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

Press releases

Refuge welcomes the introduction of the Domestic Abuse Bill
Refuge welcomes the introduction of the Domestic Abuse Bill

Refuge welcomes today’s announcement of the Domestic Abuse Bill and seeing the Government tackle the vital topic of domestic abuse. Reforming the criminal justice system is vitally important but so is providing emergency accommodation. Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of Refuge, said: “Refuge welcomes the Domestic Abuse Bill and the important changes it will bring. Domestic abuse is the biggest issue affecting women and children in this country today. “The Prime Minister, Theresa May, has championed the issue of domestic abuse and has brought this important piece of legislation to bear.  As the Bill stands it will bring about changes to the criminal justice system and improve the response of state agencies to women and children who experience abuse. This is much needed and Refuge supports these positive developments. “But the criminal justice system is just one part of the puzzle when it comes to addressing domestic abuse.  It is essential that within the Bill there is a duty to provide sustainable funding for life-saving specialist domestic violence services, in particular refuges. Refuges are much more than a roof over a woman and child’s head – they provide emergency support and save lives. “Refuge also hopes that the Bill will incorporate the suggestions made by MPs and Peers and will address the welfare system so it meets the needs of survivors, whilst giving priority access to housing and funding for women with insecure immigration status. “Making the Bill broader in its terms of reference will ensure this once in a generation opportunity brings about much needed change to an epidemic which claims the lives of around two women every week in England and Wales alone. “Refuge looks forward to working with the Government in the weeks to come to ensure the voices and needs of survivors are enshrined in this essential piece of legislation.” For more information, please email press@refuge.org.uk or call 0207 395 7731. Outside of working hours, please call 07970 894240. A spokesperson is available    

EastEnders working with Refuge and Women's Aid on Chantelle Atkin's storyline 
EastEnders working with Refuge and Women's Aid on Chantelle Atkin's storyline 

  EastEnders is working with Refuge and Women’s Aid on a domestic abuse storyline involving Chantelle and Gray Atkins. Chantelle and Gray moved to Albert Square earlier this year with their two children Mia and Mackenzie. As they settled into Walford, they seemed to have the perfect life. Gray, a successful solicitor and Chantelle a hair stylist, they were the vision of a young professional couple, deeply in love. However in tonight’s episode (Friday 12th July), viewers saw the devastating truth about what was happening behind closed doors. Gray attacked his wife the instant they were alone and it soon became clear this was not the first time it has happened. Despite being part of the close-knit Taylor family, Chantelle has yet to tell anyone the truth about the abuse she suffers at her husbands hands and continues to harbour the secret. Sandra Horley, CBE, chief executive of Refuge says: “Domestic abuse is the biggest issue affecting women and children in this country today.  It is a crime which takes the lives of two women every week in England and Wales alone, with one in four women experiencing the issue in their lifetime.  Domestic abuse mostly happens behind closed doors – hidden, lurking in the shadows of our society. The more we all understand domestic abuse, be it the physical, emotional, sexual, financial control exerted by one partner over another – and are able to spot the signs - more women, like Chantelle, will be able to seek help from specialist organisations like Refuge.   No one should live in fear of their partner. Refuge commends EastEnders for shining a light on this insidious issue.” Teresa Parker, Head of Communications for Women’s Aid added: “It is important when portraying domestic abuse on screen to make it as realistic as possible, and EastEnders have been working with us from the early stages of the storyline, through to advising on themes to the detail of the scripts. From the initial red flags to seeing what is going on behind closed doors, this storyline has been thoroughly researched with experts in domestic abuse. As well as using our knowledge of survivors’ stories to inform our feedback, we visited the show with Natalie, who is a survivor of domestic abuse who campaigns with us at Women’s Aid. She met with the scriptwriters and with Jessica who plays the part of Chantelle, to talk through what it is really like to experience abuse in a relationship. We look forward to supporting Jessica, Toby and the EastEnders team as they develop this new storyline, which will raise so much awareness of what is often a hidden issue.” Kate Oates (Head of Continuing Drama Series) added: “When Chantelle and Gray arrived on the Square, they gave many of their neighbours a big dose of life-envy with their perfect relationship and no-filter-needed looks and lifestyle. But there is truth in the old adage that you don’t know what goes on behind closed doors; and the very first time we crossed the threshold of No 1, we saw the truth of their relationship, and the violence Gray subjects Chantelle to. In this story, we seek to acknowledge the fact that any relationship, however outwardly enviable, can be affected by violence and abuse. Chantelle is strong and capable, with friends and family to support her; and yet she is still unable to voice what is happening to her, and is therefore preventing anyone from helping her because she regards her abuse as a shameful secret. We hope this story encourages women and men who experience violence to seek out the help we know they deserve.” Taking on the storyline Jessica Plummer who plays Chantelle Atkins commented: “I feel honoured to take on the responsibility of Chantelle’s story.  This is an issue that I, and everyone at EastEnders, hope we can raise awareness of. Many women and men that are in Chantelle’s situation suffer in silence and we really hope that by showing this story we can highlight an issue and encourage those in similar situations to seek the help they need.” Toby Alexander Smith who plays Gray Atkins added: “Chantelle and Gray’s journey is about to take a huge turn for the audience. This storyline will depict how hidden from sight domestic abuse remains even today. To the unaware eye Gray appears to be a loving husband and a committed father; but his charm is a front for the power and control he exerts over Chantelle – an experience all too common to thousands of women up and down the country today. Domestic abuse, in all its forms is against the law and is shrouded in secrecy. I hope that by tackling such a sensitive subject matter we can raise awareness of the importance of changing societal values so that both women and men’s rights to live free from abuse, invasion, disempowerment and intimidation are respected.”   Get help now. If your partner turns on you, turn to us. If you are in need of support please visit our support pages. For more information, please email press@refuge.org.uk or call 0207 395 7731. Outside of working hours, please call 07970 894240.  

