News and blogs

Three women and a baby sitting in a kitchen

Through our range of specialist services, we help more than 6,000 survivors of violence each day across England and Wales. Keep up-to-date with the latest Refuge news, blogs and stories from our communications team.

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Celebrating women and girls with Benefit, Homebase and Polpo
Celebrating women and girls with Benefit, Homebase and Polpo

2018 opened with an amazing show of support from our corporate partners. We have been working on exciting projects in support of women and children with a wide variety of brands, including Venetian restaurateurs Polpo, home improvement retailer Homebase and Bunnings, and the fabulous cosmetics company, Benefit. Read all about the fantastic projects we have been working on below. Bold is Beautiful with Benefit Our Bold is Beautiful (BiB) project, in partnership with Benefit Cosmetics, works to empower women and girls, and has just finished for the fifth year running. BiB supports both the work of Refuge and Look Good Feel Better (LGFB), a charity that helps women and teenagers manage the visible side effects of cancer treatment. The Benefit team hosted three pink pop-up shops in May across London, Glasgow and Cardiff, with a whole host of products available to buy. These items were donated by amazing brands such as Vivienne Westwood, Aspinal of London and Puma, and all profits will be split equally between Refuge and LGFB. Benefit will also be donating 100% of all money raised through their eyebrow waxes to us and LGFB throughout May. And if that wasn’t enough, they also launched a Bold is Beautiful eBay store, full of fanciful pink items which were auctioned to the public, including return flights for two to San Francisco, as well as a pink Vespa! You can catch up with Benefit’s #BoldIsBeautiful updates on their Instagram page. Homebase and Bunnings’ in-store activities In the lead-up to International Women’s Day and Mothering Sunday, home improvement retailer and garden centre Homebase and Bunnings supported Refuge in its stores across England and Northern Ireland by working to raise public awareness of domestic violence against women and children. Each shop organised their own fundraising activities in-store with the aim of engaging their Homebase and Bunnings customers to learn about Refuge’s work. From delicious cake sales to kids’ face painting, the fabulous in-store teams raised a grand total of £15,944.26 – an amazing result! Thank you to all Homebase and Bunnings staff and customers who took part. Polpo Women’s Month In March we celebrated Mese Della Donna - Italian for Women’s Month – with our partners, Polpo, the Venetian restaurant. Polpo donated £1 from each of their five specials dishes throughout March and raised almost £5,000 for Refuge! A huge thank you to everyone involved.  Following on from this fantastic month-long activity, we are delighted to announce that Polpo will be extending their partnership with Refuge for a further six months. From 28 May, Polpo will be donating £1 from one of their delicious desserts to Refuge. Watch this space for more events and staff fundraising efforts. Partner with Refuge If your organisation is interested in partnering with Refuge, please get in touch with the fundraising team for more information.

Adapting to the growing threat of tech abuse
Adapting to the growing threat of tech abuse

