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Catch up on recent coverage of Refuge’s work across print, online and broadcast.

 

Press releases

Launch of Refuge and University of Warwick study into suicidality and domestic violence
Launch of Refuge and University of Warwick study into suicidality and domestic violence

‘Suicide must not appear to be the only escape for some victims of abuse’ There must be greater recognition of the risk of suicide among victims of domestic abuse and increased provision of specialist services for survivors and their children, urges Refuge, the national domestic violence charity. In one of the largest studies of its kind, and the first in the UK, staff from Refuge and the University of Warwick looked at the experiences of more than 3,500 of Refuge’s clients with the aim of informing policy and practice in relation to victims of abuse who are at an increased risk of suicide. The findings show that: 83% of clients came to Refuge’s services feeling despairing or hopeless – a key determinant for suicidality At least 24% had felt suicidal at one time or another; 18% had made plans to end their life; 3% had made a suicide attempt 49% of the suicidal group scored within the ‘severe’ range on a measure of psychological distress The level of support for survivors from professionals and external agencies was seen as crucial; the research found that long delays in obtaining support had the potential to exacerbate difficulties, victims needed adequate time to disclose the full impact of their abuse and a suitable environment to ‘tell their story’ at their own pace. The report calls for a commitment to sufficient, specialist services, both outreach and refuge, for the survivors of abuse. While having children was found to be a protective factor for victims of abuse, being childless was a risk. Although the research does not explore the impact of having a suicidal parent, the authors recognise the harm that living with domestic abuse can have upon children, particularly when the abused parent is suicidal. The authors highlight the need for specialist services for children impacted by domestic violence, especially those bereaved in this context. Refuge offers specialist support services to men, women and children victims of abuse and believes all are entitled to a compassionate and appropriate response, particularly those who are so distressed that they have considered suicide. However, the gender split in Refuge’s sample broadly reflected national and international trends in domestic abuse perpetration and victimisation - a phenomenon in which women are overwhelmingly the victims and males the perpetrators. As such, the researchers appeal to all agencies to recognise domestic abuse as a gendered issue and a gendered crime. As discussions take place around the forthcoming Domestic Abuse Bill, on which the current Government has staked its legacy, they highlight this opportunity – and the need - for wide-scale engagement and educational efforts to eradicate the gender inequality and sexism that underpin violence against women and girls. View the report here For more information and to arrange an interview, please email press@refuge.org.uk or call 0207 395 7731 | 07970 894240 (out of hours)

Refuge calls on the Government to put victims at the heart of its once-in-a-generation Domestic Abuse Bill
Refuge calls on the Government to put victims at the heart of its once-in-a-generation Domestic Abuse Bill

