This Christmas, a handful of brave Leyland women will finally pluck up the courage to leave their abusive partners.
Staff at South Ribble’s Women’s Refuge, Clare House, see a trend every year of women trying to see out the festive period for the sake of their children.
But come Boxing Day, the 24-hour helpline can be ringing off the hook, as families desperate to flee domestic violence turn to the refuge.
Workers Liz Stanton and Sarah Bell say that Christmas Day at Clare House is ‘lovely’, with children playing and mums preparing Christmas dinner.
But they’re also gearing up for the busiest day of the year – Boxing Day – when many women will finally decide that ‘enough is enough’.
Liz said: “It’s sad because they come without bringing any of the presents which the children have just opened.
“It must be so much harder for children at this time of the year.”
Since Clare House opened its doors in 2000, it has provided a safe haven to more than 1,000 women and their children.
It has accommodation for eight families, and is owned and managed by Progress Housing Group.
The refuge is funded through government grants, as well as donations from the community, and organisations donate essential items such underwear and toiletries.
Liz explains that the run-up to Christmas is normally a fairly quiet time for the refuge, with more people turning to them for help once the festivities are over.
“We see loads of people coming to us just after Christmas,” Liz said.
“People try to stay with their partners for the sake of the children over Christmas, but they realise that they can’t carry on living in hell anymore, it doesn’t work.
“Boxing Day is the busiest day of the year for us.”
She explained that women often find it hard to break away from an abusive partner, because there are so many practical reasons to stay – such as money and accommodation.
But, she added, it usually takes one incident to make a women think ‘enough is enough’, and turn to the refuge for support.
“Sometimes they turn up with nothing at all, or just a small bag with a few belongings, so we need to make sure the full package is ready for them when they get to Clare House,” she said.
“We make sure we have food vouchers, clothing, toiletries, and items for children such as toys.
“They don’t think to bring things like their bank account details, ID or passport, so we have to really support them to start a new life.”
Clare House is quite often full, so families will be taken to other refuges in the area, before being re-housed after a couple of months.
The refuge also provides ‘floating support’ for women who continue to live in the community after fleeing domestic violence, as well as for women once they have left the refuge and are starting a new life.
“Some women can leave a violent partner and he won’t go looking for them, but others face the threat of him hunting them down, so we have to relocate them to another part of the country,” Liz said.
“Once they’ve left Clare House, we can help them with claiming benefits and things like that.”
The Women’s Refuge helpline, 01772 435865, is manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- For more on this story, see this week’s Leyland Guardian.