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Press releases

Refuge outlines concerns about scrapping Universal Credit uplift.
Refuge outlines concerns about scrapping Universal Credit uplift.

Refuge issues stark warning to the government and outlines fears that scrapping the £20 uplift to Universal Credit will have a damaging impact on survivors of domestic abuse. Refuge, the country's largest single provider of specialist domestic services, and sole provider of the National Domestic Abuse Helpline has issued a warning over fears scrapping the £20 Universal Credit uplift will have a damaging effect on women experiencing domestic abuse. Currently the government are set to scrap the uplift on Wednesday 6th October.   37.32% of survivors Refuge supported across all its services from 1st September 2019 - 31st August 2020 were receiving Universal Credit. This rose to 63.23% for survivors who accessed emergency Refuge accommodation, with Universal Credit being a lifeline for the majority of women who needed to flee abuse. Further research from Refuge into the impact for survivors living on Universal Credit throughout the pandemic, shows that more women were forced to rely on benefits during Covid-19, at a time when calls and contacts to Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline rose by 61% previous to the demand prior to March 2020. Rachel* a migrant survivor of domestic abuse, who experienced economic abuse and was originally locked out of specialist services as she had ‘no recourse to public funds’ but is now receiving Universal Credit, said:  “As a survivor of domestic abuse, I know that financial independence is often crucial when fleeing an abusive relationship and attempting to reach safety. However, as a condition of my spousal visa, I was subjected to the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) rule, and therefore barred from accessing benefits or housing support when leaving my former partner.   Like many migrant survivors, I was completely alone— it all felt so cruel and inhumane. I ended up applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK on the domestic violence route. But despite the economic abuse I’d experienced, the Home Office did not consider this when determining my eligibility for legal aid and/or a fee waiver, and the application exhausted my finances.  Following approval of my immigration application, my NRPF condition was lifted, and I was finally able to apply for Universal Credit. But even with the existing £20/week uplift, Universal Credit is still not enough to live on. For me, £20 a week is what I currently spend on food, so I’m struggling to work out what else I could cut as the rest of my benefit goes toward rent and essential utilities.   If the government scraps the Universal Credit uplift, I know that it will have devastating consequences for survivors of abuse, many of whom will be trapped with their abusers and unable to flee as a result.”  *Name changed to protect identity.  Ruth Davison, Refuge Chief Executive Officer, said: “Refuge is extremely concerned about the end of the £20 uplift to Universal Credit, and we urge the government to rethink. Whilst we acknowledge the government originally introduced this as a ‘temporary measure’ during the first Covid-19 lockdown, this last year has shown us how vital this payment is. It is a lifeline for many survivors of domestic abuse.   Refuge has seen a surge in cases of domestic abuse in the last 18 months and Universal Credit is a lifeline for survivors who are trying to rebuild their lives, and flee abuse, often at a huge emotional and financial cost. We have concerns scrapping the £20 uplift will push already vulnerable women and children further into poverty and worryingly may mean some women have to make the difficult choice between staying with an abusive partner or being unable to provide for themselves and their children.   Prior to the pandemic Refuge raised concerns about the safety of women on Universal Credit, who are already struggling to make ends meet, often reliant on food banks to feed themselves and their children. Refuge calls on the government to keep the £20 uplift and for fundamental welfare reform to improve the lives of the most vulnerable, including survivors of domestic abuse.” Interviews available on request. Please contact the Press Office on 0207 395 7731 or email 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 support with tech abuse visit refugetechsafety.org.

Refuge responds to HMICFRS report
Refuge responds to HMICFRS report

In response to Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) final report on the inspection into police engagement with women and girls, Ruth Davison, Refuge CEO said: 'Refuge welcomes Her Majesty’s Inspectorate’s final report into police engagement with women and girls. We are pleased to see HMICFRS have highlighted the vital changes that Refuge and our colleagues across the Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) sector have long called for. But while these recommendations are necessary, the real success will be in the actioning of them. For too long, Refuge has seen report after report which has outlined a positive path forward, yet too often we see a failure to implement strong recommendations. This must change. The report rightly calls for ‘radical action’ and we hope that the Home Secretary, who has commissioned this report, will look at the recommendations carefully and respond accordingly. The report found several areas in which the police are currently failing women and girls. Two women a week are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales and from the high number of VAWG cases closed without charge, to major gaps in the data recorded on VAWG offences, we know that women and girls have been let down for too long. Refuge supports the report's recommendation for “an immediate and unequivocal commitment that the response to VAWG offences is an absolute priority for government, policing, the criminal justice system, and public-sector partnerships”, matched with the resourcing needed to achieve this recommendation. This report also highlights a much-needed ‘whole system approach’ to violence against women and girls. Refuge knows that the police alone cannot challenge the misogyny which underpins, and is the root cause of, domestic abuse and violence against women and girls. Radical culture change is necessary if we are to see the progress necessary. Refuge also supports the reports recommendation for ring-fenced and long-term funding for community-based specialist support services for victims. Ensuring this dedicated funding is vital if we are to continue to prevent and support women experiencing domestic abuse and other forms of male violence. Refuge stands ready to work with the government to ensure the report’s recommendations are actioned and implemented. Until that happens, we will continue to hold the government’s feet to the fire to ensure better protection for women and girls experiencing domestic abuse.’ Interviews available on request. Please contact the Press Office on 0207 395 7731 or email 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 support with tech abuse visit refugetechsafety.org.

