes, women who were afraid to seek treatment for their injuries in case they overburden hospital staff, women whose court cases had been delayed, women making plans to flee the home, and women with no home to go to. Where the type of abuse was recorded, nearly one in five (19%) of the women we spoke to had experienced threats to kill from their abusers. 10% had had weapons used against them. 16% had been strangled. During the same period (Jan – Dec 2020), our expert Helpline team made 4,481 referrals to secure refuges, enabling women to flee abusive partners, signposted survivors to other specialist domestic abuse services in their communities 32,811 times, and empowered women with information about their rights and options 56,596 times (for example, around child contact, civil orders, reporting to the police, making an emergency homelessness application) Lisa King, Refuge director of communications and external relations said: 'What these statistics show is that activity across Refuge's specialist services has increased significantly during lockdown. Between April 2020 and February 2021, the average number of calls and contacts logged* on our database per month was 61% above the January-March 2020 period, pulling into sharp focus just how many women across the country have been experiencing domestic abuse during the pandemic and how many need the specialist, confidential support Refuge provides. For women and children experiencing domestic abuse, home is not a safe place. Lockdown measures, where women have been isolated and confined with their perpetrators more than ever before, have compounded their exposure to violence and abuse. This time last year Refuge moved quickly to ensure its services were able to continue to run and run safely. We mobilised our National Domestic Abuse Helpline - ordinarily run from a cyber-secure office environment to an entirely remote operation; we ensured our frontline workers were given key worker status and we moved fast to set up an online live chat service in May, recognising that women who were trapped at home with their abusers were likely to find the ordinarily limited window to call for help increasingly restricted. In November we extended our live chat service hours as lockdown progressed, and in response to the growing numbers of women accessing this confidential ‘silent’ support. More than 5,200 'live chat' conversations have taken place since the service launched. As restrictions ease we want any woman who needs us to access our support. If you are experiencing domestic abuse, you are not alone, Refuge is here for you.' Full report on lockdown activity available here. *Calls and contacts logged does not equal demand. One woman may access our services multiple times. We log all interactions on phone and allied Helpline services. Notes to Editors For more information contact press@refuge.org.uk. About Refuge: 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. 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 also has a Tech Safety Tool.

Refuge responds to government formally accepting amendment calling for threats to share intimate images to be made a crime.
Refuge responds to government formally accepting amendment calling for threats to share intimate images to be made a crime.

Refuge responds to government formally accepting Amendment 48, calling for threatening to share intimate image and films to be made a crime. Tonight, in the House of Lords, as part of the Report Stage of the Domestic Abuse Bill, the government formally accepted Amendment 48, which called for threatening to share intimate images to be made a crime. Hetti Barkworth-Nanton, Refuge Chair, said: ‘Refuge is delighted that tonight, in the House of Lords, the government formally agreed to make threatening to share intimate images a crime as part of the Domestic Abuse Bill, by accepting amendment 48, tabled by Baroness Morgan and supported by Peers from across the House. 1 in 7 young women have experienced these threats to share, and will now be protected. Almost 45,000 Refuge supporters called on the government to make this change. Refuge is grateful to everyone that took action, to the government for listening to survivors and acting on what they heard, to the brave survivors we work with every day and to Baroness Morgan for her tenacity and commitment in tabling this amendment. This is a victory for women and girls' Baroness Nicky Morgan said: 'I am thrilled that, in just a few months, we've managed to build such momentum behind this important issue. Together with Refuge, with their supporters, with a group of cross-party Peers, and, crucially, with brave survivors who have shared their story, we have secured government support for making threatening to share intimate images a crime. I'm grateful to the government for moving swiftly and decisively. Together, we have changed the law and ensured protection for millions of women across England and Wales'. 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. 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.

