Solace Women’s Aid prepares for ‘record number of calls’ from domestic abuse victims this Christmas

Katherine Johnston (18 December, 2019)

'I don’t have enough words to thank everyone at the refuge. I no longer feel alone'

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A women’s charity that supports victims of domestic violence and abuse to escape their abusers says it is expecting a record number of calls this Christmas.

Solace Women’s Aid, which works across Southwark with the council to help women and children find refuge, says it predicts around 600 calls will come through to its London-wide team this Christmas.

Last year its handlers received 47 per cent more calls than the previous year. Christmas is already a time when domestic abuse incidents are particularly high.

Many of the women and children who arrive at the charity’s London refuges have nothing but the clothes on their backs.

This Christmas, the charity is asking for cash donations and gifts for ‘boxes of fundamentals’, so every woman and child arriving in need of help are given shampoo, soap, sanitary items, and all the basic things they need.

The campaign is being supported by actor Karen Bryson, who said: “I couldn’t be more pleased to support the Solace campaign this year.

“This can be an unimaginably difficult time of year for those suffering from domestic abuse.

“Reaching out and making that first call for help is extremely brave, as is leaving home and seeking refuge with nothing but the hope that Solace will help.”

 

It is estimated that one in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.

Across England and Wales, two women are killed each week by a current or former partner.

According to Solace’s data, on average a woman will stay in an abusive relationship for six years before leaving and going to a Solace refuge.

In Southwark, according to figures from the London Mayor’s office, domestic abuse offences have increased by over 20 per cent in the last four years, with 2,870 recorded in 2015 and 3502 in 2019.

 

Farida, who has been helped by the charity, said: “I grew up in Pakistan but always wanted to come to England.

“When I got engaged to a man in England, I was really happy, we talked to each other all the time and then we got married.

“I stayed in Pakistan while he moved back to England but I was thankful I’d found the right person.

“I began to find out things I hadn’t before. He was married previously and had two young daughters.

“Finally, I was brought to live in the UK with him. I met his daughters who were actually in their 20s and his first wife still lived in the family home.

“I was so lost; I didn’t know the laws in the UK so kept quiet about everything.

“He became so rude and careless. He would force me to have sex and treated me like nothing; I felt I wasn’t considered to be a human.

“He kept going to his old wife if I didn’t do something he’d asked and eventually explained they were divorced in England but not by Islamic law. She was his wife forever.

“I was not allowed out and if I asked to, he would hit me on the mouth. When I didn’t do what he wanted, he always hit me. I was his servant and sex machine.

“Eventually, I called the police before he came home one day. The police were really good, they got me an interpreter and told me to relax and found me a refuge space.

“When I arrived, the refuge worker ensured I had some food and toiletries which made me feel like it may be ok. When I first came to refuge, I had no access to public funds, my key worker has helped me sort out my immigration, and I now have indefinite leave to remain. It has taken nine months.

“My key worker will help me find my own flat next, and I am learning English so I can become a carer.

“I don’t have enough words to thank everyone at the refuge. I no longer feel alone.

“The support from Solace has been so much more than enough.”

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