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Join Refuge On 9 September To Walk4 A World Without Domestic Violence

01/09/2017 11:52

One of the most common myths I have to address time and again about domestic violence is the idea that it is rare. Even though social attitudes have come a long way since I first started at Refuge in the 1980s, too many women are still cowed into silence and isolated by the abusive men who do whatever it takes to control their lives.

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Photography copyright: Julian Nieman for Refuge

That is why on Saturday 9th September I will be joining hundreds of survivors and other Refuge supporters for our third 'Walk4' event - a march across four of London's most iconic bridges to raise funds for our vital work and send a message to women and children living in fear for their safety and their lives: you are not alone.

There are many, many such women, living day-to-day walking on eggshells to protect themselves and their children from abuse.

Here is the truth: in 21st century Britain, one woman in four will experience domestic violence during her lifetime. That is a shocking statistic, and behind it are thousands of stories of misery and pain - even death.

One in four. Think about how many people that represents. Now think about who they might be. Picture the women in your own life: colleagues, friends, partners, siblings, and relatives. It is very likely that you know somebody who has been, or will be, abused.

It is important that we see beyond the stereotypical image of the "battered woman" and do not fall into the trap of thinking that survivors of violence against women and girls are easy to spot. Abuse crosses all borders of class, religion and race. To perpetuate the myth of a 'type' of survivor is to make it yet harder for women who experience domestic violence to identify with the problem - because society tells them time and again that domestic violence is something that happens to other people.

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Photography copyright: Julian Nieman for Refuge

Such misconceptions only help to protect and enable perpetrators. Presentable, respectable, men with white-collar jobs are just as likely to be abusers as any other. What these men have in common - as I explain in my book Power and Control, is that they are often charming and invariably are the last people anyone would suspect of abusing women. They are able to get away with their abusive behaviour because they use charm to gain control of their partners and deceive others too.

Adept at disguising his behaviour, an abusive man will try to isolate and undermine his partner, cutting her off from friends and family who might bolster her self-confidence and remind her that she has a life, and a self, beyond him.

Many women stay silent about domestic violence for fear that nobody will believe them. An abuser will always make sure to present his very best face to the world, leaving friends and relatives to suspect that, if his partner complains at all, she is blowing things out of proportion. They take his side.

That is why Walk4 is so important. It is not just about money, although it does raise vital funds which help to keep our life-saving, life-changing services running at a time when government funding can be hard to come by.

Walk4 helps to break through the walls of isolation that abusive men build around their victims, and lets women know that support is available.

Here is what Sophie, who left her abusive partner after taking part in our very first Walk4 event two years ago, had to say:

"At Walk4 I met other women in similar circumstances to me for the first time. I watched them share messages about their personal experiences of abuse, or those of loved ones. Walk4 helped me realise I was not alone. Other women had reached out, received support and left their abusive partners - I realised I could do the same. I could have a different life, free from violence and fear."

Among those walking with me on September 9th will be women like Sophie, taking their first steps away from an abusive partner and towards a life of independence and safety. I want to reach more women like Sophie and help them to make that journey.

Please join me and take part in our important Walk4 event 9 September - and walk for all the Sophies in this country who are experiencing domestic violence today.

Join Refuge to Walk4 a world without domestic violence in London on Saturday September 9th - find out more and sign up before Sunday September 3rd here. The registration fee is £10 and Refuge is asking participants to aim for a minimum sponsorship of £150.

If you think you might be experiencing domestic violence, you are not alone. Visit www.refuge.org.uk .

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