Refuge teams up with British GQ
Refuge teams up with British GQ

Refuge teams up with British GQ to urge men to #ChooseToChallenge domestic abuse in support of International Women’s Day 8 March 2021. Refuge, the country's largest provider of specialist domestic abuse services has teamed up with leading men's magazine British GQ to help drive awareness of domestic abuse to its predominantly male readership. With a print, digital and social audience reach of 10.4 million a month, GQ is in a unique position to speak to men across the country about domestic abuse, a gendered crime. Domestic abuse is a crime most often perpetrated by men, against women. It stems from gender inequality and is rooted in power and control. Central to addressing domestic abuse is ensuring an understanding of its gendered nature, challenging male attitudes to abuse and educating men about the very real suffering of women across the world at the hands of male violence - as well as encouraging men to #ChooseToChallenge attitudes towards women which can perpetuate gender inequality. By offering GQ’s significant platforms to this issue ahead of International Women’s Day (including a 10-page feature in the magazine, on the shelves today) GQ is shining a mighty light on domestic abuse and bringing its huge weight to the table in pushing for attitudinal change. This feature complements perfectly the global theme for International Women’s Day 2021, which is 'commit to challenge'. George Chesterton, British GQ political editor, and author of the magazine feature said: ‘I didn’t write this article on behalf of women, but to men. GQ has changed a lot over the years, and although we have a substantial female readership, we remain a magazine aimed predominantly at men. This gives me an opportunity to write something in-depth about issues that are among the most urgent yet underreported and misunderstood in our society. The more I learned, the greater the responsibility I felt to tell the stories of the women who had experienced domestic abuse, to amplify their voices and to speak to people who had made it their life’s work to fight it. Above all, my aim was to make men think about and better understand these issues. I also wanted them to think about the part they can play – in relationships, families, peer groups and society as a whole – in the effort to stop violence against women and girls, and to ask them to #ChooseToChallenge themselves about attitudes and behaviour that are prevalent across all walks of life. I sincerely hope I did the survivors justice, as it was a privilege and an inspiration to speak to them and I’d like to thank Refuge for their invaluable support and cooperation in making this feature possible.’ Lisa King, director of communications at Refuge said: 'Refuge is immensely grateful to George and all at British GQ for making this feature possible. One of the challenges we face as campaigners and advocates against domestic abuse is ensuring people understand what it is, who is doing what to whom, and the impact it is has on women and children. When Refuge first opened its doors in 1971, domestic abuse was seen as something that happened behind closed doors, and something which society should not intervene in. Since then, laws and policies have changed and with it the understanding of domestic abuse is evolving -indeed, the Domestic Abuse Bill, a new and important piece of legislation, will start its report stage in the House of Lords on International Women’s Day. British GQ's platform gives us the opportunity to speak to men right across the country, and ask them to #ChooseToChallenge domestic abuse, in their peer groups, their workplace, their family, their community, and wherever they might see it. Men have a vital role to play in ending violence against women and we are hopeful that, together, we can ensure women can live free from fear and abuse.' British GQ is on the shelves today, 04th March, and its owned and operated channels will be carrying content to support International Women’s Day on Monday 08th March.    ENDS Notes to Editors For more information contact press@refuge.org.uk. About Refuge: 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. 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 also has a Tech Safety Tool.

Refuge responds to 2021 Budget
Refuge responds to 2021 Budget

Tracy Blackwell, Refuge head of development said: 'The Chancellor is right to refer to domestic abuse as a 'hidden tragedy' but sadly this hidden tragedy is not just limited to lockdown. Women experience male violence all year round and financial support for frontline services must reflect this ongoing need, by allowing services to plan for the future and move away from the funding cliff edge many find themselves on year after year. There is still a huge gap for refuge funding - estimates say £173 million is needed but only £125 million has been committed so far. Refuge would also have liked to have seen this budget include an increase in funds for community-based services for survivors of domestic abuse, such as Independent Domestic Violence Advocates (IDVAs) with estimates suggesting that £220 million is needed to ensure adequate provision of such services. Right now, across the country Refuge is supporting 7,000 women and children – 6,000 of whom are accessing our community services and around 1,700 of whom are living with their perpetrators. Not all women who come to Refuge for support are able, or ready, to leave their perpetrators, and we support them through community led services which provide life-changing and life-saving support to women who need it.' ENDS Notes to Editors For more information contact press@refuge.org.uk. About Refuge: 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. 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 also has a Tech Safety Tool.

