THE BLOG

Why 'The Sun' Wants to Give Women Shelter

03/06/2015 17:16 BST | Updated 03/06/2016 10:59 BST

For someone dedicated to campaigning journalism, the week I spent writing #GiveMeShelter was one to remember.

For much of the time, my fingers bounced furiously off the keyboard telling a story that I hoped would make a difference.

Every second I wrote in the safety of my office, I knew that women and children were being abused, killed even - all terrified, all looking for a way out.

The Sun's #GiveMeShelter campaign has hopefully gone some way to offering them a lifeline.

Nearly a fortnight on there are thousands of signatories on our petition; Westminster is mobilizing and the campaign has got Britain talking - hasn't it just.

Twitter comments ranged from the generally encouraging through skeptical and confused to downright derogatory.

"Still head scratching", said one smiley looking woman called Victoria, "I understand the reach of the campaign but The Sun?"

Entire 'essays' have been tweeted about Twitter's attitudes to #GiveMeShelter and our colleagues at The Guardian confused its paper faithful by coming out in favour of our work.

One of the incredible things about being a tabloid journalist is how everyone who isn't a tabloid journalist knows how we do our job and why.

Please allow me to set the record straight.

#GiveMeShelter was conceived several weeks ago on a rainy night as I drove across country roads to visit my mum in Somerset.

I had the radio on for company and a small news item jolted me out of a cosy weekend feeling of contentment.

The remarkable Erin Pizzey, who opened one of the first women's refuges, was lamenting the closure of shelters due to local authority cuts. Women and children were seriously at risk she said.

"How could this be?" I thought. "Domestic violence victims STILL being failed in 2015?"

You see, I was involved in a groundbreaking Sun domestic violence campaign in 2003. Back then the crime was still taboo. Never a newspaper to shy away from controversy, The Sun took the decision to publish the faces of perpetrators on the front page.

The usual left-wing do-gooders lambasted us but our journalism shifted opinion and changed laws and lives.

Outraged by what I'd heard on the radio I called my boss, the equally passionate head of features Sam Carlisle.

Together we plotted another campaign and pledged to make a difference to the millions of women and children we know our paper reaches out to.

The paper's editors David Dinsmore and Stig Abell unhesitatingly supported us. The campaign was live. Simple.

Back in 2003, abused women called The Sun in their droves. Many told us it was the first time they realized their life's torment was actually against the law.

I've never forgotten those phone conversations or the inspirational women I met and interviewed - all far braver than I could ever hope to be.

During last month's campaign, a domestic violence survivor turned refuge manager called Charlotte Kneer agreed to be fully identified in telling her story. Her courage in doing this is mind blowing and sets an example to us all.

#GiveMeShelter was for Charlotte and all the women like her. Not other journalists, not the Twitterati and not the social media 'feminists' - many of whom do not appear to grasp the deep complexities of domestic violence.

And why am I bothering to write this now?

First and foremost because - love or hate The Sun - it is essential we ALL keep talking about #GiveMeShelter until it achieves its aim.

And because I want to thank all those who have signed our petition so far from the bottom of my heart and urge those who haven't to click on this link.

Finally, to those who continue to doubt The Sun's agenda in giving women shelter: don't just Tweet about it - DO something about it. Run a marathon for Women's Aid; jump from a plane for Refuge. Collect some toys, clothes and cosmetics and donate them to your nearest shelter. Your time will be better spent.

So there you have it. No secrets, no hidden agenda, just a straightforward act of kindness and a genuine will to put things right.

Now it's over to you Mr Cameron. We're watching and we're waiting.

Sharon Hendry is a senior feature writer at The Sun