Refuge response to police super-complaint
Refuge response to police super-complaint

In response to the joint report from HMICFRS, CoP and IOPC, Ruth Davison, Refuge Chief Executive said: “Refuge welcomes the findings in the joint report from the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS), College of Policing (CoP) and the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), published in response to the super complaint submitted by Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ) on police use of protective measures in cases involving violence against women and girls. Refuge is grateful to CWJ for submitting this super-complaint and their tireless work fighting for better justice outcomes for survivors of violence against women and girls (VAWG.) The report illustrates a systemic failure within the police to use their powers to protect women and girls who have reported domestic abuse and other forms of VAWG. This culture of misogyny must change and this report should serve as a wake-up call to the police, who are supposed to provide support. How can trust in the police be achieved when they continually fail women and girls who need them? These findings show that police are routinely not aware of the measures they can use to protect women reporting these crimes of violence and abuse, that they find the processes for applying protective measures confusing or claim a lack of understanding in how to use them. This demonstrates the clear and urgent need for improved gender and trauma-informed training for police officers to ensure they are putting the safety of women and girls first. As Refuge knows too well, police officers not taking the safety of survivors seriously and leaving them at risk of further harm from their perpetrators, leads to women feeling deeply let down by the criminal justice system and contributes to underreporting of these crimes and to women withdrawing their support for prosecutions. We know that only around a fifth of women experiencing domestic abuse report to the police and we need to ensure there are better outcomes for those that do, as well as improving women’s confidence in how they will be treated by the police when coming forward. Every day Refuge supports women who have been left unsafe when the measures designed to protect them - whether these be non-molestation orders, restraining orders, domestic violence protection notices/orders and pre-charge bail conditions - are either not applied by the police at the point of reporting or are breached by perpetrators who face no real consequences from the police as a result. Prosecutions in cases of domestic abuse have halved in just three years, and whilst we support many of the recommendations in the report which aim to ensure that the full range of protective orders available to the police is properly understood by officers, consistently applied across police forces and effectively communicated to the women and girls who are victims of these crimes, we do not believe the recommendations go far enough in addressing the lack of resourcing within the police that is needed to make a real difference on the ground. The Domestic Abuse Act is bringing new protective measures into force, with a Domestic Abuse Protection Order pilot scheme due to launch in the coming months. It is paramount that these new measures are properly implemented by the police and fit for purpose to protect survivors. Refuge calls for robust assurances that police are going to be provided with proper training that ensures they have a deep and thorough knowledge of how to use these new and existing powers to protect women and girls. The report also calls for increased data collection but doesn’t give enough detail on what purpose this will serve. Refuge urges improved data collection across police forces be consistent and provide valuable insight into the experience of women and girls who face barriers in reporting such as Black and minoritised women and other minoritised groups so that better outcomes can be achieved for all survivors of abuse. Whilst new legislation and a stronger government focus on domestic abuse via the VAWG strategy and incoming Domestic Abuse strategy is welcome, we need to stop kicking this issue into the long grass and deferring the problem of responding to domestic abuse to a future date. Government policy and legislation is only effective if it is being put into practice and properly monitored, with real consequences for agencies that are falling short of expectations. This report shows the police response is falling wide of the mark and failing those it seeks to protect.” ENDS Interviews available on request. Please contact the Press Office on 0207 395 7731 or email 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 support with tech abuse visit refugetechsafety.org.

Refuge announces appointment of new Director of Service Delivery
Refuge announces appointment of new Director of Service Delivery

Refuge, the country’s largest single provider of specialist domestic abuse services has appointed Abigail Ampofo as its new Director of Service Delivery. Ampofo will take up this post in October this year. Formerly Regional Director of Operations at Hestia, under Abigail’s leadership Hestia has become one of the largest providers of domestic abuse refuges and of support to survivors of modern slavery in London, including the award-winning Phoenix Project. Abigail led Hestia’s development and expansion of domestic abuse services, including their first domestic abuse service outside of London, developed a centralised refuge referral line to streamline the process for women and their children accessing Hestia’s refuges and launched their first dedicated FGM support service. Currently Abigail is leading Hestia’s digital strategy development. With over 15 years’ sector leadership experience and having worked with a range of client groups with multiple and complex needs, Abigail started her social care career in housing related support services for people living with HIV. Abigail said: “Refuge is an incredible organisation powered by expertise, a dedicated workforce and an unwavering commitment to supporting women and children to live free from domestic abuse and harm. I am thrilled to be joining Refuge at a time of pivotal change both internally and externally and working with all Refuge people to shape the future of the organisation and increase our impact”. Ruth Davison, Refuge CEO said: “I am excited to welcome Abigail to our Senior Leadership Team. Abigail’s wealth of experience and expertise will enable Refuge's frontline services to go from strength to strength. The pandemic has drawn into sharp focus the sheer level of need for the specialist support Refuge provides, and I am thrilled to welcome Abigal to our team at a time when women and children need us more than ever’. Abigail holds an MSc in Business Psychology and professional qualifications in programme management. ENDS Interviews available on request. Please contact the Press Office on 0207 395 7731 or email press@refuge.org.uk. Photographs of Abigail Ampofo available for use. 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 support with tech abuse visit refugetechsafety.org.

