Victims of domestic violence are being urged to find the courage to leave the cycle of abuse, and use the help available for them.
As the Northumbria Police campaign “Children can learn by example” continues, victims of domestic abuse who have received help through a refuge have spoken out to encourage more women to do the same.
They are also keen to dispel the myth around refuges being dirty, unwelcoming places for women and their children.
One woman who has been in a Wearside refuge since the start of the year after suffering severe domestic violence at the hands of her partner said the premises saved her life.
She made the decision to call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, which referred her to the refuge, after having a knife held to her throat and a pillow put over her face.
She said: “Before I came here I had a vision of it being an awful, dirty place but it has been a life saving and changing experience.
“I’ve been given help with everything, everyone has been so supportive.
“My younger child had been withdrawn at home and wanted to be in the other room when their dad was there, but since being here they are a totally different person and are in lots of clubs at schools and have lots of friends.
“It’s hard to leave, I left everything behind, but I feel safe here and the people here really do care and go out of their way to help.”
Clare Phillipson, director of Wearside Women in Need, said while every woman’s experience at the refuge will be different, they will always be given the support they need depending on their circumstances.
She said: “If a woman comes in late at night with three hungry children then we’ll make sure they’re fed and have a good nights sleep.
“Sometimes women only come for one night as that’s all they need, often the world can be a different place after one night of uninterrupted sleep.
“Other women stay for a longer period of time, sometimes years, depending on what situation they are in.
“The most important thing is to make every woman that comes to a refuge to feel welcome. They need to know they aren’t a prisoner and can leave at any time they like.
“I also can’t stress enough how safe refuges are, the buildings are extremely secure with CCTV in operation and police respond incredibly rapidly to any calls we make.”
Her advice to women suffering a cycle of abuse is to find the courage to leave.
Vera Baird QC, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria, thinks the “Children can learn from example” campaign has been a great success.
She said: “We take domestic violence extremely seriously. To give leadership, the Chief Constable and I are going onto a course preparatory to domestic abuse becoming an actual criminal offence so that the change will be understood in Northumbria Police from the very top. We will be followed by the rest of the force.
“My Christmas message is do not put up with domestic abuse. It is likely to get worse. There is a better life and we can help you access it.”
Anyone suffering abuse can call 0800 066 5555 for independent and confidential advice, alternatively call Respect on 0808 802 4040.#####