The Coronavirus crisis has meant massive changes to everyone in the world, but naturally those changes have hit women and girls especially hard. The pandemic has also led to a horrifying increase in violence against women.
A recent Women’s Hour programme did a feature on how victims of domestic violence – the largest proportion of whom are female – are now more at risk than ever. This is thanks to a perfect storm of being stuck at home on lockdown with their perpetrator, a loss of the usual support services, and added pressures such as lost household income and home-schooling.
In short, women who were in a difficult situation before the Covid-19 crisis struck are now experiencing a whole new level of abuse, often with little way out. At this time, the local women’s refuge is often the only port of call, and then it is often as a last resort for desperate women.
What are Bridgend Soroptimists Doing To Help?
Bridgend Soroptimists have supported our local women’s refuge for many years now and in a variety of different ways. Every Christmas, for example, we provide gift boxes for the women and toy boxes for the children. Throughout the year, we donate other essentials, such as toiletries, bedding, towels, refreshment packs and school uniform.
Last week, our President, Sharon Dixon, reached out to the refuge to ask how they were coping. The message back was that it was tough; the demand on their services was increasing and they were already stretched.
Katie Davies from Calan DVS told us that around 1 in 4 women are victims of domestic violence and that, during lockdown, there have been an alleged 20 domestic abuse homicides across England and Wales – compared to 5 deaths on average over the past 11 years.
To make matters worse, those in the refuges are, like the rest of us, on lockdown and are struggling to get to the shops and look after their children. Their supplies of basic necessities were running low.
We wanted to help, but we were also restricted by the lockdown. Normally our members would each purchase toiletries and other essentials and donate them at a Soroptimist meeting, to be boxed up and taken to the refuge. However, at the moment, this is just not practical; in addition to us not holding meetings, many of our members are self-isolating due to pre-existing health conditions and those that can go out are limited in what they can buy.
After discussing our options with Katie and her team, we decided the most straight-forward course of action was to make a donation from the Club. Katie and her team would use this money to buy toiletries and other essential items, such as sanitary products, for the women and children in the refuge.
This means that our members are able to carry on helping vulnerable women in our community, but still maintain lockdown effectively.
Katie said, “Your kind donation really means the world to the women and children in our refuge, especially at this time. It allows us to support women who flee their situation and provide them with sanctuary and hope.”