Refuge responds to Ministry of Justice announcement to make threatening to share intimate images a crime
Refuge responds to Ministry of Justice announcement to make threatening to share intimate images a crime

Victory for women who face threats to share their intimate images – as government commits to making it a crime. (Interviews available on request with Refuge spokespeople, Zara McDermott, survivor and campaigner Natasha Saunders and Baroness Nicky Morgan. Please contact the Refuge press office on 0207 395 7731 or email press@refuge.org.uk) The Naked Threat Campaign, led by Refuge, its supporters, survivors, celebrities and Baroness Morgan secures law change at first opportunity. Refuge says this is a ‘victory for women and girls and testimony to the power of campaigning together’. Baroness Morgan says ‘At the start of this campaign, I said it was my duty as a politician to stand up and protect women and girls and I am delighted the government has recognised the urgency of securing this law change Just under 45,000 Refuge supporters wrote to government ministers urging them to make law change. Campaign video fronted by Refuge ambassador Olivia Colman and campaign supporter Zara McDermott calling on Home Secretary Priti Patel and Secretary of State for Justice Robert Buckland to change the law viewed over 180,000 times on social media. Refuge is thrilled that the government has committed to amending the Domestic Abuse Bill to make threats to share intimate images a criminal offence. This is a victory for women and girls and brings a huge sense of relief to the 1 in 7 young women who experience this form of abuse in the UK, and have had limited recourse to justice. Refuge has been working tirelessly for many months to bring this devastating form of domestic abuse to the top of the political agenda and we are delighted that the government has recognised this urgent need for change. Until now, only the sharing of intimate images has been a crime – this will change when the Domestic Abuse Bill becomes law. The success of The Naked Threat campaign is a shared one and is testament to the power of working together. This victory for women and girls has been made possible thanks to the dedication of brave survivors who have shared their stories; Refuge’s specialist tech abuse team, who continue to support survivors experiencing threats to share; politicians including Baroness Nicky Morgan, Lord Ken Macdonald and Caroline Nokes MP who have pushed for this vital amendment to the Bill; and Refuge supporters, Olivia Colman and Zara McDermott as well as survivor Natasha Saunders, who have helped us raise awareness of this issue. Refuge also owes a huge debt of thanks to its supporters, just under 45,000 of whom sent letters to the Home Secretary and Secretary of State for Justice calling for them to change the law around intimate image-based abuse; and to the more than 180,000 who viewed our video message to Priti Patel, the Home Secretary (created free of charge by creative agency AMV BBDO and supported by media partner Cosmo). Hetti Barkworth-Nanton, chair of Refuge said: ‘This is a fantastic outcome for Refuge and for the women and children it serves. Threatening to share intimate images has become a powerful way in which men who abuse women control their choices and it is heart-warming to know that the government has listened to survivor voices. As we see the Domestic Abuse Bill enter its report stage next week we will do so knowing that it will transform this country’s response to women and children who experience domestic abuse.’ Lisa King, Refuge director of communications and external relations said: ‘This is a significant moment for women experiencing domestic abuse who have been threatened with the sharing of their private intimate images and we are thrilled that the government has recognised the need for urgent change. Our research found that 1 in 7 young women have experienced these threats to share, with the overwhelming majority experiencing them from a current or former partner, alongside other forms of abuse. The Domestic Abuse Bill provides the perfect legislative vehicle for this change, and the government has acted quickly and decisively. This is a victory for women and girls and testimony to the power of working together for change. ’Refuge’s specialist tech team identified this gap in the law and our campaign, launched last summer, gave a clear pathway to change. We have worked with brave survivors throughout this campaign who have shared their stories – ensuring that the government could see and hear from the people impacted by this issue. Refuge is grateful to every woman who has come forward and told us their experiences – they have helped us change the law.' Baroness Morgan, former Minister for Women and Equalities and former Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said: ‘I know from my time in DCMS just how technology has been used not only for good, but also as a tool of abuse. Together with Refuge, with survivors of abuse and with colleagues from across the House, I’ve been determined to secure this law change. I am grateful to the government for acting decisively. This simple law change can help to transform the response to domestic abuse across the country and better protect women and girls. At the start of this campaign, I said it was my duty as a politician to stand up and protect women and girls and I’m delighted the government has recognised the urgency of securing this law change.’ Zara McDermott, Love Island star and campaigner said: ‘This is such welcome news. My life when I left the Love Island villa was turned upside down as a result of the sharing of intimate images. I’m so glad I’ve been able to use my platform to support Refuge and call for this change in the law. Together with survivors, with politicians and with the thousands of supporters that took action, we did it! Change is coming and I am thrilled’. Natasha Saunders, survivor of domestic abuse said: ‘My perpetrator threatened to share my intimate images with friends and family. He did so to attempt to further control and abuse me.  I was terrified of the consequences and it had a huge impact on me. I am now free from my abuser but every day I know that there are millions of women experiencing the things I was forced to endure for so long. I am so pleased that the government has not only listened to survivors of domestic abuse, but also acted on what they heard. This is a huge victory for women like me’.