Ellen* was living in one of our refuges with her two children when her former partner happened to ‘bump into’ them - she had no idea how they had been found. She had recently left him after years of physical abuse, harassment, abusive language and monitoring of her activities, including regularly checking her bank account and building up debt in her name. It was after speaking to her key worker that Ellen realised that he must have accessed her emails via her home computer to track her whereabouts. With the support of her tech advocate, Ellen soon identified other ways in which she was vulnerable to abuse via everyday technology, for example through her daughter’s online video games, her own social media activity and the various email accounts she had. She also admitted that due to her fear of being tracked down by her ex, she no longer dared buy anything online and had shut down a lot of her social media activities, losing contact with lots of friends and family members. Receiving support to stay safe Ellen’s tech abuse worker created guides to show her how to keep safe whilst still accessing many everyday digital tools. Together, they reviewed her Wi-Fi, PC, Smart TV, wireless printer and she was taught how to install firewall security. Ellen says she now feels safe and capable of handling day to day technology and troubleshooting issues herself. She has regained the confidence to make online purchases using vouchers – in time she hopes to use a debit card again. She is now able to recognise phishing emails, knows how to set up and access parental controls on the Smart TV, Nintendo Switch and laptop, is aware of tracking devices that could be placed on her daughter following contact with her ex, and has set up WhatsApp – an encrypted messaging service that is safe - so that she can get back in touch with her friends and family. Refuge’s tech abuse team Since the launch of our tech abuse programme in partnership with Google at the end of 2017, Refuge has recruited a team of five tech abuse leads, a tech abuse manager and over twenty tech abuse champions, located across our national network of specialist violence against women and girls (VAWG) support services. UK legal experts have delivered training to the team on the links between abuse of technology and the law. The tech abuse team is now working with survivors of tech abuse gathering evidence to support police officers and the crown prosecution service bring successful criminal prosecutions against perpetrators of technological abuse. Since the outset of the service an international specialist tech abuse organisation trained 240 Refuge staff and will return in June to train a further 90 staff and 30 tech champions. This will enable all our frontline staff to provide a robust response to the growing threat of tech abuse in all of its forms. Meanwhile, the project was highlighted in the Government’s consultation on ‘Transforming the response to domestic abuse’ as an example of innovative practice to tackle tech abuse. Data from Refuge’s case management system, IMPACT, shows that this year we have already supported 400 survivors who have experienced some form of tech abuse and the new team is supporting more than 30 specific tech abuse cases. Ellen recently told her key worker: “each skill I’ve been taught is transferable and will be relevant for the rest of my life - as I go forward, I no longer fear technology.” (* name changed to protect her identity)

Our invaluable Independent Domestic Violence Advocate services
Our invaluable Independent Domestic Violence Advocate services

Our team in Kingston has been busy preparing for our latest IDVA (Independent Domestic Violence Advocates) service which opened its doors on 1 April 2018, and will operate alongside our refuge provision in the area, which itself launched in late 2017. The one-stop-shop service will initially offer 150 survivors of abuse IDVA support to navigate the criminal justice system; at Refuge we know from our other services that where our IDVAs support a woman through to the conclusion of a court case, three-quarters of these cases end in guilty verdicts. The new hub in Kingston will offer survivors of domestic violence a single point of access to a spectrum of specialist services and allow them to obtain all the tailored support they need under one roof. In addition to the IDVA service, an early intervention worker will engage with 14-17 year olds in the borough and there will be child support for those below this age group. A peer support group, a model which has proven beneficial to its participants in other of our services, will also run from the hub. Richmond IDVA service recognised with award Meanwhile in the neighbouring borough of Richmond, two members of our IDVA service and three members of the local police force were awarded Borough Commander commendations for their work supporting a client at high risk of homicide to secure a conviction against her perpetrator. Over 100 people attended the ceremony in March, including the Mayor of Richmond and local resident, the actor Tom Hardy! Chief Inspector, Karen Duckworth, spoke at the event and praised the team who “demonstrated a determination to put the victim at the heart of what we do as multi-agency partners and to prioritise victim safeguarding to remove and reduce the substantial risks they face.” They “helped to maintain contact with the victim throughout the criminal justice process,” she added, “and motivated and supported her through a successful judicial outcome.” The two Refuge IDVAs* supported the client for a period of 18 months not just through the criminal justice process but also with issues like housing. In addition to their securing the conviction and sentencing of the perpetrator, the local housing association changed its policies as a result of the case and their work. This rare recognition from the police force is a testament to their invaluable work supporting a vulnerable client and the close and trusted relationship they developed with other agencies. As one of the two IDVAs herself notes, Refuge “staff are doing work like this all the time and don’t necessarily get commendations, this just reflects the work we are all doing on a daily basis”. Find out more about our IDVA services here (*names are not disclosed to protect the identities of our frontline staff)

We couldn’t do it without you!
We couldn’t do it without you!