Blog: The government’s Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) strategy
Blog: The government’s Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) strategy

Refuge's director of communications and external relations, Lisa King, on the government’s Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) strategy. Last week, the country started to fully open again, after a challenging 16 months. Refuge knows first-hand just how difficult the pandemic has been for so many across the world - not least for women living with an abusive partner. For many women experiencing domestic abuse, this won’t have been their ‘first lockdown’, with abusers routinely using isolation as a form of control – cutting women off from their networks, preventing them from working, tracking their locations, restricting their access to cash. These are all forms of abuse that Refuge sees every day, and we are acutely aware of the impacts of lockdown on the women we support.   But as restrictions continue to loosen, and with domestic abuse never higher on the public or political agenda, we have a new opportunity to really challenge the response to domestic abuse and hold the government’s feet to the fire, making sure they deliver on their public commitments to do more for women and girls.   The VAWG strategy  Just last week, the government unveiled its long-awaited Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) strategy – what the government intends to do in order to respond to and ultimately prevent VAWG. Refuge welcomes the ambition to increase support for survivors, hold perpetrators to account, and ultimately reduce the violence and abuse women experience. However, we can’t help but feel that an opportunity to act boldly is being missed – with minimal funding commitments and some glaring omissions.   Domestic abuse is a form of VAWG – so why have separate strategies?  Despite all VAWG specialist organisations calling for otherwise, the government has continued with its plans to produce a separate Domestic Abuse Strategy. This separation could spell disaster for ensuring a cohesive response to domestic abuse and other forms of violence against women and girls, leading to a piece-meal approach, with reduced impact.   Domestic abuse is gendered in its nature – it is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men and overwhelmingly experienced by women. It is therefore entirely unsurprising that domestic abuse and other forms of VAWG are intimately and inextricably connected. It is common for women to initially seek support from Refuge for what appears to be a ‘straight-forward’ case of domestic abuse, but then also disclose that they have experienced domestic and sexual servitude, forced marriage, or stalking once our frontline staff have gained their trust. By introducing two separate strategies, there is a risk that the root causes of these crimes – gender inequality – will be obscured, and the response siloed. One single, integrated strategy is needed to tackle all forms of violence against women and girls, including domestic abuse. Failure to do so risks fragmenting the response to VAWG and will result in ineffective strategies which are not rooted in the experiences of women.   Where is the money?  One of the major problems faced by frontline organisations across the sector is funding. Refuge has experienced significant cuts in recent years across a range of our services, with frontline services too often finding themselves on a funding cliff-edge. Long-term, sustainable, ringfenced funding is urgently needed to ensure specialist services are able to provide the support survivors need. What this strategy lacks are commitments to providing anything close to what we know is required to ensure that survivors have access to the full range of services they and their children need. Women’s Aid estimates that £393 million is needed for domestic abuse services alone. Without this, the sticking plaster approach bumps organisations from one funding crisis to the other and does little to ensure staff retention or longer-term planning. The commitment in the VAWG strategy to provide additional funding for ‘by and for’ specialist support services this year and to fund a new rape and sexual assault helpline is of course a move in the right direction - but the amount of money provided is far from adequate and is yet another example of short-term funding, which simply doesn’t guarantee the long-term provision of life-saving services.   VAWG is a crime – so why aren’t abusers being brought to justice?   Ensuring improvements in the way the police and the criminal justice system respond to domestic abuse and VAWG should be a priority. Too often, promises are made but very little is delivered. Confidence in the criminal justice system and the police to protect women and ensure they have access to justice is staggeringly low. Is this any surprise when rape convictions are at an all-time low and when we know that police officers are a third less likely to be convicted of domestic abuse than the general public? Official statistics on domestic abuse and rape show that not only are prosecutions and convictions are continuing to drop, but that rape survivors are being left in limbo for almost five months while they wait for the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) to decide whether or not to charge the perpetrator. Women are being left in limbo and are often fearful for their safety.   So, while the announcement of a ‘top cop’ policing lead for VAWG is welcome as a first step, we remain sceptical about whether this will actually translate into an increase in protection for the women who need it. At the very least, this post should be accompanied by VAWG becoming a national strategic priority, to ensure the police are held accountable. We have also welcomed amendments to the pre-charge bail system, reversing changes made in 2017 which resulted in a huge drop in the use of bail, meaning perpetrators of domestic abuse were free to continue the abuse with no legal limits whatsoever. Yet too often the criminal justice system focuses on survivors’ ‘credibility’ when they report domestic abuse, rather than on investigating and prosecuting perpetrators. Refuge calls for wholesale reform across the criminal justice system, which must include a significant investment in cultural change within the police and other criminal justice agencies  to ensure women are better protected and able to access the justice and support they need.   Leading the way internationally?  Next year also marks a decade since the UK signed the Istanbul Convention, yet disappointingly the government has failed to ratify it, despite the repeatedly stating their ambition to ‘drive forward a strong agenda on women’s rights, both domestically and internationally’. We must hold the government to its commitment to ratify the convention in the strategy - and urge them to do so as soon as possible. Central to this ratification process is ensuring that migrant women, so often locked out of accessing specialist support, have equality of access to protection. Insecure immigration status should never be a barrier to accessing support and safety, but the government has continued to fail to ensure all women in this country can access safety and support. The government needs to extend equal protection to migrant women as part of ratifying Istanbul.  As the largest specialist provider of services for survivors of domestic abuse in the country, it is incumbent on Refuge to work positively to identify where policies fall short, but also to be on hand to help improve them, to ensure future legislation is well informed, has input from survivors, and that it really puts an emphasis on delivery, rather than on rhetoric. We are disappointed with the missed opportunities in the VAWG strategy, and urge the government to demonstrate its commitment to ending violence against women and girls in forthcoming legislation. The Online Safety Bill, the Domestic Abuse strategy, the implementation of both the VAWG strategy and the Domestic Abuse Act should serve as real tests of intention. The government has a chance to make history - we hope they take it and will encourage them to do so at every turn.   For all media/communications queries, please contact press@refuge.org.uk.

