Sandra Horley – chief executive of Refuge since 1983. Refuge opened world’s first domestic violence shelter in 1971 and is now UK’s largest provider of specialist services for victims of domestic violence and other forms of violence against women, supporting around 4,000 women and their children daily.
Sandra sits on Home Secretary’s national oversight committee overseeing implementation of HMIC’s domestic violence recommendations and on Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner’s advisory panel. She has trained police, health, housing and social workers and was the first civilian woman to address Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). Sandra has given written and oral evidence to Home Affairs Select Committee and Joint Committee on Human Rights inquiries and has acted as expert witness in criminal trials where abused women were accused of murder/manslaughter; she supports families bereaved by homicide and runs award-winning awareness campaigns.
Sandra has published books and numerous articles in journals and media. She advises governments and law-enforcement agencies, internationally, on strategies to tackle violence against women including China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt, Malawi, Ghana, Spain and Canada. Sandra was awarded an OBE in 1999 and a CBE in 2011 for services to the protection of women aqnd children and prevention of domestic violence. In 2016 Refuge was named Charity of the Year at Charity Times Awards.
The wishes made by the women and children Refuge supports are quite different. Women might wish they could wake up safe in their own home. Children might wish they didn't have to leave their school, their friends or their beloved pet to go into a refuge; or that their mum would stop blaming herself for the abuse she has experienced.
To the outside world, because they do not immediately dash for the door, women trapped by their abusive partners may seem submissive. In fact, they are resisting - they adopt survival techniques and actively find ways of coping. An abused woman fights, relentlessly, to keep herself and her children safe.
Their courage certainly gives me hope, and it should also give hope to those women who have experienced or are experiencing domestic abuse. This International Women's Day, please know that Refuge is here to help you, and that it is possible to live a life free from violence and fear.
Domestic violence is often more than physical violence alone. A physical assault can be easy to identify but other ways of controlling a person are more insidious and can be harder for victims to recognise. This is often because these controlling behaviours are so embedded within normative beliefs about the roles of men and women. Financial abuse falls into the latter category.
On Sunday, each person had their own reason for walking. I walked4 the women killed by their partner and the grieving families left behind. I walked4 funds to ensure all those who experience violence and abuse get the support they need. And, I walked4 a future where it is domestic violence that is unthinkable, not talking about it.
The numbers matter. Without clear and accurate data, women's experiences of violence are written out of the story on British crime, and policy decisions on how to respond to domestic violence are made based on only half of the picture. How do we develop appropriate and effective responses to a crime we do not fully understand? We need to get to the bottom of why in 2015 thousands of women and children are still being traumatised and brutalised in their own homes. We need to understand why women and children are still being killed and killing themselves to escape domestic violence.
What is the point of creating new laws when the ones we already have are not being used effectively? A law is only as good as its implementation. It is already possible to prosecute non-physical forms of abuse - including psychiatric injury, threats, stalking and harassment. We need to get the basics right first... I agree that the law needs to be strengthened - but not by criminalising coercive control. Instead, the government needs to abandon its gender-neutral approach to tackling domestic violence and start addressing violence against women for what it truly is - a deeply gendered crime.
Refuge today launched a hard-hitting video campaign with makeup artist Lauren Luke. In the video, Lauren applies makeup to cover what look like fresh cuts and bruises on her face. Her injuries are, in fact, fake, but for thousands of women up and down the country, this is the reality of their everyday lives.
02/07/2012 15:30 BST
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