Refuges ‘neither dirty nor unwelcoming’ – campaigners try to dispel domestic abuse myths

Women's refuge
Women's refuge
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CAMPAIGNERS are working to dispel the myths of women’s refuges as part of a domestic abuse crackdown.

Northumbria Police has launched its “Children can learn by example” campaign urging victims to have the courage break the circle of violence.

Women's refuge

Women's refuge

But they are also keen to dispel the myth that refuges are dirty, unwelcoming places for women and their children.

One woman who has been in a Wearside refuge since the start of the year after suffering severe domestic violence at the hands of her partner said the refuge where she took sanctuary is responsible for saving her life.

She said: “Before I came here I had vision of it being an awful, dirty place but it has been a life-saving and changing experience. I’ve been given help with everything, everyone has been so supportive.

“My younger child had been withdrawn at home and wanted to be in the other room when their dad was there, but since being here they are a totally different person and are in lots of clubs at school and have lots of friends.

Women's refuge

Women's refuge

“It’s hard to leave, I left everything behind, but I feel safe here and the people here really do care and go out of their way to help.”

Clare Phillipson, director of Wearside Women in Need, said that while every woman’s experience at the refuge will be different, they will always be given the support they need.

She said: “If a woman comes in late at night with three hungry children then we’ll make sure they’re fed and have a good nights sleep.

“Sometimes women only come for one night as that’s all they need – often the world can be a different place after one night of uninterrupted sleep.

Women's refuge

Women's refuge

“Other women stay for a longer period of time – sometimes years – depending on what situation they are in. The most important thing is to make every woman that comes to a refuge to feel welcome. They need to know they aren’t a prisoner and can leave any time they like.”

She added that children also quickly feel at ease. “When a child comes in who has witnessed ongoing domestic violence in their home, they often don’t speak because they are so traumatised. However, we’ve seen so many children change remarkably after being here.”

Clare’s advice to women and their children suffering a cycle of abuse is to find the courage to leave.

She added: “A lot of women don’t want to take their children away from their home in the build-up to Christmas and decide to give their partner one last chance, but they will often find themselves having a dreadful Boxing Day onwards.

“We absolutely understand it’s terrifying giving up your home and leaving the majority of your possessions behind to move into somewhere new with people you don’t know but I would urge any woman suffering to find the courage to do this – they will find themselves swimming not drowning.”

Northumbria police and crime commissioner Vera Baird said: “This is an excellent campaign. I have been to this refuge many times and have found it the friendliest and most supportive of places, and as a building it is modern and comfortable.”