Refuge statement on Joey Barton’s court appearance
Refuge statement on Joey Barton’s court appearance

In response to the statement by Bristol Rovers Football Club last night, which was released following media coverage of manager Joey Barton’s court appearance, Ruth Davison, Refuge Chief Executive said: ‘One in four women will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime and 2 women a week across England and Wales are killed by a current or former partner. Bristol Rovers average attendance pre covid was 8,320. If that was compromised entirely of women, at least 2,080 would have experienced domestic abuse at an average game. A tactic often used by perpetrators of abuse is to tell women that no one will believe them. I would challenge Bristol Rovers to consider whether their use of the term ‘victimless crime’ will dispel or exacerbate that notion. If we want to seriously challenge attitudes towards violence against women and girls then we must work to challenge male attitudes, which are propped up by misogyny and patriarchy. At a time when violence against women and girls has never been higher on the public or political agenda, and conviction rates at a shockingly low level, we expect better. There is clearly a lot of work to do. Words are important and should be chosen carefully. If you are experiencing abuse and need support, refuge is here for you. You can call us free on 0808 2000 247, 24 hours a day or visit www.nationaldahelpline.org. You are not alone. Refuge will listen to you, we will hear you, and we will believe you. We know there will be many Rovers fans, men and women, who will be deeply troubled by the clubs statement. We thank every single one of you who is helping to raise this issue and challenge the language used.' ENDS 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 support with tech abuse visit refugetechsafety.org.

Refuge responds to Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) quarterly data summary
Refuge responds to Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) quarterly data summary

In response to the quarterly data summary, issued on 22nd July, Ruth Davison, Refuge CEO said: "The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) statistics report draws into sharp focus the problems with the criminal justice system and the challenges women face when reporting domestic abuse and other forms of violence against women and girls. While Refuge is pleased to see that the courts have increased the number of hearings they hold as they attempt to deal with the backlog to the pandemic, it is not yet meeting need, and it is vital that these delays are addressed with speed. That will require sustained, increased funding to enable the courts to continue to tackle the backlog and high caseloads. Despite ongoing recovery form the pandemic, the CPS statistics on domestic abuse for this quarter (1st January to 31st March 2021) show a disappointing drop in completed prosecutions, falling by 6.7% from the previous quarter (1st October to 31st December 2020.) Convictions for domestic abuse offences similarly have been on a downward trend with a drop of 6.6% over the same period. The data also shows the unacceptable length of time it takes to charge rape cases with an average 145.9 day - almost five month - wait from cases first being submitted by the police, to the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision to charge. The average time to charge in domestic abuse cases has also risen by 22% in the last year. Women are left in limbo and are often fearful for their safety. Refuge calls for survivors of domestic abuse and rape to have swift access to justice - delays in charging decisions and to trials put survivors at risk, can compound trauma, and increase the chances of women dropping out of the criminal justice process. Prosecutions for rape also continue to be extremely low, and whilst we welcome the government’s apology for systemic failings on rape in the recent End-to-End Rape Review, we fear the review will do very little to change the experiences of victims here and now. Refuge continues to demand wholesale reform of the criminal justice system to ensure better outcomes for survivors." Kelly* is a domestic abuse survivor and a training barrister who knows first-hand about the traumatic wait from CPS: “As a training barrister, I know how important it is for women to have access to justice. As a survivor of domestic abuse, I know first hand how the system can fail women. I have been waiting for a decision from the CPS for more than a year and a half, after reporting rape, ABH and coercive control by my ex-partner. To date, I have still not received a charging decision. To date, the system has failed me. I'm trying to take care of myself and remain strong - but it can be exhausting and upsetting, not knowing what is happening with my case. Every time I try to access information about my case, the CPS say, “it’s with the police”; the police say, “it’s with the CPS” and I am unable to get answers. Neither seems to be taking any responsibility for these delays, instead simply blaming each other. The system needs to work for women, and I am both frustrated and dismayed by what I consider to be a failure in my case.” ENDS Spokespeople available on request. Please contact the press office on 0207 395 7731 or email 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 support with tech abuse visit refugetechsafety.org.

Refuge welcomes new trustees and committee members
Refuge welcomes new trustees and committee members