Refuge subverts Father's Day with hard-hitting ad
Refuge subverts Father's Day with hard-hitting ad

  Domestic abuse charity looks at the flipside of Father’s Day with its ‘Turn To Us’ campaign telling opposing stories in one poem Emotional poem shines a spotlight on child who witness and experience domestic abuse One in five children thought to be living with domestic abuse The poem tells a retrospective tale of a child remembering instances of domestic violence at the hands of his father when read in reverse Refuge, the UK’s largest domestic violence charity, has unveiled a hard-hitting poem to raise awareness of the physical, psychological and emotional effects of domestic violence on children. In the lead up to Father’s Day, the poem recites a story of a child remembering his father while recounting specific instances of domestic abuse faced at home whilst growing up. One of five in a collection of reversible poems, “Remembering my Father”, when read top to bottom, tells the story of a happy child reminiscing his loving father, but when read in reverse, it depicts the terrifying tale of domestic abuse as experienced by a child. The award winning campaign[i], created for Refuge by advertising agency McCann Bristol, aims to raise awareness of the prevalence of domestic abuse and the huge number of children affected on a daily basis and that no one, no matter what time of year, should suffer in silence. They should turn to Refuge for support. Even now, domestic abuse is persistent and widespread; there are more than 800,000 children in the UK each year living in a family with domestic violence[ii]. Refuge believes that no-one should have to live in fear of violence and abuse. Speaking on growing up with domestic abuse as a child, award winning actor and Refuge patron Sir Patrick Stewart OBE says “As a child I witnessed repeated violence against my mother – but there was nowhere to go for help. The truth is, domestic violence is protected by silence. More women and children just like my mother and me, will continue to experience abuse unless we all speak out against it.”  Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of Refuge, says “Children witness and experience domestic abuse all year round; for many Father’s Day will be like any other day, filled with fear and uncertainty. Refuge supports over 3,000 children across its specialist services every day and with our expert support they can overcome the trauma of witnessing or experiencing violence and go on to live safe, happy lives. “On Father’s Day we hope the ‘Remembering our Father’ poem is shared far and wide to raise awareness that any woman and child experiencing domestic violence should reach out and access support – they are not alone. Today’s children are tomorrow’s future and we at Refuge want to give all children a future growing up free from violence and fear.” Click on the thumbnail image below to read the poem in full. Get help now. If your partner turns on you, turn to us. If you are in need of support please visit our support pages. For more information, please email press@refuge.org.uk or call 0207 395 7731. Outside of working hours, please call 07970 894240.   [i] The reversible poem campaign has won a slew of awards as a result, including a D&AD wood pencil, a One Show silver pencil, and nine Creative Circle accolades. It is now hotly tipped at the Cannes Lions, the advertising world’s Oscars, which start on Monday 17th June. [ii] According to the Children’s Commissioner.    

