This week’s blog post has been written by Charlotte Kneer (pictured), CEO at Reigate & Banstead Women’s Aid. The Community Foundation for Surrey is proud to have recently awarded a grant to support the provisions of basic essentials for women and their children who have fled to the refuge. Charlotte shares the charity’s vital importance to women and children across East Surrey.
‘One in every four women in the UK will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime. On average, two women are killed by their partner or ex-partner every week in England and Wales. Reigate and Banstead Women’s Aid work to support the women and children who have left their lives behind. Saving them from a life of abuse; both physical and psychological.
Our dedicated team of staff are based on site to support eleven women and up to twenty-four children in many ways, offering practical and therapeutic intervention when needed. This may include assisting women during criminal and family court cases, and anything from helping them find jobs to finding new homes. The women stay here for around six months, after which we help them move into a safe new home and start their life free from abuse.
I find the most rewarding part of my job is being part of the transition of these women and children from victims to survivors. They have found the strength to leave their partners and they gain the strength they need to restart their lives while living here.
On site we have a play room; this is where our play therapist works with the children in therapy sessions. Also, arranging fun activities in groups or having one to one time helps the child feel safe in their new environment as well as giving their mothers a bit of time to relax and recover!
Here at the refuge each woman has her own room, they vary in size so each is individually adapted to suit different numbers of children. When a woman moves into the refuge it is very likely that she only had a small window of opportunity to leave without the perpetrator noticing. This does not leave much time for the woman to pack up her life, this means that sometimes all a woman can afford to bring with her is a suitcase or a rucksack or just the clothes she is standing in. We counteract this by setting each room up before a woman arrives, making sure it feels safe, clean and somewhere she and her children can call home. We supply new toiletries, bedding, crockery and cutlery for them to keep and take with them when they leave. They also receive food vouchers, clothes and a bag of toys and supplies for each child (specifically chosen depending on the child’s age).
Our work is not only supporting women that are experiencing abuse, but advising them on how to recognise the signs. We also work in the community educating people about domestic violence and are involved at Government level, advising on policy and lobbying for change. We are often featured on TV and radio news, as well as in newspapers and magazines.
To continue doing what we do here at the refuge we need financial support. Over recent years our funding has become an issue with cuts to grants and other challenges created by austerity measures. We are now more dependent than ever on charitable donations.
To find out more about this life-saving service and how you can help, please click here.’