She was waiting for me in an Addison Lee outside of St Pancras. She told me she was my key worker. We made small talk as we drove a to a grand Georgian house. We sat in her office for hours filling in forms before she issued me with my PO Box address, door keys and the one refuge rule - no one must know where you are.
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.
Statistically, by far the most dangerous time in an abusive relationship and when a women and her children are most likely to be killed is when she seeks help. It is crucial that she is able to leave her home and find a confidential place of safety away from the perpetrator. Without that women will be forced to return to the perpetrator just to ensure that she and her children are not homeless.
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.