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)