Domestic violence. You’ve probably seen enough headlines and news articles about it to last you a lifetime. There are hundreds of books that have been written based on true stories, told by victims of domestic violence. You might even be experiencing it yourself. If so, please head straight to the bottom of this post. Right now.
Here’s the classic story that we see all over the media. Girl meets boy, they fall deeply in love and get married. He’s a wonderful man who makes her happy and they’re the perfect couple – what could possibly go wrong? They move in together and after some time, they have their first argument. Things get heated and loud, but nothing too major. Argument no. 2. He hits her for the first time. She’s shocked and he instantly feels guilty about what he’s just done. He breaks down, cries and vows never to hit her again. Life seems to go on as normal despite the alarm bells. Argument no. 3, he hits her again and pushes her into a mirror, smashing it. She decides that she wants out. Problem is, she still loves him and deep down, she believes that it’s all down to his mental health issues and they can overcome his violent tendencies together.
Not all stories of domestic abuse sound like that. Despite the story I just laid out above, there is no “clichéd” victim. The girl may have packed her bags the first time he hit her, and never looked back. A man may have been the victim but nobody took him seriously because his wife was a respected police officer. It may have been between family members. An elderly person may have had knives held to their throat. Children may have been involved. A child may have been the abuser.
There is no best recipe to concoct the most relatable or the most convincing abuse case. I’ll tell you what every one of them has in common, though. There is an abuser and a victim. The abuser needs justice served, and the victim needs help and support.
This is where Refuge comes in. Refuge is an organisation based in London who provide a safe place for more than 4600 men, women and children who are suffering from domestic violence on a daily basis. They believe that domestic violence should not be tolerated and we all have a right to live safely. They provide all sorts of support services, including but not limited to:
- Emergency accommodation for women fleeing abuse.
- Independent domestic violence advocacy for women going through civil and criminal courts.
- Child support workers who work with child residents in refuges across the country.
- Outreach services to help victims draw up safety plans, progress with housing applications and more.
- Confidential, non-judgmental support to LGBTQ victims or those seeking culture-specific support.
- Campaigns to raise awareness of domestic violence.
You may be wondering why I am flying the Refuge flag. This is not a sponsored post, and I am neither earning any commission from this nor am I receiving any freebies. I strongly believe that domestic violence has no place in this society, and should never be brushed under the rug as “matters to be resolved in private”. A note to families – there is discipline and educating, and then there is abuse. To couples – there is resolving your issues in the relationship’s best interests, and then there is violence. To abusers who use mental health as an excuse for violence – there is seeking medical help to protect yourself and those around you, and there is abuse. Do not cross the line.
Domestic violence is an issue that resonates deeply with me. I decided to get in touch with Refuge and coincidentally, they will be holding their annual flagship event this Saturday the 9th September in central London – Walk4. Hundreds of women, men and children will come together to walk 10km across London’s four iconic bridges to raise funds and awareness for Refuge. Everyone is welcome, and although doing a bit of exercise won’t stop domestic violence altogether, increased awareness and support for victims goes a long way. It could mean giving someone the means to turn their life around.
If you are based in/around London and if this sounds like something that you would like to get involved in, Refuge are encouraging people to register with them on the day (the online form is closed for sign-ups, sorry!). They will be meeting at 9.30 am at Tower Hill Gardens, London, ahead of the walk which starts at 10.30 am. All you have to do is show up on the day, pay the registration fee of £25 in cash, and meet people from all walks of life whilst getting some fresh air. £25 could be someone’s train ticket away from an abusive home after all. It truly is an event for all, and Refuge would love to have every one of you there. Fingers crossed for good weather!
A little more sombre than my usual posts, but thank you for reading and making it this far. If you are interested in finding out more about Refuge’s work, please visit their website or visit these links to find out what Stylist and The Huffington Post have to say about them.
Most importantly, if you are suffering abuse or know someone who is a victim of domestic violence, know that you are not alone. Please click here to find out what Refuge can do for you, and get help as soon as you can.
All photographs in this post were kindly provided by Refuge and credited to Julian Nieman for Refuge.