Women’s Aid Amazing Women
Tuesday 6th March 2018
Katie Ghose on our International Women’s Day celebration of amazing women
Deciding how to mark International Women’s Day this year was pretty simple, despite the mound of obstacles and issues facing the violence against women and girls sector in 2018. When you work in the domestic abuse field, helping women escaping abuse day in, day out, you realise what incredible strength women have. From the survivor who picks herself up after years of horror, to the frontline workers, operating on a shoestring to keep refuges open and women and children alive and all of the politicians and supporters who champion their cause – I am surrounded by amazing women all day long. So this year, it’s time to shout loud about them and the extraordinary work that is happening to end domestic abuse.
Domestic abuse is often hidden behind closed doors, and that is also the nature of refuges and services hidden within our communities. Most survivors won’t know these services are there until they need them, and the wider community may never see them. Women’s Aid began as a grassroots movement, to provide sanctuary and safety for women and children. It was born of the resolve of inspirational women saying “enough is enough”, and today it is stronger than ever. We have achieved so much together in 40 years – from establishing the first National Domestic Abuse Helpline in the 80s, to making coercive and controlling behaviour a crime in the 00s, we are built on the sweat and determination of strong women. Now it’s time to shine a light on those women who continue to make it happen.
The remarkable work these services do is not limited to a bed for the night; they are a lifeline for women and children fleeing abuse, and transformative for their futures. We must not forget that escaping abuse doesn’t stop when a woman leaves. She must then rebuild her life and self-esteem, and become independent. This includes needing support with everything from housing and finances, to health, their children and court cases, all the while emotionally recovering from the trauma they have experienced. The same local domestic abuse organisation will provide a whole host of these services, ranging from emergency refuge accommodation, to support accessing permanent accommodation, to help changing schools, to counselling, legal help or helpline support. The local organisation has domestic abuse specialists working to meet the needs of the women and children accessing support, and that support could save their lives.
This is where our #WomensAidAmazingWomen truly shine. The women working in our refuges are the safety net for survivors when they fall, the voice that lets them know they made the right decision to leave. They are the hand to hold when it’s all too much, the listening ear when the abuser still gets inside a head. They are the clear mind when there are endless forms to fill out and phone calls to make, the loud voice when the police won’t take the abuse seriously, the playmate when a child can’t stop crying. They are kindness to women who have only known cruelty. They are everything to a survivor.
And yet, they do this work against all odds, and with little recognition. In an incredibly challenging environment of funding uncertainties and cuts, staffing shortages have hit our services hard as they struggle to retain staff, and those who stay are being stretched to do even more. Our SOS – Save Refuges, Save Lives campaign has been running since 2014, and we have been calling on the government to Save Our Services by committing to preserving the national network of specialist refuges through securing a new model of funding. Yet, we are still seeing our services lurch from crisis to crisis, and the government’s planned new model as it stands could instead see many refuges close entirely.
We need your help to let these amazing women keep doing their work, to keep saving and rebuilding lives. This year’s International Women’s Day theme is to #PressForProgess, and our sector desperately need this. Please support our #WomensAidAmazingWomen on social media by telling us of any you know and there is still time to sign our online petition to halt the planned changes to funding. You can also ensure we are able to keep fighting by making a donation to Women’s Aid– every penny of your gift goes to ensuring these amazing women can keep our lifesaving network of services safe for every survivor who needs them in the future. Let’s make this International Women’s Day a pivotal moment of change for women who are abused, and the unsung heroes who protect them.