Esther Sample, Women’s Strategy Coordinator for St Mungo’s explains their new campaign on women’s homelessness, and why councils should get involved.
“Imagine if a violent criminal had the key to your front door. This is what – at some point in their lives – one in four women in the UK will experience so it’s hardly surprising that domestic abuse is a key cause of women’s homelessness.”
These are the words of Davina James-Hanman, Director of the charity AVA (Against Violence and Abuse) and lead expert on domestic abuse and sexual violence for the new, ambitious cross-sector Rebuilding Shattered Lives campaign.
The 18 month campaign, launched by homelessness charity St Mungo’s this summer, aims to raise awareness around women’s homelessness and what leads to it.
Why a focus on violence against women in a homelessness campaign? Because, as Davina says, imagine if the only means of escape from domestic abuse or sexual violence was to become homeless. Around 40% of girls who run away from home do so because of sexual abuse, and then subsequently become even more vulnerable to sexual exploitation. From St Mungo’s own research, more than one in three of their female clients (35%) who slept rough did so to escape domestic violence.
Councillors can play a key part in highlighting issues in their areas and galvanising action. What services are there for women who’ve been abused in your borough? Can they access a refuge? Who do they turn to? Are those women getting the help they need to move on with their lives?
Homeless women are a minority within a marginalised group. St Mungo’s wants to work with those who can drive lasting change and really make a difference to women’s lives.
It’s a complicated subject which is why the campaign is focusing on nine themes over 18 months, domestic abuse being one, childhood trauma another.
How can I get involved? Three simple ways – ask questions about women, homelessness and domestic abuse in your local area, sign up to the Rebuilding Shattered Lives campaign and encourage others to as well, email on the campaign link to others and help raise awareness.
Why should I get involved? One woman wrote to the campaign saying: “I ‘fit’ almost all of your [campaign] themes. I crawled (literally and figuratively) to safety. It took me a good chunk of my early adult years to rebuild my life and I applaud you in your efforts to lessen that struggle for others like me.
“Even now – some three decades later – I still occasionally fight depression and feelings of worthlessness but I am safe – emotionally and physically. I am in a loving and trusting relationship and I am free from all forms of abuse (except those shadows which lurk in the furthest recesses of my mind).
“It can be done – and it shouldn’t be as hard as it was for me… Good luck with all that you do – I hope you are hugely successful in your efforts.”