From selling cakes to scaling buildings and taking part in the world’s largest fundraising event, the Virgin Money London Marathon, #TeamRefuge has done it all! Our amazing supporters have been taking part in events (and organising their own) up and down the country. They have run, jumped, baked and abseiled all in support of Refuge and the women and children we work with every day. Law firm, Family Law Group, presented Kirsty – our Community Fundraising Executive – with a cheque for £9,200 in April, after nominating us as their Charity of the Year. Our #TeamRefuge runners have taken to the streets of London twice since the start of the year, firstly at the inaugural London Landmarks Half Marathon on 25 March and then again at the 2018 Virgin Money London Marathon on 22 April… jointly raising an incredible £60,000! “My mum had some involvement with a refuge when I was a young child and now she is a social worker involved with a lot of women who have used Refuge as part of their respite, so I thought it was a good charity and I would do my best to support it by running the marathon,” said London Marathon runner, Mike Taylor, who raised more than £3,000. Success on the day wouldn’t have been possible without the help of our incredible cheer squad volunteers – including team members from our corporate partners, Benefit Cosmetics and BBH agency. Fellow marathon runner, Michelle Grimshaw, was delighted to see so much support on the 26.2 mile route. She said: “It was an amazing day, and to see all the Team Refuge runners and supporters along the way was so amazing. I cannot thank you all enough.” Meanwhile, the world of community fundraising has seen theatre productions, empowerment festivals and personal challenges all taken on in aid of Refuge. Lauren Ainley curated her very own fabulous, feminist art show – The F-Word – and raised a whopping £1,281! As summer approaches, we will be cheering on our keen #TeamRefuge cyclists as they take on Ride London in July. Devon Sharks Rugby League are offering their support to Refuge through the launch of their brand new women’s rugby team and musician Thali Lotus will be coordinating an all-female DJ takeover. Good luck to you all. The ballot for the 2019 London Marathon has closed – but there’s still plenty of time to apply for a place with Refuge. Or, if running isn’t your thing – there’s always the scenic London to Brighton cycle challenge. Organise your own fundraiser Otherwise, there are plenty of resources and ideas available if you would like to try your hand at organising your own fundraiser. You really can make a difference to the lives of women and children experiencing violence and abuse. Thank you!

Refuge gives evidence to MPs about Universal Credit and domestic abuse
Refuge gives evidence to MPs about Universal Credit and domestic abuse

Our Tech Abuse Lead, Demelza Lobb, gave evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee in April 2018 about how Universal Credit can facilitate domestic abuse. Watch the recorded session below.  You can also watch the video on the Parliament.tv website here Video credit: parliament.tv

Seven fundraising events that made Refuge100 a huge success
Seven fundraising events that made Refuge100 a huge success

To mark 100 years since some women won the right to vote, we launched our first-ever community fundraising campaign, #Refuge100, in the lead-up to International Women’s Day 2018. A century after this momentous step for women, still today, for far too many victims of abuse, inequality and violence against women are two sides of the same coin. To help continue our essential work to end gender-based violence, we asked supporters to raise £100 each. We were so impressed with the variety of fundraising events you held: from quizzes and bake sales, to running and walking challenges, plus creative music, comedy and spoken word at gigs across the country! We are delighted to say that the #Refuge100 campaign was a great success – together you raised almost £5,000. That’s an amazing achievement. International Women's (or Men's) Day On International Women’s Day, comedian Richard Herring used his huge Twitter following to also raise money for Refuge. Responding to all people asking ‘When is International Men’s Day?’, he encouraged more than 10,000 of his followers, who were entertained by his efforts, to donate to his JustGiving page. Richard said: “I do this so that everyone else can get on with celebrating International Women's Day and using it to raise awareness of the issues that affect women. And trying to achieve equality.” Richard raised more than £150,000 through his tweet-a-thon. An incredible result, thank you for your generous donations! Take a look at some Refuge100 fundraising highlights: AND Digital hosted an International Women’s Day bake sale and raised more than £500. Craig Black bravely shared his experience of escaping domestic violence with his mum and smashed his target by raising £840 through Facebook Fundraisers. Travel Nation held a bake sale and pancake-flipping contest. They raised £260 for us; you batter believe it! Shazia Gazi exceeded her £100 target by offering henna at the Women in Focus festival by Poplar Union. Photographer Emily Morgan kindly donated proceeds from her portrait photoshoots, raising £100. All-female colleagues at supply chain company, Panalpina, raised over £400 by holding a synchronised ‘roar’ on International Women's Day.   Organise your own fundraiser If you are feeling inspired to organise your own fundraiser for Refuge, do check out our new and improved community fundraising webpages. You can find fundraising ideas, request a fundraising pack, read top tips and get in touch with us to find out more.