Last week I visited a Women’s Refuge in Newark, at the invitation of the manager and Trustees. Of course the women who would use such a refuge have been subjected to domestic abuse by husbands or partners, and many are in fear for their safety, so I have to be careful not to reveal the location of the premises I visited. Security is one of their key concerns.
I met with the facility’s manager, Marlene, and the Chairman of the Trustees Andrew Carr (an engineer with robust views on the subject of wind energy — but that’s another issue). And I heard the tragic stories of some of the women who arrive, distressed and traumatised, often with no more than the clothes they stand up in — and the children they’ve brought with them. The refuge can house up to six families (mothers and children) at one time, and it can provide them with immediate necessities — a roof over their heads, a safe environment, food, a change of clothes.
Naturally women fleeing violence want to put a safe distance between themselves and their abusive partner, so any such refuge will frequently be dealing with women from far afield. There is a national network of refuges that allows for reciprocal help, and victims can be found a place in another refuge if their first port of call is full.
I heard the stories of some of the women who have passed through the facility, and they are very tragic indeed. People who live a normal life in a normal family would find it difficult to believe the behaviour of some of the partners from whom these women have escaped. In my non-professional opinion, many of these abusive partners must have serious mental health problems, for no rational person could behave as they do — not that that is any excuse or justification for their behaviour.
In the Refuge, specialist domestic violence workers provide emotional and practical support to enable women to rebuild their lives. They advise on housing, health, legal options, education and employment.
Some victims have skills and a CV, and just need the security and motivation to make a new start. Others — some quite young — need further education, or help with their CV and interview skills. The refuge attends to these needs.
Last year the Refuge provided shelter and support for 46 women and 65 children. Since the refuge was opened in 1975 it has provided shelter and support for 3,670 women and 5,663 children. Hundreds more women and children have been supported through the Charity’s community based Women’s Outreach Service, a free confidential service providing support, advocacy and information for victims of domestic violence.
But now the charity faces a new problem. Their previous funding stream from the local authority has been reorganised in a way which requires “bidding” and funding applications. The details are complicated, but the bidding process is challenging for smaller charities, and the new system tends to favour larger groups. Newark Women’s Aid was hoping that I might be able to help in obtaining funding from the EU. I shall be happy to check out the possibility, but I suspect we might draw a blank.
They are doing splendid fund-raising work, but they have a big funding gap to fill if they are to continue this vital work. So can I call on the generosity of readers of this blog — if you are minded to donate to charity, and if you want to identify a genuine local charity in the East Midlands that desperately needs your support, follow this link