THE BLOG

Walk4 a World Without Domestic Violence

29/09/2015 12:43 BST | Updated 27/09/2016 10:12 BST

One in four women in Britain will experience domestic violence.

To this day I still find that figure shocking. It is easy to get lost in a sea of statistics and fail to remember that 'one in four women' represent real lives ripped apart by violence and abuse. Every week I meet women who have been beaten, bullied, and belittled by the person who is supposed to love them; women who have been raped, strangled, controlled, kicked, punched and pushed.

This is why I was so proud to be joined by hundreds of women, men and children on Sunday, to walk four of London's iconic bridges and draw attention to the one in four women in Britain who experience domestic violence.

I have worked in the field of domestic violence for nearly 40 years and despite this shocking statistic, talking about domestic violence has remained stubbornly taboo. On Sunday I was joined by supporters, survivors of domestic violence and families who have lost loved ones to this insidious crime; people from all walks of life taking to the streets to bring domestic violence out of the shadows.

Not only do we need to shout loudly about domestic violence but we need to ensure all victims get the support they need, when they need it. Specialist domestic violence services are on a knife edge. Years of funding cuts have resulted in services struggling to stay open. In the last four years, 80% of our services have had their funding cut. Last year we helped saved a refuge in Warwickshire from closure, but have only been able to keep its doors open by launching a huge fundraising appeal in the local area.

Refuges are the emergency service most people do not even know exist. Dispersed in secret locations across the country, they provide emergency accommodation for women fleeing violence - but they are so much more than just a roof over a woman's head. Behind these walls, lives are rebuilt.

Often for the first time, refuges provide a safe space for women to come to terms with their abuse. Our specialist staff provide a wide range of practical and emotional support; helping women, and their children, to overcome the physical and emotional impacts of violence and abuse.

This is a life-and-death issue. Two women each week are killed in England and Wales by a current or former partner. If these vital safety-nets close we risk returning to the days of Cathy Come Home where women experiencing domestic violence will be faced with a stark choice: flee to live rough on the streets with their children, or remain with their abuser and risk further violence - or worse.

This is why I am especially grateful to all those who walked with me on Sunday and raised vital funds for our life-saving and life-changing support services - in this austere financial climate, we need it now more than ever.

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.