DONATIONS have already begun pouring in for our 2013 Christmas appeal for Staffordshire Women’s Aid.
For the many terrified women living day-to-day with domestic violence help on the end of a phone can be a lifeline.
Some women will call Stafford Women’s Aid’s emergency helpline regularly, sometimes for years, before escaping the violence.
But that, says helpline co-ordinator Sue Lee, is why it is so important.
“People will ring just for someone to talk to, especially if they have no-one else to turn to,” she says.
“They might phone after an incident or when their partner is out so they might suddenly put the phone down if the partner comes home.
“It can go on for a long time until that person realises that they have to leave. We can’t tell them what to do but we can support them until they arrive at their own decision but just providing that support is so important.”
Sue herself knows how vital the helpline is as she is survivor of domestic violence.
Twenty years ago she found herself stuck in the cycle, with three young children, no family around to turn to for support and being financially dependent on her partner.
“I rang a helpline on and off for 12 months,” she says. “It was usually when I felt afraid. Someone would talk me through it but they never told me what to do.
“I would wander the streets with my three children some days not knowing what to do.
“But I didn’t want to admit I was a victim.
“Eventually, I realised I couldn’t carry on. No-one wants to go into a refuge but sometimes there are no other options. It was the push I needed.
“But the helpline was probably the most important thing to me. It gave me the support and made me realise there was help available while I worked out what to do.”
The 24/7 phone line has been up and running since 1976.
It is also used by agencies from across the country working on behalf of women needing refuge help.
During office hours it is manned by volunteers, who have been trained, while in the evening paid members of staff take turns on the phones on a rota basis.
“It can be very difficult, especially when people who need help have suffered quite horrendous violence but are considering going back to their partner. They are often looking to us for answers but we can’t give them. They have to make their own decision.
“There are also some women who you know are going to go back into a dangerous situation. All we can do is equip them with a safety plan.
“We also often get calls from relatives or friends of someone experiencing domestic violence who desperately want to help.
“Providing 24/7 cover is difficult. We are working with an organisation called Pathway to work together to provide cover.
“However, we do always need volunteers. We would welcome anyone who is interested to get in touch.”
Would-be volunteers can contact the charity via the email facility on its website at www.staffordshirewomensaid.org