New film breaks down stigma of women’s refuge

Created on Thursday, May 12th, 2011
by Michael Futers

A short film aimed at breaking down the mystery and fear that often surrounds the term ‘refuge’ has been launched by a Derby-based women’s shelter.

The refuge, which supports women and their children who are fleeing domestic violence, is managed by housing provider Derwent Living. The facility opened in 1995 and has since helped more than 2500 women from across the UK to get back on their feet and return to a normal life.

One former resident, Amanda Birks fled her home in the middle of the night with her children when she realised that the domestic violence she had been suffering was about to go too far.

“He had his hands around my throat and I knew I had to get out or he would kill me.” She says. “I was worried about the safety of my children. The refuge really helped me get back on my feet. I was there for nine months and there was always someone around when I needed support. I’m now living in my own accommodation and I’m studying for a degree in applied social work. I don’t think I would have got this far without the support I received from Derwent Living.”

Donna Webb, domestic violence services manager at Derwent Living says: “For far too many women, home can be a terrifying prison and the thought of going into a refuge can be frightening, particularly when your confidence is already very low. We produced the film to show that there is protection and support available in a safe environment.

“When women arrive, particularly those with children who are frightened and tearful, there is always someone on hand to allay their fears and help them settle in. It’s very rewarding to see families grow in confidence and develop their life skills in a fun, happy, relaxed and safe community.”

Derwent Living’s refuge provides floating support and a children’s service. It is the largest refuge if its kind in Derby and the only one that has self-contained flats. The refuge caters for 15 families at a time and is supported by the community through donations of cash, clothes, toys and furniture.

The refuge also runs a special service called the Butterfly Project, which provides support to women fleeing domestic violence who have additional support needs such as drug or alcohol dependency. It is the only facility of its kind outside of London.

Donna added: “We want to let women know that there is protection and support available if they fall victim to any form of violence or intimidation from their partners or other family members. Far too many women stay in abusive relationships for too long before reporting their crimes to the police. We are urging anyone who feels threatened to contact us immediately and we can offer them accommodation and support.”

The short film can be viewed online at Derwent Living’s YouTube channel

For a free copy of the film on DVD, or to find out more about the services provided by the refuge, please call Derwent Living on 01332 346 477 and ask to speak to a member of the domestic violence team.

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