WITH the cost of living spiralling, so have the fears of women trapped in abusive relationships.
Charity Women’s Aid say there is a growing number of cases where the squeeze on household finances has made it impossible for victims to leave dangerous situations.
As part of The Sun and Women’s Aid’s Speak Out Against Domestic Abuse campaign, the charity’s patron explains the devastating impact the crisis is having on vulnerable women and children – and what can be done to help them leave violent and abusive partners.
AS we move into colder months, many people are worrying about the impact of rising bills, at the same time that the weekly food shop is getting more expensive week by week.
Even with recently announced Government measures, the cost of living has increased dramatically this year.
Now imagine you are living in fear of an abusive partner, and you desperately want to leave with your children, but you have less money than ever and financially it feels impossible.
Women’s Aid has been speaking to survivors of abuse at this worrying time, and the cost of living is preventing women from leaving or making it harder for them to leave, with more than a third saying it was a barrier.
On top of this, the cost of living crisis is making existing abuse worse, with more than a fifth of the women we spoke to saying their partners are further controlling and limiting their access to money.
Economic abuse affects many women in abusive relationships, who are denied access to money, including their own bank accounts, by the perpetrator and often left saddled with debts taken out by the abuser.
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We work closely with Surviving Economic Abuse to support survivors experiencing this and we find ways to practically help.
The Women’s Aid scheme Rail to Refuge was set up because we know that many women and children who need to urgently leave their home do not have access to money, so being able to access free rail travel means they can travel to a refuge.
But the fear around cost of living goes far beyond the immediate escape to a place of safety.
Half said they were worried they wouldn’t be able to provide for their children once they leave, and more than half were fearful of going into debt or being in more debt than they are already in.
‘HE NEARLY KILLED ME’
Amy* said: “It’s been so stressful every month and I am now selling personal possessions to get by.”
And Sara* told us: “I feel like my only option to keep my kids is to go back to the marital home where he nearly killed me.”
On top of this, essential bills for lifesaving domestic abuse refuges in our national network are becoming unmanageable.
One refuge worker revealed: “We have just renewed our energy costs with our supplier and they have increased by 300 per cent.
“We built in a 45 per cent increase to our budgets, but the 300 per cent increase has completely blown our financial plan for this year.”
These soaring bills have a devastating effect on our national network of refuges and other services.
It is impossible to pass the costs on to the women who use the services — as they can’t afford it.
It is clear we need both support for women who want to leave abusive and dangerous partners plus support for the refuges and domestic abuse services that survivors need to be safe and to recover from the trauma of domestic abuse.
This crisis could mean the difference between life and death for abused women this winter, especially if frightened women want to leave a violent partner but can’t get together enough money to leave their abuser.
Nearly 70 per cent of the women we spoke to said they do not have savings of £200 or more.
Many can’t see a way to leave, and feel trapped in a situation they know is dangerous.
With three women every fortnight being killed by a current or former partner in the UK, their fear is real.
Women are killed by male partners every week in this country, and we need to make sure abused women struggling in the cost of living crisis have a route out to a place of safety.
The Speak Out Against Domestic Abuse campaign asks everyone to step up to help end domestic abuse.
Today at Women’s Aid we are asking the Government to urgently provide an Emergency Support Fund for Survivors to offset the impact of the cost of living crisis, and to offer discounts on energy bills to domestic abuse services that provide lifesaving support.
If we work together now and provide the support that is desperately needed, we can save lives.
*Names have been changed.
Sun debate at Tory HQ
THE Sun is teaming up with Women’s Aid to host a fringe meeting at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham tomorrow.
Our Speak Out events on violence against women will feature a panel discussion focusing on the pressing issues facing domestic violence survivors.
Women’s Aid patron and Spice Girl Mel B will appear on the panel along with Home Office Minister Mims Davies and Maggie Blyth, Deputy Chief Constable coordinating national policing response to violence against women and girls.
Women’s Aid CEO Farah Nazeer will also appear on the panel, which will be chaired by The Sun on Sunday’s Political Editor, Kate Ferguson.