Landmark coercive control ruling: Survivor Sally Challen will not face a retrial
Landmark coercive control ruling: Survivor Sally Challen will not face a retrial

Sally Challen was convicted of murdering her husband Richard in 2011, following decades of emotional abuse. In light of a change in the law in 2015 recognising coercive control as a crime, Sally’s conviction was successfully appealed and overturned earlier this February; setting a precedent in terms of recognising the psychological impact of coercive control on victims. On 7 June 2019, prosecutors accepted Sally's manslaughter plea ahead of a second murder trial scheduled for next month. She has been sentenced to nine years and four months for manslaughter but has been released due to time served. In response to the landmark coercive control ruling, Refuge’s CEO Sandra Horley said: “Refuge is delighted that Sally Challen will no longer face a retrial for the murder of her husband. We strongly welcome the decision by prosecutors to accept her manslaughter plea on the grounds of diminished responsibility. Sally suffered decades of emotional abuse and coercive control by her husband before she killed him in 2010 and she has already served over eight years in prison following an earlier trial for murder. “Eight out of 10 women supported by Refuge in 2017 had suffered psychological abuse, on average for a period of six years. The impact of non-physical abuse can be equally as devastating and long-lasting as physical abuse. Today’s ruling is a huge achievement on the part of her sons, David and James, who have tirelessly campaigned for the release of their mother.” For more information, please email press@refuge.org.uk or call 0207 395 7731. Outside of working hours, please call 07970 894240.

Government vows to end 'postcode lottery' for victims of Domestic Abuse
Government vows to end 'postcode lottery' for victims of Domestic Abuse

Government vows to end 'postcode lottery' for victims of Domestic Abuse Councils in England will have a legal duty to provide secure accommodation for victims of domestic abuse under new plans announced by Theresa May. Sandra Horley, CBE, chief executive of Refuge, national domestic violence charity, says: “Refuge is delighted by the Government’s decision to place a legal duty on local authorities to provide funding for accommodation based support for survivors of domestic abuse. This has the potential to end the post code lottery for refuge places and could put these life-saving services on a secure financial footing for the first time. It could provide vital protection to tens of thousands of women and children who experience violence and intimidation in the home. Women and children deserve and need to live in safety.” No.10 press release here. For more information, please contact press@refuge.org.uk

It is vital that the criminal justice system does not create more barriers for victims, says Refuge
It is vital that the criminal justice system does not create more barriers for victims, says Refuge

In response to victims of crime, including rape, being asked to hand their phones over to police - or risk prosecutions not going ahead - Sandra Horley CBE, Chief Executive of Refuge said: “It takes tremendous courage for a traumatised rape victim to go to the police after they have experienced rape or sexual assault. It is vital that the criminal justice system does not create more barriers for victims. “Refuge works with rape victims who have had their mobile phones taken from them, sometimes for more than a year and often without any explanation of how the police will use their messages, photos and personal information not relating to the rape allegations, or even when they will get their phone back. This uncertainty can compound the victim’s trauma and isolate them at a time when they need support most. “Rape and sexual assault are invasive and traumatising crimes. Rape convictions remain shamefully low. Whilst Refuge recognises the need for the CPS to have evidence to prosecute rapists, it is important that it does not involve trawling through the victim’s past history so the victim is effectively put on trial. We need to ensure that victims are treated with humanity while evidence is being gathered." For more information, please email press@refuge.org.uk or call 0207 395 7731. Outside of working hours, please call 07970 894240.

