A charity has claimed that domestic violence is at epidemic levels in the UK. According to Refuge one-in-four women experience violence in the home in their lives with around 750,000 children witnessing domestic violence every year.
According to shocking statistics revealed by the charity, two women per week will be killed by a partner or ex-partner in England and Wales. Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, said: "Women and children experience domestic violence all year round - and for many 25 December will be like any other day, filled with fear and uncertainty.
"Refuge supports over 3,300 women and children every day. On any given day two thirds of our residents are children. For those who escape and come to one of our refuges we offer so much more than a roof over a woman and her children's head; we offer vital support that gives women and children the building blocks to start a new life."
The charity has launched a campaign #givethemrefuge to highlight the issues of domestic violence in the UK. Refuge has also released a short video as part of its campaign to raise awareness and to increase support for its specialist services, which are under threat from funding cuts.
In the video a young girl is seen suffering the terror of living with an abusive father. "From as young as I can remember I witnessed my father abuse, threaten and intimidate my mum; my brother, mother and I lived in daily fear and terror," she says.
"It was only after a frantic phone call I had with my father that I knew he would fulfil his threat to 'smash her brains against the wall' and kill my mother. It was after that phone call that we made an escape to the sanctity of a refuge.
The girl, who uses the name Amanda, and her mum and brother escaped to a Refuge centre. "I was 10 years old then; I'm 22 now. Even today, I look back and thank my lucky stars that we were able to access support from Refuge. Not only did the refuge give us safety, anonymity and a place to overcome our trauma and rebuild our lives, but my brother and I had the opportunity to enjoy our childhood and also start over," she explains.
"I am ashamed that the state does not protect funding for the vital services that Refuge runs. Imagine if we had not had access to a refuge – would I be alive today? Would my brother, my mother? I would urge anyone watching this video affected by this issue to be brave enough to reach out and contact Refuge. And I would ask everyone to share #givethemrefuge – a powerful video which tells a story that was so very similar to my own. And please please do donate – together we can save services and ensure children like me and my brother get the support they so desperately need and deserve."
Describing the support her family received from Refuge she said: "Not only did the refuge give us safety, anonymity and a place to overcome our trauma and rebuild our lives, but my brother and I had the opportunity to enjoy our childhood and also start over."
What are the signs of domestic violence?
Domestic violence is the abuse of one partner within an intimate or family relationship. It is the repeated, random and habitual use of intimidation to control a partner. The abuse can be physical, emotional, psychological, financial or sexual. The aim of the behaviour, whether conscious or unconscious – is to take control of the woman's life. Domestic violence is an abuse of power – it's all about power and control.
If a woman is forced to change her behaviour because she is frightened of her partner then she is being abused. If she is experiencing any of the following then it's likely that she's being abused:
- Is he jealous and possessive?
- Does he cut her off from family and friends and try to isolate her?
- Is he charming one minute and abusive the next? Does he have sudden changes of mood – like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde?
- Does he control her life – for example, her money, who she should see, what she should wear?
- Does he monitor her movements?
- Does he blame her for the abuse?
- Does he humiliate or insult her in front of others?
- Does he verbally abuse her?
- Does he constantly criticise her?
- Does he use anger and intimidation to frighten her and make her comply with his demands?
- Does he tell her she's useless and couldn't cope without him?
- Has he threatened to hurt her or people close to her if she leaves?
- Does she change her behaviour to avoid making him angry?
- Does he force her to have sex when she doesn't want to?