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Let's Walk4 A World Without Domestic Violence

26/08/2016 11:57 | Updated 26 August 2016
red_buffon via Getty Images

One in four women experience domestic violence at some time in their lives. Two women every week are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales. Domestic violence is the biggest social issue facing women and children in our country today - yet it is still a taboo.

Not on September 11th. On that Sunday, I will be marching 10km through the streets of London, along with hundreds of Refuge supporters, to show the world that domestic violence will not be tolerated or ignored.

Walk4 raises vital funds for Refuge, helping us to keep our life-saving services - which support 3,800 women and children escaping domestic violence on any given day - open. But it also sends a message. It brings this insidious crime out of the shadows, and shows women who may be experiencing violence that they are not alone.

It is a message we must shout loudly and persistently.

Imagine you are living with violence at home. Imagine that your abusive husband has systematically isolated you over many months and years - he has taken your mobile phone, he has told your family you don't want to see them anymore, he has scared off your girlfriends. Imagine that you have begun to believe it when he says that the only person who cares about you is him - that nobody else will have you, or help you.

Then imagine that society says: "but why doesn't she just leave?" This kind of victim-blaming is commonplace; it is often the first question people ask me. The media, the police, even a woman's friends and family - all are liable to judge abused women, as if they are somehow responsible for the actions of violent men.

It takes incredible courage to leave someone who controls and intimidates you. The real point is not why she stays, but what a triumph it is when she is able to leave.

Walk4 celebrates these triumphs. Joining me on the march will be survivors of domestic violence - friends and supporters of Refuge who have shown huge strength in overcoming their experiences. Take Melanie, who escaped 15 years of physical and emotional abuse, testified against her partner when she was eight months pregnant, and now volunteers supporting other women who have experienced violence.

Now think about all the women who are still living with their violent partners. Think of their courage. 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. All of her energies are devoted to their immediate survival. Far from a pathetic, passive victim, she is a resourceful and coping survivor.

On September 11th, we want to celebrate those women who have left, survived and thrived - like Melanie. But we also want to show women who are still with their violent partners, still living every day on a knife-edge, that they are not alone. We - and the hundreds that will march with us - see you, and we are here to support you, whatever you decide to do.


Join Refuge to Walk4 a world without domestic violence on September 11th - sign up here.

If you think you may be experiencing domestic violence, you are not alone. Visit www.refuge.org.uk for information and support.

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