Refuge appoints new CEO
Refuge appoints new CEO

Refuge, the country’s largest single provider of specialist domestic abuse services, is thrilled to announce the appointment of Ruth Davison as its new Chief Executive Officer. Davison joins from Comic Relief where she is interim CEO. This appointment comes as Refuge supports more women and children than ever before - more than 7,000 on any given day - and with domestic abuse never being higher on the political or public agenda. Davison’s extensive CV includes Princes Trust International, Christian Aid, Friends of the Earth and Crisis, as well as her current role with Comic Relief, one of the largest funders of work to tackle violence against women and girls in the UK. She brings a wealth of experience, is an authentic leader and will take Refuge to the next level with her commitment, drive and passion. With the Domestic Abuse Bill currently going through its final stages in Parliament and commitments from the government to transform the response to domestic abuse across the country, Davison will take the reins at a time of great opportunity, as well as at a time when specialist domestic abuse services, like those provided by Refuge, are needed more than ever. Hetti Barkworth-Nanton, chair of Refuge’s Board of Trustees said: “I am delighted to announce Ruth Davison as Refuge’s new Chief Executive. Ruth brings to Refuge a wealth of experience, expertise and insights and a deep commitment to addressing domestic abuse and inequality. This year Refuge celebrates its 50th birthday – I have no doubt that Ruth’s inspirational leadership skills and her proven commitment to diversity and inclusivity will drive and build Refuge, and the broader violence against women and girls sector, to a sustainable future which achieves yet more for the women and children who experience domestic abuse in this country today.” As CEO at Comic Relief, Davison led the organisation through the global pandemic - growing income and brand awareness by delivering two live TV Telethons - raising a combined total of more than £100 million. This enabled the organisation to accelerate its grant making and increase the funds available to frontline organisations. Davison also led Comic Relief’s social change strategy, global philanthropic portfolio as well as its policy and advocacy work. Before becoming CEO of Comic Relief, Ruth held the position of Executive Director of Impact and Investment, where she established Gender Justice as one of the four pillars of Comic Relief’s funding strategy and focused on shifting power in grant-making; under Ruth’s leadership Comic Relief introduced participatory grant-making, prioritised funding to organisations whose strategies and approach were informed by lived experience and introduced an overt focus on addressing inequality in all funding. During 2020, this led to Comic Relief delivering its first racial inequality funding programme to address the disproportionate impact Covid-19 had on Black, Asian and minority people, and the historic under-funding of organisations working with these communities. Davison is a lifelong activist, and a Board member of Greenpeace UK. Ruth Davison said: “It is an honour to be joining Refuge as Chief Executive during such a critical time. “I am a firm believer that no one should live in fear of violence, intimidation or control, and it has been deeply alarming to see the rise in domestic abuse during the pandemic. The outstanding services and support of Refuge will play a crucial role in helping some of the most vulnerable women and families throughout the Covid-19 recovery. “I look forward to working closely with colleagues, supporters and survivors. The organisation is guided by those we seek to support and together we will ensure that Refuge grows from strength to strength as an inclusive, innovative and impactful organisation that strives to build a world where domestic abuse and violence against women and girls is no longer tolerated.”

