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Christmas Appeal - Out of harms way a safe place to stay

By Staffordshire Newsletter  |  Posted: December 19, 2013

By Sarah Marshall

1435130-7O_SNCL251113Women's Aid-03
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WITH only a few more days until Christmas our attentions this week are turning to the women spending the festive season in a refuge.

For those forced to leave their homes to escape domestic violence it is hard enough.

So at this time of year, when everyone should be jolly and enjoying the festivities, it is heartbreaking.

"We have had people needing help on Christmas Day," says Staffordshire Women's Aid chief executive Dickie Chester-James.

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Indeed, going into a refuge is a stressful experience, especially for those with children.

Refuges are secret safe houses for women and children to stay in when they have left home because of domestic violence.

There are two at secret locations in Staffordshire but refuges throughout the country are accessible by anyone needing a safe house.

Many women are in shock when they arrive, especially if they have had to leave their own homes quickly and many do not have some of the basic necessities.

As Dickie Chester-James has said: "If you have had to leave quickly you might not have anything with you - not even a change of underwear."

They will most likely find themselves living with other women and their children and are encouraged to support each other.

They are responsible for themselves and their children and there are no wardens. Refuges tend to encourage choice and self-help. Workers and volunteers give practical advice and support to the women with benefits claims, re-housing, solicitors and going to court.

They can also get counselling and help for their children.

Women living in refuges are usually expected to abide by a code of confidentiality which often means not giving out the refuge telephone number or address to anyone without clearance from workers.

They can stay in a refuge until they are ready to leave, which could be a few days or months. They may leave because they have somewhere else to stay, or to go and live in a new home of their own. Most refuges also offer ongoing resettlement support after a woman has been re-housed.

Dickie adds: "We often find that calls go down over Christmas and increase again afterwards. Perhaps it's because some women think they would rather get through Christmas and not ruin it for their children, so they wait.

"It is difficult. Many women have to leave quickly and can take only a few possessions. To be away from your things is hard and it's hard for children who have often had to leave behind all their toys and belongings."

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