With the Government's Domestic Abuse Bill consultation closing today (31.05.2018), Refuge believes that no one should be subjected to abuse or violence and appropriate support and protection should be available to all. We commend the Government’s efforts to introduce a Domestic Abuse Bill; we will continue to work closely with the Home Office and others to ensure the Bill reflects both the reality of the problem and adopts the best approaches to tackling the issue. “In order to make the greatest difference to the lives of survivors of domestic abuse and to stamp out the root causes of this widespread phenomenon, Refuge recommends that the Government considers extending the remit of the proposed Domestic Abuse Commissioner to cover all Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG), broadening the scope of the new Bill or introducing future VAWG legislation,” urges Sandra Horley, CBE, Chief Executive of Refuge. “For far too many, inequality and violence against women are two sides of the same coin. One in four women will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime. Many more will suffer other violence simply because they are women. The Government should ensure all these victims are at the heart of the proposed Bill.” There is growing international consensus that domestic abuse needs to be considered within a broader context of VAWG, recognising the root causes as male power and control, gender inequality and discrimination against women. Spain is amongst the countries to have already introduced gendered domestic abuse legislation. These laws are now being extended to cover other forms of violence against women, after it became apparent that the original legislation was failing women and girls, who are abused in non-domestic contexts. Social demographics and trends have changed. Today Refuge finds itself responding to many forms of violence against women, which are often overlapping. “Through its frontline work, Refuge sees a clear link between domestic abuse and other forms of VAWG like modern slavery, human trafficking, forced marriage, sexual violence, honour-based violence and female genital mutilation. Gender-neutral legislation does not cover many of these victims and ignores the fundamental causes of VAWG, which are gender inequality and discrimination against women,” explains Ms. Horley. “At present, the proposed Bill does not recognise the highly gendered nature of domestic violence – statistics show that far more victims are women than men and abusers are overwhelmingly male.” Of the more than 6,000 survivors of abuse Refuge supports every day: around 3500 are children around 2500 are women and approximately 100 are men Home Office figures for the year ending March 2017 showed that: in 30% of male domestic homicides, the perpetrator was a female partner or ex-partner while 76% of female domestic homicides were carried out by a male partner or ex-partner Crown Prosecution Service data also shows that 93% of defendants in domestic abuse court cases are male and 84% of victims are female. Violence Against Women and Girls, including domestic abuse, is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men against women, because they are women. Ends Other recommendations from Refuge in relation to the proposed Domestic Abuse Bill and the non-legislative accompanying package Services and funding – Domestic violence services have been under threat for years – 80 per cent of Refuge’s services have seen funding cuts since 2011. It is crucial that the Government commits sufficient, long-term funding for specialist services – refuges and outreach. It is widely expected that more victims of abuse will come forward if the Bill is a success; these survivors will need access to more services. Such support is covered in the Spanish VAWG legislation. Domestic Abuse Commissioner - Refuge recommends that the Government has created the role of a Violence Against Women and Girls  (VAWG) Commissioner, recognising that many forms of violence against women are interlinked, as outlined above, and that services need to be coordinated. A VAWG Commissioner would play an important role in holding agencies to account and driving forward improvements in the prevention of and response to all forms of VAWG. The Commissioner must be fully independent, have sufficient power and resources to have real impact, and have a deep understanding of the causes of VAWG. Definition of Domestic Abuse - Beyond a gendered definition, the focus must not only centre on the action of the perpetrator, but the impact or psychological harm caused to the victim, especially in cases involving coercive control. Children - Hundreds of thousands of children are affected by domestic abuse. Statistics suggests 1 in 5 children have been exposed to the issue. (NSPCC - Radford, L. et al (2011) Child abuse and neglect in the UK today.) Of the more than 6,000 survivors Refuge supports every day, around 3,500 are children and around 2,500 women. The lack of funding for specialist services for these children is shameful. Few commissioners fund services for children affected by domestic abuse. Refuge believes that these services – whilst potentially requiring the most highly-skilled support staff to help children overcome the trauma and rebuild their lives – need to cover psychological health, play, physical health, advocacy in schools and more. Resources for women with no recourse to public funds (NRPF) - Refuge has consulted widely with its expert 300 strong frontline staff working in refuges, working as Independent Domestic Violence Advocates (IDVAs) and working as outreach workers in order to respond to the consultation. Refuge’s frontline staff highlighted the lack of provision for women with NRPF as one of the most difficult issues they face when trying to help women stay safe and rebuild their lives. For more information and to arrange an interview, please email press@refuge.org.uk or call 0207 395 7731 | 07970 894240 (out of hours)

Refuge responds to reports that victims of serious crime face arrest over immigration status
Refuge responds to reports that victims of serious crime face arrest over immigration status

An investigation by the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme has found that more than half of UK police forces are handing over victims of crime to the Home Office for immigration enforcement. Sandra Horley CBE, Chief Executive of Refuge, said: “Refuge has recognised a nexus between domestic violence and trafficking for many years. We know that victims of modern slavery and human trafficking are often hard to identify. We need the police to understand this nexus and investigate what lies behind the violence a victim suffers and refer them to organisations like Refuge. "Refuge works with victims of modern slavery and human trafficking every day so we are well aware of many policy difficulties on the ground that need to be ironed out by the Government and law enforcement.” Read more about the BBC investigation here  

BSI 2018 assessment is testimony to Refuge’s work
BSI 2018 assessment is testimony to Refuge’s work