Refuge ambassador Olivia Colman makes direct plea to Priti Patel to make threats to share intimate images a crime
Refuge ambassador Olivia Colman makes direct plea to Priti Patel to make threats to share intimate images a crime

As the Domestic Abuse Bill enters its final stages before becoming law, Refuge, Olivia Colman (Refuge ambassador), survivor Natasha Saunders, influencer Zara McDermott and Baroness Nicky Morgan are calling on the Government – and in particular Home Secretary, Priti Patel and Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland – to make threats to share intimate images crime. Refuge has today launched a powerful video with a direct plea to the Home Secretary to change the law. Refuge’s #TheNakedThreat campaign has received huge public support with over 38, 000 letters being sent to government ministers over the last few months. As the Bill reaches the 11th hour Refuge hopes this video will be shared far and wide by those who want the see the law strengthened to protect women. We are asking all supporters of this change in the law to tag @PritiPatel to show them that they want them to take action. Baroness Morgan, former Minister for Women and Equalities and former Secretary of State for DCMS said: “I know from my time as Minister for Women just how widespread and devastating domestic abuse is, and from my time as Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport how new and emerging forms of technology are being used to facilitate abuse. That's why I'm supporting Refuge's campaign to make threatening to share intimate images a crime via the Domestic Abuse Bill and have tabled an amendment to the Bill that would achieve this. “I know the government recognises the importance of this issue - but we need them to act now. The law must urgently catch up with the ways in which perpetrators are using technology to control and intimidate their partners and ex-partners, The Bill gives us the opportunity to make threatening to share intimate images a crime. Women cannot wait and I see it as my duty to stand up and say so.” Ellie Butt, head of policy and parliamentary affairs at Refuge, said: “The Domestic Abuse Bill has the potential to be a landmark piece of legislation – but only if we ensure the legislation responds to the realities women face. So much of our lives are lived online, which is increasingly causing harm and enabling abuse – the Revenge Porn Helpline has seen calls about threats to share intimate images more than triple between 2017 and 2020 and rise 73% between 2019 and 2020. Making threats to share intimate images a crime will make a real difference to the thousands of women Refuge supports every day who are experiencing abuse via technology. They themselves know best what is needed – a law change that will help provide better protection. The time to change the law is now.” Zara McDermott said: “I’ve been on the receiving end of ‘revenge porn’ threats 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 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. The time to act is now.” Notes to editors: A recent survey by Refuge showed that 1 in 14 adults in England and Wales – 4.4 million people – have received these threats to share. Young women are disproportionately impacted, with 1 in 7 with 1 experiencing these threats. Lord Macdonald, former Director of Public Prosecutions: ‘It is critical that women are protected, and this simple legal change can do that – but we should act now’ Supporters can join Refuge’s campaign to end the Naked Threat here. 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 has moved into a third lockdown, the need to address the response to domestic abuse has never been greater. Note for media: Please signpost to Refuge’s Freephone 24hr National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247 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 (available 3pm-10pm Monday to Friday). For real time automated guidance on how to secure your personal devices Refuge has an Online Tech Safety Tool at www.refuge.org.uk and www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk.  

