Domestic abuse charity Solace Women’s Aid in appeal as it predicts record number of calls this Christmas

Farida's name and image has been changed to protect her identity. Picture: Solace Women's Aid

Farida's name and image has been changed to protect her identity. Picture: Solace Women's Aid - Credit: Archant

A domestic abuse charity is appealing for donations ahead of what it predicts will be a record number of calls this Christmas.

The box of fundamental items given to women who arrive at Solace. Picture: Solace Women's Aid

The box of fundamental items given to women who arrive at Solace. Picture: Solace Women's Aid - Credit: Archant

Islington's Solace Women's Aid has launched a campaign asking for £10 donations to pay for boxes of fundamental items given to each woman who arrives at its refuge.

Christmas sees a surge in calls from women seeking support and refuge for their families, with a 77 per cent increase recorded by Solace at this time last year.

And with national figures showing demand for women's services to support domestic abuse victims has risen by 83pc - while funding has dropped by half - Solace needs help to met demand. It predicts more than 600 calls will be made over the holiday season and many women arrive with nothing more than the clothes they are wearing.

Donations will go towards items such as shampoo, soap and sanitary products, and are essential in supporting women through their first night at a refuge.

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Talking first-hand about her experiences, Solace beneficiary Farida - not her real name - has spoken about how she married a man in England while living in Pakistan but soon discovered he had a family when she joined him in the UK.

She said: "I was so lost. I didn't know the laws in the UK so kept quiet about everything. He became so rude and careless. He would force me to have sex and treated me like nothing. I felt I wasn't considered to be a human.

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"He kept going to his old wife if I didn't do something he'd asked and eventually explained they were divorced in England but not by Islamic law. She was his wife forever.

"I was not allowed out and if I asked to, he would hit me on the mouth. When I didn't do what he wanted, he always hit me. I was his servant and sex machine.

"Eventually, I called the police before he came home one day. The police were really good, they got me an interpreter and told me to relax and found me a refuge space.

"When I arrived, the refuge worker ensured I had some food and toiletries which made me feel like it may be ok. When I first came, I had no access to public funds, my key worker has helped me sort out my immigration, and I now have indefinite leave to remain. It has taken nine months.

"My key worker will help me find my own flat next, and I am learning English so I can become a carer. I don't have enough words to thank everyone at the refuge. I no longer feel alone."

One in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime and two women are killed each week by a current or former partner in England and Wales.

On average, women are in abusive relationships for more than six years before they leave for a Solace refuge, and domestic abuse offences in London increased by 63pc between 2011 and 2018.

Solace can't provide the necessary support for women and families without public donations. Last year the charity supported 23,000 women, children and young people, up from 16,000 the previous year. Over the last five years the number of people it has supported has doubled.

Solace's business development chief Jane Jutsum said: "Without the individuals who so generously give donations, we struggle to reach the women and children who need us most. A donation of £10 this Christmas will help us to provide a box of fundamentals to every woman and her children, who come through Solace's door."

A campaign film has also been made featuring advocate, actor Karen Bryson. She said: "This can be an unimaginably difficult time of year for those suffering from domestic abuse. Reaching out and making that first call for help is extremely brave, as is leaving home and seeking refuge with nothing but the hope that Solace will help."

To donate, click here.

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