Refuge welcomes two new trustees to its board of trustees and three independent sub-committee members as the charity’s governance goes from strength to strength This month Refuge welcomes two new trustees, James Watson-O’Neill and Jon Rowney, to its board of trustees. James and Jon join eight other trustees and chair who oversee the charity’s work, delivered by CEO Ruth Davison. Jon and James will be pivotal to the development of Refuge’s new five year strategy; selected as a result of their professional expertise and experience and their commitment to Refuge’s values. Refuge’s current board of trustees, led by Chair Hetti Barkworth-Nanton, provide governance oversight and leadership on the future direction of Refuge. Hetti Barworth-Nanton said: ‘The introduction of new Trustees to our Board and independent committee members is part of our ongoing journey to increase the diversity and experiences across Refuge, including our Board. James and Jon join Refuge at an important time. Not only are we strengthening our governance structures, but also undertaking a strategic review to inform the development of a new five year strategy. The skills, experience and passion Jon and James bring to Refuge will hold us in good stead as we move forward. ‘James, a leader in disability rights and developing services for adults and services, is chief executive of the Deaf health charity SignHealth and has worked in the charity sector since 2001. It was James’ experience in equality, diversity and inclusion, alongside his commitment to justice and his clear alignment with Refuge’s feminist values, which made him the perfect candidate for this role.’ Said Barkworth-Nanton. ‘Our second appointment, Jon, is executive director of corporate services for the London Borough of Camden. His wealth of housing, welfare and social care experience adds specialist expertise to Refuge’s board. Jon joins as Treasurer to Refuge, and not only brings his financial acumen to the organisation, but also a deep commitment to the work Refuge does and its commitment end domestic abuse and all violence against women and girls. ‘This is an exciting year for Refuge – in November the organisation turns 50 and as we approach our sixth decade of running life-saving and life-changing services for women and children across the country these appointments will make Refuge more robust for the future. We are thrilled to welcome James and Jon.’ Alongside the two trustee appointments Refuge’s board has appointed three independent committee members. Barkworth-Nanton said ‘Vanessa, Leon, and Rachael each bring unique and brilliant experience and perspectives to our work and I am really excited to see the contribution they will bring’. - Vanessa Sanyauke will join the People, Remuneration and Nominations Committee - Leon Ward will join the Safeguarding Committee - Rachael Crook will join the Services Committee Notes to editors James Watson-O’Neill is Chief Executive of the Deaf health charity SignHealth which provides a range of services, including the only specialist domestic abuse service for Deaf women delivered by Deaf women, directly in British Sign Language. James has worked in the charity sector since 2001, including a variety of roles at Scope and the NSPCC and has significant experience in leading operational services at a strategic level, including a wide range of residential and educational services for adults and children. James is a trustee of the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group; a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, Manufactures and Commerce; and a Leadership Fellow at the Society of Leadership Fellows at the College of St George at Windsor Castle. Jon Rowney is the Executive Director Corporate Services in the London Borough of Camden. Jon has over twenty years experience working in local government across a range of social policy areas including housing, education, welfare and health and social care. Jon previously worked in London Councils, working with all London Boroughs, the Mayor of London, the GLA and central government on how London government could become more independent and shape services for benefit of its residents and communities. Leon Ward is the Programme Innovations Director at the national education charity Future First. His background is in youth social action and education and so brings a deep understanding of working with children and young people safely. His career has largely been launching and growing charities in Wales; having done this for three national organisations over the last 6 years. Alongside his executive career, Leon is an experienced trustee having served on the boards of Plan UK, Interact Worldwide, Leap Confronting Conflict and Brook Young People, where he is Deputy Chair. He's also a member of the organisational development committee at The Children's Society. Leon was also one of the founding members of the Young Trustees Movement and has published several best practices guides around diversifying trustee boards. Rachael Crook is the CEO and Co-founder of Lifted, an innovative start up on a mission to fix the care crisis by revolutionising home care. In just over two years, Rachael has grown Lifted to employ more than 100 people, deliver over 50,000 hours of care while retaining exclusively 5 star reviews, and raised over £8 Million in investment. Prior to Co-founding Lifted, Rachael was a consultant with McKinsey and Consultant where she advised FTSE 100 businesses and charities on business strategy and operations. Previously to this Rachael was a Senior Advisor in the Prime Minister’s Implementation Unit advising Cabinet Ministers on how to meet the Government’s highest priority commitments. As a Civil Servant, she set up and led a programme of 17 projects to protect women from female genital mutilation and forced marriage. She led the development of the UK Faith leaders; declaration against FGM, signed by every major faith in the UK. Rachael holds a BA (Hons) First Class from University of Warwick and an MPhil from the University of Oxford. Rachael is also a volunteer on the National Domestic Violence Helpline run by Refuge which inspired her desire to get more deeply involved. Vanessa Sanyauke is a multi award-winning and globally recognised diversity and inclusion leader and social entrepreneur as the Founder of Girls Talk London, a global community that connects women with global businesses via programmes, events and digital content. Vanessa has 14 years of experience in diversity, inclusion, responsible business and sustainability working in the financial services, technology and government. Her expertise is in creating and executing global diversity, inclusion and sustainability strategies and programmes. She was listed as #15 in the Financial Times, Yahoo Finance and EMpower top ethnic minority future leaders in Europe, U.S and Canada. Recognised as one of 30 people changing the world by the London Business School and one of London's most influential people by the Evening Standard Newspaper. Recognised as a thought leader in Diversity, Equality and Inclusion by Sir Richard Branson and Former UK Prime Minister David Cameron and in The Guardian, Cosmopolitan magazine, Sunday Times Style magazine, Stylist magazine, The Evening Standard newspaper, Yahoo Finance, Financial Times, London Business School Review and Data Economy magazine. 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 responds to Online Safety Bill committee appointment
Refuge responds to Online Safety Bill committee appointment

