Refuge offers safe haven for victims

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FLEEING an abusive partner is one of the hardest things a victim can ever do but there is help out there thanks to the charity Refuge.

As the name suggests the charity quite literally offers refuges for women and their children who have been forced to leave their homes to escape an abusive partner.

Fenland has had a refuge run by the charity for over 12 years, although the property’s exact location remains a closely guarded secret for the security of both staff and victims.

Christine Papworth, manages the refuge, which offers accommodation for up to 28 women and children at any one time.

In fact so far this year the Fenland refuge has provided a safe place for 150 women and 120 children.

Christine and her staff offer emotional and psychological support as well as practical help with benefits, finding housing and even helping find employment.

“It is a sad fact that a woman has suffered at least 35 serious assaults before seeking help. For many it is almost impossible to break free of the relationship as they fear losing their children, and they have no where to go.

“We try to help every woman who contacts us. We will try to find them a place in one of our refuges nationally. We don’t take people from the local area for security reasons,” explained Christine.

Women can stay in a refuge for as long as they feel they need to from just a few weeks to many months.

A woman fleeing an abusive relationship is forced to leave everything behind including friends and family.

“Escaping is the most dangerous time for a woman. Often they are in a controlling relationship where they are watched and not allowed out. We have a national helpline which women can call for advice and help in planning their getaway,” said Christine.

Fenland is one of two areas in the county chosen to pilot a scheme called Positive Defiance, which aims to encourage local people to deal with the issue.

Christine explained it is based on a scheme used in countries such as Indonesia where it has had huge success in reducing female genital mutilation.

The initiative has been backed by 40 different organisations.It encourages normal people in the community to discuss the issue and to come up with ways of dealing with it.

Christine believes the project is proving successful including devising innovative ways of reaching women in need of help such as getting the helpline number to them in a discreet way.

Refuge not only helps women, they also help men and so far this year seven men have come forward as victims in Fenland.

Not all women want to leave their partner and again the charity can help them by getting panic buttons installed or a safe room buil-in in the house where a woman can retreat if she is in danger, and by supporting the woman emotionally.

Christine said raising awareness and getting domestic abuse talked about openly is a step towards making it less of a taboo subject.

“Women refuse to talk about it, they will make excuses for what is happening and society as a whole often turns a blind eye.

“But everyone needs to be aware that abuse is not acceptable, there is no excuse for it,” added Christine.

Refuge domestic violence helpline: 0808-2000247, or contact the Fenland outreach workers on: 0778-7255821