Refuge takes utmost pride in having maintained its BSI (British Standards Institution) ISO 9001 certification – validation of Refuge’s commitment to providing the best possible support to the survivors of domestic abuse and other gender-based violence. The BSI audit reviewed the management of specialist services run by Refuge, including women's refuges, culturally specific support for women from black and minority ethnic communities, outreach and independent domestic violence, sexual violence advocacy and other gender violence services. Refuge became the first domestic violence organisation in the country to achieve the internationally-recognised ISO 9001 certification by BSI in 2010. Since then, Refuge has continued to operate a first-class management system for its national network of services, which BSI has confirmed complies with the requirements of the ISO 9001 standard. In Refuge’s latest assessment, which took place in February, it was recognised that Refuge had multiple best practice processes and had achieved excellence in many contexts, especially in the measurement of customer perception/satisfaction. The assessment highlighted the factual nature of Refuge’s decision-making, which helps to ensure the organisation, its donors and the staff on the ground can be certain that decisions are made with confidence. Refuge takes huge pride in the auditor’s assessment which highlighted that in many ways Refuge is ahead of the curve in terms of systems and processes designed to improve the quality of service for its customers. “Refuge is the largest single provider of specialist violence against women and girls services in the country,” said Jane Keeper, Refuge’s director of operations, welcoming the audit’s conclusion. “We have developed a distinctive, specialist approach to managing the cases of the 6,050 victims escaping abuse and violence we support on any given day. “We are especially delighted that BSI has recognised Refuge’s strategic direction and its new approach to tackling tech abuse. Refuge strives at all times to offer the best possible support to women and children experiencing domestic abuse and other types of gender-based violence.” Sandra Horley, CBE, chief executive of Refuge, commended the organisation’s staff: “This ISO 9001 certification is a wonderful tribute to the immense hard work and dedication of all Refuge’s employees. We have a team of amazing expert staff and managers across the organisation, each of whom has contributed to this achievement. Working in emotionally-tough roles and financially-challenging times, our team goes the extra mile on a daily basis to save and transform the lives of victims of gender-based violence.” Carla Whyte, Senior Client Propositions Manager at BSI commented on the value of Refuge’s certification: “By achieving certification to ISO 9001, Refuge can provide assurance to its customers and stakeholders that it is carrying out best practice in quality management, and is focused on continually improving its products and services. The Refuge staff, its management team and trustees should be very proud of this achievement.” Read the full report here

National Crime Agency’s modern slavery figures reflect Refuge’s experience
National Crime Agency’s modern slavery figures reflect Refuge’s experience

The National Crime Agency (NCA) published a report today, 26 March 2018, which has revealed that the number of potential victims of human trafficking and modern slavery reported to the authorities rose by more than a third in 2017. Sandra Horley, CBE, chief executive of Refuge, says: "The figures published today on modern slavery in the UK make for a disturbing read. But, sadly, they are a reflection of what Refuge staff see increasingly when supporting women and children escaping violence and abuse. "In our experience, many of the women subjected to modern slavery present, initially, as victims of domestic violence and only begin to discuss their ordeals further when Refuge staff have gained their trust. Victims are often very vulnerable and traumatised. This is a multinational, billion-dollar industry that thrives on control and fear, and instils secrecy in its victims. "Our expert staff report many cases of women in domestic servitude, in forced labour or exploited for sexual purposes. In addition to our refuges and community outreach workers, Refuge runs specialist modern slavery services to support Vietnamese, Middle Eastern and Eastern European women - in their languages - and we urge anyone at risk of modern slavery to contact us if they need help or support." Find out more about our human trafficking and modern slavery services here To read the NCA's report in full, visit their website

Refuge staff and survivors of abuse meet Theresa May to discuss Domestic Abuse Bill
Refuge staff and survivors of abuse meet Theresa May to discuss Domestic Abuse Bill