Ruth Davison Refuge CEO said: “With online abuse becoming increasingly common, and voices from all sectors of society urging action, Refuge welcomes the appointment of this joint committee to scrutinise the draft Online Safety Bill. This is an important next step in ensuring we address the harm being caused to domestic abuse survivors, which is ever more commonly being perpetrated online. At Refuge we know that online platforms are commonly weaponised by perpetrators of domestic abuse and cases of tech abuse are ever present across our frontline services. The Online Safety Bill presents an opportunity to meaningfully address online violence against women and girls, and it is vital the Bill secures basic protections for survivors of tech abuse. Refuge looks forward to working with the government and the committee to ensure that the Bill is as transformative for women and girls as it has the potential to be.” 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 responds to HMICFRS interim report on police engagement with women and girls
Refuge responds to HMICFRS interim report on police engagement with women and girls

In response to the HMICFRS interim report on the inspection into police engagement with women and girls, Ruth Davison Refuge CEO said: ‘Refuge welcomes this interim report into police engagement with women and girls. We echo the HMICFRS’ call for urgent strategies to address the significant failings in the current police response to women experiencing domestic abuse and other forms of male violence. With a domestic abuse call to the police every thirty seconds, (yet only around 20% of people experiencing domestic abuse ever report to the police), this should be a priority issue. Yet time and again Refuge sees reviews which fail to deliver the radical progress we so urgently need to see. Recent findings from the Victim’s Commissioner’s survey of rape complainants, for example, found that only 14% of survivors felt reporting to the police would help them to get justice. Additionally, police perpetrators of domestic abuse are a third less likely to be convicted than the general public. What sort of message does this send to women who are experiencing domestic abuse? Refuge is concerned that a culture of misogyny runs through the police, unchecked. As the first and last bastion of support, it is incumbent on the police to change.  As things stand, year after year the police continue to fail women. Today’s report, however, offers the opportunity both for a step change in the response from the police, but also to inform the government’s Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) and Domestic Abuse (DA) strategies, as well as the Victims Bill. Refuge urges the government to seize the recommendations in this report and prioritise, alongside urgent police reform, the following issues to: -Provide tailored, consistent support to survivors from Independent Domestic Violence Advocates (IDVAs), Independent Sexual Violence Advocates (ISVAs)and other specialist services which make a crucial difference to women being able to access justice. -Commit and prioritise ring-fenced, long-term, sustainable funding for the full range of specialist support services. -Support HMICFRS’ wider call for a ‘whole system approach’ to violence against women and girls. We believe this would be best implemented by introducing a statutory duty o all government departments and public bodies to engage with specialist organisations to better support survivors in all their diversity ensuring the voices of migrant women, black and other racially minoritised women, deaf and disabled women as well as LGBT+ survivors voices are represented. -Ensure that police receive rigorous gender-informed and trauma-informed training when responding to incidents of domestic abuse to ensure that women are not re-traumatised when they seek help. Too often, women who report abuse to the police find themselves unfairly detained and questioned over malicious allegations of counter abuse. Refuge looks forward to working with HMICFRS ahead of the final report being published in September and welcomes the opportunity to comment on this interim report.  We stand ready to work with government to ensure that the proposed Victims Bill reflects the findings from the HMICFRS final report by placing the rights of survivors going through the criminal justice system on a statutory footing, and that the findings of the report help inform the VAWG and DA strategies. Refuge hopes this report will start to put in place the change, and action, that is needed – the change that is called for year after year and the action that remains woefully overdue.’ 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 Policing Bill debate
Refuge statement on Policing Bill debate

Refuge and campaigner Erica Osakwe respond to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill debate. Ruth Davison, CEO of Refuge said: ‘We are grateful to Yvette Cooper for today raising the issue of common assault perpetrated in domestic abuse contexts and the 'timing out' of access to justice for so many women who are unsafe or unable to report the incident to police immediately. Women like Erica Osakwe, who launched 'victims too' last year, after reporting her abuse to the police, only to have her case closed almost as soon as it was opened. Women like Erica deserve so much more, and Refuge is grateful to Victoria Atkins for acknowledging the need for action and committing to look into solutions. Refuge stands ready to support any and all efforts to better protect women and girls experiencing domestic abuse.' Erica Osakwe, survivor and organiser of Victims Too said: 'When I started this petition in October last year, I hoped to secure a parliamentary debate. Today, I sat at home and heard Yvette Cooper raise this issue as part of the policing bill, and I couldn't be happier. Thank you, Yvette, for listening to women like me and acting, Thank you also to Refuge, Women's Aid and the Centre for Women's Justice for helping amplify my campaign and push for change. Together, we are stronger. Thank you to Victoria Atkins for listening to the need for change. Women like me deserve better.' 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 SafeLives report
Refuge statement on SafeLives report