Refuge responds to government announcement of funding pot for victims of rape and domestic abuse
Refuge responds to government announcement of funding pot for victims of rape and domestic abuse

In response to the governments announcement of a £40 million funding pot, Tracy Blackwell, head of development at Refuge said: ‘Never before have so many survivors of domestic and sexual abuse come forward for support than during the Covide-19 crisis. Refuge hopes to turn to this £40million pot to fund the life-saving IDVA (Independent Domestic Violence Advocate) services it runs which urgently need financial support. We anticipate demand for these services to increase once the court system is back up and running - there are hundreds of thousands of cases held in the backlog which will need their day in court. However, this is another short-term pot of funding which cannot meet the urgent need for a sustainable funding strategy which provides for all specialist services – including Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline which needs additional long-term funding to deal with increased demand. Our Helpline acts as a lifeline to women and children who experience abuse – and offers them the gateway to services across the country. This service, alongside the many others we run across the country, including refuges, outreach services, and other vital community-based services save and change lives and must run with the assurance of adequate funding. Refuge calls on the government to end its short-term approach to announcing ad-hoc pots of funding and instead build and fund long term plans that sustain and grow essential services. Women and children’s lives depend on it.’ 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. 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.

Refuge calls for Domestic Abuse Bill to be bold and transformative
Refuge calls for Domestic Abuse Bill to be bold and transformative

As the Domestic Abuse Bill, many years in the making, starts its crucial 'Committee Stage' in the House of Lords, Refuge, the country’s largest provider of specialist domestic abuse services calls for a Bill which is as ‘bold and transformative as it has the potential to be.’ Hetti Barkworth-Nanton, Chair of Refuge said: 'Refuge is delighted that the Domestic Abuse Bill starts its important Committee Stage in the House of Lords this afternoon. Refuge stands ready to work with the government to make the Bill as bold and transformative as it has the potential to be, and we hope the government will cement its commitment to addressing domestic abuse as the bill moves to become legislation. Women’s lives depend on it, and the time to act is now. As we have seen throughout the Covid-19 crisis, domestic abuse remains the biggest issue facing women and girls. The need to address the response to domestic abuse has never been greater, and while the Bill has the potential to be transformational, Refuge believes that will only be achieved if vital changes are made. As a priority, Refuge would like to see the Bill make a simple change to the law, which would better protect women and girls from image-based abuse. Currently, 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 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. The second reading, just a week back, showed the breadth of support that exists across the House for this legal change, and we are confident the government will recognise this as a priority and act fast. Refuge is also calling for reforms to the benefits system - currently, Universal Credit advances are paid as loans, and, by default, into one account. Refuge wants to ensure these advances are paid as grants, which would help ensure women are able to flee abusive partners with some funds available - and that by having payments made into separate accounts, their perpetrators would have less control over their finances. We also hope that the Bill will include a truly 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 that reality. Finally, Refuge strongly supports the work of the Step Up for Migrant Women campaign and hopes that the government will ensure that all women and children, regardless of immigration status, are able to access specialist support. No one should be afraid of or unable to ask for help because of insecure immigration status and having ‘no recourse to public funds’ should never be a barrier to escaping an abusive partner.’ ENDS Notes to Editors Supporters can join Refuge's campaign to end the Naked Threat here. 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. 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.

Domestic Abuse Bill Committee Stage begins, including opportunity to criminalise threats to share intimate images
Domestic Abuse Bill Committee Stage begins, including opportunity to criminalise threats to share intimate images