Details of the Domestic Abuse Bill announced so far are promising. Refuge believes that putting survivors at the heart of efforts to stamp out domestic abuse is crucial and applauds the aim of the Bill in this respect. Refuge also welcomed the chance to discuss it in more detail with the Prime Minister, Home Secretary and survivors of abuse at an event at Downing Street to mark International Women’s Day. “Meeting survivors acknowledges their experiences and helps ensure their voices are heard. We truly hope that the final Bill delivers on the promise to protect and support victims of domestic abuse,” said Sandra Horley, CBE, chief executive of Refuge. Refuge has worked closely with the Government up to this point and looks forward to continuing to do so. “I really do hope the Bill leads to more victims coming forward,” said Hollie, a survivor of domestic abuse, who Refuge is supporting as she awaits the sentencing of her abuser. “I suffered in silence for years before finding the courage to seek help and leave my abusive ex. This must change. The Government needs to make sure that the right level of support and funding for services and refuges is in place for domestic abuse victims so they can access safety and have the best chance possible to rebuild their lives.” A view echoed by Mel, who was also supported by Refuge and is now in a new relationship and expecting a baby. “As a survivor of domestic abuse, I know just how vitally important it is that, first and foremost, victims can access support and feel protected - but also if they do go to the police or to court, that they know they will be taken seriously and believed. “It will be good if the police give women a bit more support when they are in the situation of a domestic abuse relationship, even if it is just sliding them a card with details for a women’s support group. That is something that will go a long way. “Through my involvement with Refuge, I know many victims do not go to the police – on average, a woman will be attacked 35 times before she will call the police for the first time. On too many occasions, complaints are not taken seriously or acted upon by the police. The response of the police, magistrates and judges to domestic violence needs to be improved, but the Bill needs to support to all women – not just those who report the matter to the police.” Euleen, another survivor of domestic abuse supported by Refuge’s expert staff, was encouraged that the new definition proposed in the Bill acknowledges its many forms. “People think that domestic abuse is always violent but it isn’t. It can be emotional, mental and financial abuse too. It will be good to have a broader definition of domestic abuse to take into account economic abuse, because I was the breadwinner in my relationship but money was used as a way of controlling me.” Refuge also applauded the Government’s announcement on a new national model for refuges and commitment to sustainable refuge funding. Euleen urged the Government to deliver on the funding of these services. “If the Government are going to do what they are saying they will with securing refuge funding, then it will only be a good thing. A refuge is a place where women and children go to save themselves from abuse, but if funding is cut – where will they go? It is so important that this provision is secured in the future.” “As the largest provider of refuges, supporting more than 6000 women and children a day across our services, we believe that guaranteeing the life-saving and life-changing support needed by victims of domestic abuse will go a long way towards protecting and supporting the people at the very heart of the proposed Bill," said Ms. Horley. Photo credit: Sergeant Tom Robinson RLC via Defence Images (Crown Copyright 2013)

Refuge responds to the Domestic Abuse Bill consultation launch
Refuge responds to the Domestic Abuse Bill consultation launch

Refuge is delighted that the Government has launched the Domestic Abuse Bill consultation on International Women’s Day today (8 March) by the Prime Minister Theresa May, Home Secretary Amber Rudd and Justice Secretary David Gauke. We believe there are some very positive elements in the proposed Bill and we are particularly delighted to hear that the Government is committed to building new sustainable funding streams for refuges – which at the moment are in grave danger of collapse if proposed changes go through. It is also great to see survivors at the heart of the Bill – we have worked hard behind the scenes for a long time to bring this legislation to the fore. Sandra Horley, CBE, chief executive of national domestic violence charity Refuge, says: “Refuge applauds the intentions of the Government to put survivors at the heart of its efforts to stamp out domestic abuse. We welcome the Government’s commitment to sustainable refuge funding, after recent proposed changes could have meant 4 out of 10 refuges closing. Refuges are a lifeline for many women and children escaping abuse, they provide critical life-saving and life-changing support to thousands of survivors each year. “Refuge looks forward to working with the Government to develop this new model for refuges and urges it to deliver a world-leading network of safe-havens for the survivors of domestic abuse. Anything less risks undermining the very progress other areas of the Bill represent. Failure to guarantee these essential services to those in need will ultimately lead to more women and children being forced to stay with men who put their lives at risk, failing the people at the very heart of the proposed Bill.” To find out more about the consultation launch, you can read the full press release from the Government here  For more information and to arrange an interview, please email press@refuge.org.uk or call 0207 395 7731 | 07970 894240 (out of hours)