Refuge responds to the Report 'Understanding Court Support For Victims Of Domestic Abuse' commissioned by Nicole Jacobs and carried out by SafeLives.   Ruth Davison, Refuge CEO said: 'It is disappointing but not surprising to find the vast majority of domestic abuse survivors are not receiving the specialist support they need in the court system and are finding the court process traumatic. The report published today by SafeLives and commissioned by the Domestic Abuse Commissioner shows that 89% of domestic abuse victims didn’t get any support through the family courts. Specialist domestic abuse services have been decimated by funding cuts over the past decade, leaving many women stranded without recourse to the support they need to access justice and protection. This situation has been compounded by the pandemic, which has caused severe court delays and backlogs which we know have been growing by around 1,000 cases a month leaving many survivors in limbo, unable to progress with their lives and fearing for their own and their children’s safety. Refuge’s experiences chime with the findings from this report - we hear too often that the courts, and in particular the family courts, are failing to offer appropriate support to survivors and that court professionals often do not understand domestic abuse. We know that when survivors are accompanied in the criminal justice system by specialist trained Independent Domestic Abuse Advisors (IDVAs) they feel more supported and in control and are much less likely to withdraw from the court process. For women who have had control taken away from their lives due to domestic abuse, feeling unsupported, unheard and misrepresented in the court system is disempowering and re-traumatising. Specialist support can make all the difference – it is life-changing support which needs to be properly funded and offered to all survivors. Refuge supports calls for a sustainable long-term funding model, rather than ad-hoc, short-term funding pots to ensure the full range of services including IDVA support are available to survivors going through the traumatic family and criminal justice system. The upcoming Violence Against Women and Girls strategy and Victims Bill provides a critical opportunity for the government to ensure all survivors receive the support they need. For domestic abuse survivors, the court process is an extremely stressful and isolating time and providing specialist support within the court system is vital in ensuring women feel confident in the court process and are empowered to access justice and protection. Refuge is also calling for urgent action to manage case backlogs including opening more courts and ensuring that funding is provided to enable existing courts to operate at maximum capacity beyond this year, so that survivors receive the justice they deserve 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.

Refuge reports that many survivors of domestic abuse are yet to apply for Settled Status and fear this will put vulnerable families at further risk. 
Refuge reports that many survivors of domestic abuse are yet to apply for Settled Status and fear this will put vulnerable families at further risk. 

EU Settlement Scheme Deadline 30 June 2021: Refuge reports that many survivors of domestic abuse are yet to apply for Settled Status and fear this will put vulnerable families at further risk.    With the 30 June deadline for applying for the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) fast approaching, reports from Refuge’s frontline services indicate that many migrant survivors of domestic abuse remain unaware that they need to apply to the scheme, or know how to make an application. Many are reportedly unaware that they must also apply for the scheme on behalf of their children and other dependants.    In the years between 2018-2021, 46% of survivors supported by Refuge’s specialist Eastern European advocacy service required language support, with many prevented from learning English by their abusers. These language barriers have made it difficult for many who do not know they need to apply, let alone how to navigate the EUSS application system. The government needed to do more to ensure their message reached the most vulnerable and isolated people.     Migrant survivors of domestic abuse already face complex and multiple barriers to accessing support and escaping their abusers. Some EU nationals experiencing domestic abuse have found it difficult to provide the necessary evidence for the settlement scheme as their enforced isolation has left them without the necessary documentation, even after many years of life in UK. Others have reported having their documentation destroyed by their abusive partners. Refuge is aware that some of the women we support have been frequently told by their abusers that, due to Brexit, they could no longer call the police or access medical care and that they risked deportation if they took such steps.    Refuge is now concerned that missing the deadline will have a devastating impact on migrant survivors and that that some survivors of abuse will effectively become invisible to services. Many migrant women are already locked out of support services due to their “no recourse to public funds” status. If nationals of the European Economic Area (EEA) miss this deadline Refuge is worried this could result in an even more precarious position. Failing to apply by the deadline could result in women being locked out of work, healthcare, benefits and even facing deportation. Refuge is concerned that this could lead to women being afraid of reporting incidents of abuse to police, social services or even accessing health care if injured. The government must ensure that support is accessible for all survivors of abuse, including those with ‘no recourse to public funds’ or with insecure immigration status and provides a route to remain for all migrant survivors.    Refuge is concerned that while the Home Office asserts that late applications will be assessed on a case-by-case basis and that domestic abuse will be taken into account, there is no guarantee that EEA survivors who miss the deadline will be able to regularise their status via the EUSS. We therefore urge the government to ensure, as a minimum, that EEA survivors are exempt from the impending deadline to guarantee survivors of abuse who have missed the deadline will not become undocumented overnight and locked out of vital support services.    Mari Edwards, Refuge’s head of operations said:    “Through our frontline work with survivors, Refuge knows that there is confusion about the application process and many misconceptions about who should apply for the EU Settlement Scheme. The application scheme has been painted as a simple one – but that is not the reality for many women. We have supported women who have been prevented from working or accessing services by their abusers, and who have had to gather suitcases full of letters and documents, just to show they live in this country. When your abuser has been isolating and controlling you and keeping you removed from society to begin with, proving your residency is no simple task.  And many women Refuge has supported have still not received the outcome of their applications as there is a huge backlog of cases. This is likely to increase as the deadline lapses. What will become of those cases post the 30 June deadline is unclear. There’s a high level of fear surrounding Brexit and the EUSS.     There’s also no clarity on what will happen to those who don’t apply in time, so we are at a loss to know what to say to the women in our services. Migrant women may already hold mistrust for the police and state-run services, and Refuge is concerned that the changing immigration landscape will marginalise them and their children even further. In just a few days it will be a whole new world and we’re worried about the impact this will have on the women we support.     It is crucial that EEA domestic abuse survivors and their families are given a guarantee that late applications will be accepted after 30 June deadline and that legal aid is available to vulnerable survivors, so they have the legal help they need in making their application. Refuge will continue to support all women, no matter their immigration status. Call us on 0808 2000 247 or visit our website at www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk. Refuge is here for you, you are not alone. Support is available.”    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, Women's Aid and the Centre for Women's Justice launch joint campaign on Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Refuge, Women's Aid and the Centre for Women's Justice launch joint campaign on Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Refuge, Women's Aid and the Centre for Women's Justice launch joint campaign on Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Organisations across the women's sector have joined forces to campaign for a change to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which would extend the length of time survivors have to report incidents of common assault to the police from the current six months to a maximum of 18 months. This would remove a critical barrier survivors face when seeking justice against their perpetrator and protection for themselves and their children. The three organisations have launched a mobilisation campaign, which they hope will show parliament and the government the strength of support for reform. The online campaign calls for MPs to support an amendment to the Bill, and the three organisations supporters will be sending emails to their MPs right up until the amendment is heard. The Bill, which will begin its report stage in the coming weeks, offers an opportunity to make vital improvements which would enable more women experiencing domestic abuse to report incidents of common assault. Currently, charges for common assault must be brought within six months of the incident occurring. If survivors don’t report within this time limit, then the cases 'time-out' and cases are unable to proceed. However, there are multiple barriers to reporting – such as fear of their partner, still being in the relationship, and the traumatic and logistical challenges of fleeing. As a result of the current six-month time limit, many common assault charges time-out and women are not able to access justice and the protection that this can offer. By the time many women are safe and ready to speak to the police, they are often told that the charging time limit has passed. If agreed, the amendment to the Bill, being tabled by Rt Hon Yvette Cooper MP, and which has cross-party support, will give survivors of domestic abuse more time to report incidents of common assault perpetrated against them.  The amendment would extend the overall time limit for bringing charges for domestic common assault to two years and give magistrates the power to waive the time limit if it is in the interests of justice. Lisa King OBE, Refuge director of communication and external relations said:  'We are all incredibly grateful to Yvette Cooper for championing this important matter and are  hopeful that this amendment will provide real protection to the women currently being timed out of access to justice. The criminal justice system, which so often works against women, must be fit for purpose, and this simple change to the law would ensure better protection for so many women, and bring the law more in line with the needs of women experiencing domestic abuse. ' Farah Nazeer, Chief Executive, Women’s Aid Federation of England, said: ‘Survivors face huge personal and societal barriers in reporting domestic abuse. The six-month limit fails to recognise that women simply may not be able to report until after they’ve escaped the abuser and found safety, and cases can often be complex and lengthy to investigate. The six month ‘time out’ on common assault in cases of domestic abuse must be extended to ensure survivors can access justice.’ Nogah Ofer, Solicitor, Centre for Women’s Justice said: ‘The law needs to recognise that disclosing and reporting domestic violence is much harder than reporting other types of assaults and ensure that the criminal justice system does not continue to let women down on a time limit technicality’. Campaign page: https://e-activist.com/policebill 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 responds to HMICFRS inspection into policing of domestic abuse during the pandemic.
Refuge responds to HMICFRS inspection into policing of domestic abuse during the pandemic.