Picturehouse and Refuge announce the start of a three year campaign
Picturehouse and Refuge announce the start of a three year campaign

PICTUREHOUSE AND REFUGE LAUNCH MAJOR DOMESTIC ABUSE AWARENESS RAISING CAMPAIGN Domestic abuse is the biggest issue affecting women and children in our society today Picturehouse and Refuge announce national partnership and awareness raising campaign Prominent national cinema charity advertising campaign – Hide and Seek – launches to bring this hidden issue from the shadows into the public domain £50,000 fundraising target by Christmas; the equivalent of 962 nights in emergency refuge accommodation From 19 April 2019, Picturehouse and Refuge announce the start of a three year campaign to raise funds and awareness of domestic abuse; an issue which affects one woman in four in her life and around 800,000 children every year.  This insidious life and death issue remains poorly understood and hidden behind closed doors yet across the country today, thousands of women and children live in daily fear of violence and abuse in their own homes. To launch the campaign the cinema group will run a powerful 60 second short film – called Hide and Seek – across its 25 Picturehouse Cinemas nationwide to shine a light on this shocking issue and raise awareness of the life-saving and life-changing support Refuge provides. The short film launches on Good Friday to maximise the high cinema traffic over the Easter holidays. ‘Hide and Seek’, created by creative agency BBH and directed by Lucy Bridger, highlights the fact that 90% of domestic abuse which takes place in a family home is witnessed and experienced by children. The short film tells the story of a child  and his game of hide and seek. A little boy is seen playing, eyes covered and counting; as the film unfolds the viewer hears the sound of abuse in the background. It is soon evident that the child is not actually playing, but trying to escape his abusive father. Finally, we see him and his mum safe in a refuge, free to play. The film draws attention to wider forms of domestic abuse, beyond the most noted physical violence, to coercive control. It draws into question the emotional and economic control many perpetrators have over their victims and hauntingly shares the frightening, but true reality experienced by so many up and down the country today. The immersive power of cinema brings to the big screen the harsh reality of domestic abuse and the profound effect the issue has on women and children; but also the positive and empowering change that support from Refuge can make to their lives. Alongside the vital awareness Hide and Seek will raise, Picturehouse Cinemas has also set a target of raising £50,000 by Christmas to support Refuge’s financially challenged services. Clare Binns Joint MD of Picturehouse Cinemas said: “I’m delighted to have Refuge as our new charity partner. At Picturehouse, we believe cinema can really change lives and broaden perspectives. Seeing the work Refuge does and the transformative effect the services have on people’s lives makes this a charity we’re proud to be working with. Using our growing family of cinemas we can raise huge awareness and much-needed funds for the important work Refuge does. We can't wait to get started.” Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge says: “Never before in Refuge’s history has such a major campaign been launched. The unprecedented exposure that Hide and Seek will receive by being aired before all ‘15’ certificate films that run from now for a minimum of three years, day in, day out, across all the screens housed in the 25 cinema locations is phenomenal. “This unique opportunity will reach many women in need of support, as well as concerned friends and family members, giving them a way to access support.  The £50,000 fundraising target is also much needed – at a time when Refuge faces ongoing funding cuts and threats to running its services this funding provides essential support. We would like to thank all at Picturehouse for this momentous opportunity; never before has so much exposure been given to this issue which is often seen as too gritty and challenging to attract interest. With one in four women experiencing the issue and two women a week being killed by a current or former partner I have no doubt that the impact of this partnership will save and change many lives.” Refuge’s work has attracted some brilliant ambassadors. These include Sir Patrick Stewart OBE, Helen Mirren, Fiona Bruce, Helena Bonham Carter, David Morrissey and Bafta and Oscar-winning actor Olivia Colman who starred in the shocking domestic abuse 2011 drama Tyrannosaur, as well as the multi-award-winning 2018 film The Favourite. Speaking of the Picturehouse Partnership Colman said: “Picturehouse partnering with Refuge is a perfect way to connect huge audiences to important, life-saving matters. Cinema has an unequivocal power to create compassion and illumination for subjects we find difficult to talk about or recognise. Through Picturehouse’s partnership, thousands of people will be made aware of the crucial work of Refuge.”   Further information:     Special thanks for making this important short film to BBH, Black Sheep Studios, Lucy Bridger, The Assembly Rooms, Framestore, 750mph.

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

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

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

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

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

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