Refuge responds to the Sentencing Council’s new domestic abuse guidelines
Refuge responds to the Sentencing Council’s new domestic abuse guidelines

Refuge welcomes the Sentencing Council’s new domestic abuse guidelines which launched today, 22 February, 2018. Survivors of domestic abuse who have accessed Refuge’s services and our expert frontline staff met the Sentencing Council in 2017 to discuss and develop the guidelines, and we believe they go a long way to help women and children fleeing abusive relationships. Sandra Horley, CBE, CEO of Refuge, says: “These new sentencing guidelines are a huge step forward for women escaping domestic violence. Refuge has long campaigned for crimes committed in a domestic context to be treated as seriously, if not more seriously, than any other. “Domestic violence is a gross violation of trust. Countless women and children are terrorised and brutalised in their homes – how would you feel if a violent attacker had the key to your front door? I am glad that the courts will be encouraged to recognise that everybody has the right to feel safe in their own home. “Refuge also welcomes the new recognition of how abusers exploit modern technology to track and torment women. We recently launched our new tech abuse programme to keep women safe and empower them in an increasingly online world. These sentencing guidelines better reflect the reality of domestic violence today.” For more information and to arrange an interview, please email press@refuge.org.uk or call 0207 395 7731 | 07970 894240 (out of hours)

International Women’s Day 2018 breakfast networking event, in aid of Refuge
International Women’s Day 2018 breakfast networking event, in aid of Refuge

Date for your Diary: City of London International Women’s Day Friday 9th March 2018 – 8:00am – 11:00am Great Hall, Guildhall, London EC2 Make a note in your diary for the morning of Friday 9 March 2018 for the City of London International Women’s Day Breakfast. We are delighted that journalist and ITV newsreader Julie Etchingham will be in the chair with a panel of distinguished speakers including: Her Honour Judge Anuja Ravindra Dhir QC London Fire Brigade Commissioner, Dany Cotton QFSM The event celebrates the contribution of women to the Square Mile with a particular focus on encouraging and supporting young people on their chosen career pathway and promises to bring new ideas and inspiration. Morning 08.00 am You are invited to arrive at 8.00 am for a light buffet breakfast and to network in Guildhall Old Library. 08.30 am In Great Hall, our speakers’ brief introductions will be followed by a panel discussion, with time for your questions. 11.00 am Close Location City of London, Guildhall, Gresham Street, EC2V 7HH Charity Over the last 11 years the International Women’s Day city breakfasts have raised over £270,000 for Refuge – a wonderful achievement for which Refuge is most grateful. Since opening the world’s first refuge 46 years ago the charity has been saving and rebuilding the lives of thousands of women and children who experience domestic violence every year. Additionally, this year, we will make a small contribution from the funds raised to FANY (Princess Royal's Volunteer Corps) in acknowledgement of their support in the response to recent terrorist incidents. Want to book a table? Details: 8.00am to 11.00am at Great Hall, Guildhall, London EC2 Please email belinda464harding@yahoo.co.uk indicating: The number of tables you require Whether you would like to pay by BACS or cheque The City of London Corporation will confirm whether the table(s) are available and supply payment details and a booking form which you will need to complete and email back. Thank you so much for your support.