Critical Committee Stage to begin which can bring about urgent law change via Domestic Abuse Bill  Peers, Refuge, and Revenge Porn Helpline stand united in their call for the threat to share intimate images to be made a crime. Revenge Porn Helpline sees calls about threats to share intimate images more than triple between 2017 and 2020 and rise 73% between 2019 and 2020. The long-awaited and much needed Domestic Abuse Bill starts its Committee Stage on 25th January - this is the last chance in this session of Parliament to change the law to protect women from image-based abuse. The time for the government to act is now. Every day this change to the law is delayed is another day that women are unable to access a criminal justice response to threats to share their intimate images. Refuge, largest single provider of specialist services to women and girls experiencing domestic abuse: ‘the time to change the law is now’. The Revenge Porn Helpline, which runs the county’s only dedicated Helpline on this issue: ‘around a fifth of our calls over the last two years have been from people concerned about threats to        share. Calls on this issue have increased by around 73% during the same time frame -  we cannot ignore that. Lord Macdonald, former Director of Public Prosecutions: ‘it is critical that women are protected, and this simple legal change can do that - but we should act now’ Baroness Morgan, former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS): ‘women cannot wait – and it is our duty as politicians to stand up and say so’ The Domestic Abuse Bill, a landmark piece of legislation designed to transform the response to domestic abuse across the country, begins its Committee Stage in the House of Lords on Monday, 25th January. This stage of the Bill gives a unique opportunity to strengthen the law so that it offers better protection to women from the growing and insidious problem of image-based abuse. More than 34,000 people have sent a letter to the government calling for this law change and the Bill’s recent second reading shows the cross-party support for this law change. The Revenge Porn Helpline, a specialist Helpline set up in 2015 saw calls about threats to share more than triple between 2017 and 2020 and rise by 73% between 2019 and 2020. This is a problem which is growing, and one which the government must act now to address. Threatening to share intimate images and films is currently not a crime. A recent survey by Refuge showed that 1 in 14 adults in England and Wales - 4.4 million people - have received these threats to share. Young women are disproportionately impacted, with 1 in 7 with 1 experiencing these threats. The Revenge Porn Helpline receives around a fifth of its total calls ear on year from people experiencing such threats. Lord Macdonald, former Director of Public Prosecutions said: ‘Protection from image-based abuse currently only exists if intimate images or films are actually shared. But this is wholly inadequate and leaves women and girls vulnerable to threats that cause enormous damage and distress. Police and prosecutors can only protect women and girls if the law allows them to do so. This small change to the law would enable the criminal justice system to offer the protection that women who are experiencing these threats need. The government has shown that it takes image-based abuse seriously, by making the sharing of images a crime in 2015 - but laws must be fit for purpose and they must evolve and reflect reality. It is critical that women and girls should be protected from this cruel behaviour and this legal change can do that - but we should act now.’ Baroness Morgan, former Minister for Women and Equalities and former Secretary of State for DCMS said: ‘I know from my time as Minister for Women just how devastating image-based abuse can be - but also how we must ensure legislation responds to the realities women face. As so much of our lives are now lived digitally, we know that technology can also be used to facilitate harm and abuse. This swift and simple change in the law will help protect millions of women. I know the commitment across government to make this change is there – but we must act now. The Domestic Abuse Bill is the perfect legislative vehicle by which to do this. Women simply cannot wait and as politicians, it is our duty to stand up and say so.’ Ellie Butt, head of policy and public affairs at Refuge said:   ‘'It is vital that the law keeps up to date with the ways in which perpetrators use technology as part of a pattern of domestic abuse. We need to take this opportunity that the Domestic Abuse Bill provides, to make threatening to share intimate images a crime. We are hopeful that the government will seize this opportunity and act fast.  This could make a real difference to the thousands of women Refuge supports every day who are experiencing abuse via technology. They themselves know best what is needed - a law change that will help provide better protection. The time to change the law is now.’ Sophie Mortimer, Helpline Manager at The Revenge Porn Helpline said: 'We receive thousands of calls every year from people experiencing intimate image abuse - a devastating form of abuse. While revenge porn is rightly illegal, we are seeing large numbers of women coming forward asking for help who are being threatened with their intimate images being shared. A fifth of our calls over the past two years have been from people concerned about threats to share. Between 2017 and 2020 the number of calls on this issue more than tripled and rose by 73% between 2019 and 2020 alone We cannot ignore these statistics. The law is out of date and does not help the increasing number of women who are contacting us about these threats. If we are really going to transform the response to domestic abuse, we must make threatening to share intimate images a crime. The Bill is a simple and swift way to do this. ENDS Notes to Editors Numbers of calls received by the Revenge Porn Helpline about threats to share -  note these EXCLUDE calls about sextortion. 2017: 162 2018: 195 2019: 296 2020: 513 Supporters can join Refuge's campaign to end the Naked Threat here. 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. 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.

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.