Refuge responds to HMICFRS inspection into policing of domestic abuse during the pandemic. In response to the publication of the inspection findings, Lisa King, OBE, Refuge director of communications and external affairs said: ‘Refuge has serious concerns about some of the findings from today’s HMICFRS inspection into the policing of domestic abuse, particularly how they relate to the wider criminal justice response to domestic abuse. Despite a 15% increase in arrests between April and June 2020 compared to the same period in 2019, the charging rate has dropped – from 23.2% in 2016 to a shocking 9% in 2020. Considering only 1 in 5 survivors ever report to the police, the reality is that a vanishingly small number of survivors of domestic abuse will ever see their perpetrator charged, let alone convicted. As the inspectorate themselves have said “the exceptionally low volume of domestic abuse cases resulting in a charge remains unacceptable”. Refuge agrees and demands better for women and their children. These statistics are against the backdrop of a sharp rise in the number of calls and contacts logged by Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline during the pandemic. Our Helpline, which acts as a gateway to specialist services across the country, saw calls and contacts rise by an average of 61% compared to pre-pandemic. While specialist services remain overwhelmed with demand, in stark contrast, the number of domestic abuse calls to many police forces decreased in the first part of 2020, before returning to normal levels. This doesn’t add up – and does show yet again the lack of confidence women experiencing domestic abuse have in a criminal justice system which is riddled with institutionalised misogyny and repeatedly fails women. One element the inspection has laid bare is the ‘unacceptably high use of outcome 16’ where a staggering 54.8% of domestic abuse cases were discontinued because women did not support police action. Refuge knows first-hand the huge range of reasons why women withdraw support – fear of repercussions from their perpetrator, trauma, and the widespread distrust of the police and wider criminal justice system. This is why Refuge has long-supported evidence-led prosecutions and welcomes the inspectorate’s recommendation that the police urgently review the use of this outcome. We also support the recommendation that the police review their use of outcome 15, which cites ‘evidential difficulties’ as the reason for dropping cases. The police must be better trained in evidence gathering in domestic abuse cases. When it comes to the police response to migrant women – these problems are compounded yet more. Refuge is concerned that migrant women experience even more barriers to reporting for fear their information will be shared with immigration officials. This practice must stop and a firewall urgently introduced between the police and immigration enforcement if women are to feel safe enough to report. Year after year, inspection after inspection, we see police reports which show abject failure to women and children who experience domestic abuse. What sort of a message does this send to women who need support? The police are failing in their duty to protect women and children who experience domestic abuse – an overhaul of the police response is much overdue. With two women being killed every week in England and Wales women’s lives depend on changes being made swiftly.’ 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 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.