Media briefing on threat to refuge funding
Media briefing on threat to refuge funding

Single biggest threat to the future of refuges for abused women and children: Government’s proposed funding for supported housing Hundreds of specialist women’s refuges could shut if the proposals are followed through Local authorities are under no obligation to fund refuges Generic emergency housing provision is not appropriate for the survivors of abuse Currently, the majority of women seeking a space in a specialist refuge are turned away due to insufficient places, this situation will only get worse The ‘local’ approach taken by some local councils means women, who need to be located in a different area to guarantee their safety, could be turned away and left with no safe option Specialised services for women and children escaping domestic violence need dedicated funding and a source upon which they can rely “The outlook for women and children escaping violence and abuse is very bleak. No country, no matter how developed its response to domestic violence, has ever removed the need for refuges. These safe houses provide a lifeline to thousands of women and children across the country every day and are much more than a roof over a head,” according to Sandra Horley, CBE, chief executive of Refuge. More than 50 per cent of refuge funding comes from Housing Benefit, with local authorities under no obligation to fund refuges. Plans announced by the Government last October would take away the last guaranteed source of income for refuges, removing refuges and other temporary supported housing from the welfare system, essentially preventing women from paying with housing benefit. Yet, the extent of the problem and current lack of funding for services meant that more than 180 women and children were turned away from refuges on a single day last year, according to sector figures.[1]  A situation that is set to get much worse. If the Government goes ahead with these proposals, it is estimated that four out of 10 refuges will have to close and others will have to reduce the number of beds they offer, according to member organisations of Women’s Aid. This could mean an additional 4,000 women and children being turned away from the few remaining refuges. Over half of the women who came to our refuges last year had suffered a life-threatening injury and more than 40% had had their lives threatened by their abuser. It is well-documented that a woman is at the greatest danger of being killed and of abuse escalating at the time of trying to leave her abuser. The decision to leave is never taken lightly. Women who experience domestic violence often flee taking very little with them, sometimes without even essential documents or money, and leave family, friends and jobs, uprooting their lives and those of their children if they have them, in many cases after years of abuse. “Under the Government’s proposals, housing benefit for a stay in a refuge will no longer be available to abused women, but will be paid to the local council to fund services. Over the past few years local councils, which have seen their budgets eroded, are increasingly turning to cheaper hostel-style accommodation to provide emergency housing support. This ‘generic’ provision is not appropriate for women and children escaping domestic violence. Specialist refuges offer more than just a bed for the night, they are a highly specialised, national network of safety and support services for women and children,” maintains Ms. Horley. “Behind the walls of women’s refuges, lives are saved and transformed – specialist teams work with women and children to help them overcome the trauma of violence and abuse and rebuild their lives, from helping them to stay safe, to accessing health services, legal advocacy and immigration advice, and getting back into work or education. This could all soon be lost.” For a woman’s greatest safety, places in refuges – if she can secure one – are, also, usually allocated some distance from where she lives, in order to minimise the risk of the woman being pursued and located by her abuser. More than 80% of all women given places in Refuge’s safe houses in 2017 were referred from outside of the area of the refuge. “The ‘local’ approach increasingly being taken by local councils is equally worrying. ‘Local people’ are seen to be the priority; yet women who flee violent men are unable to stay in their local area and instead must move hundreds of miles to find safety,” Ms. Horley stresses. “If other councils won’t accept them; where will they turn?” Domestic-violence services have been under threat for years – 80 per cent of Refuge’s services have seen funding cuts since 2011. During the same period, funding for the safe-houses Refuge runs has, on average, been cut by a third. Some areas of the country now have no refuge provision at all. Such a service was invaluable to Sarah. “Refuge saved my life. After four years of physical, emotional and sexual abuse from my partner, I finally escaped to a refuge with my two children, George and Eleanor. Without this safe haven to flee to, I would still be with him. Or worse, not be here at all.”* It is ironic that these funding proposals have been presented precisely at a time when the sector is awaiting the Government’s Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill and, if followed through, they could pose a serious threat to its stated commitment to helping victims of domestic violence. Refuge has submitted an official response to the government consultation on these proposals, which closes on 23.01.2018. We look forward to engaging with the government to develop an improved model that will put quality, specialist refuges on a secure and sustainable footing, as we have engaged to date with them on the Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill. [1] Figures from a Women’s Aid consultation of its members, to which Refuge is party. *names have been changed to protect identities For media queries email press@refuge.org.uk or ring 0207 395 7731 (out of hours and weekend enquiries: 07970 894240)