HOW I EMPOWERED SURVIVORS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
BY BETH ASHLEY
I was invited by the women’s charity Refuge to speak at Avon’s International Women’s Day event in London, which I attended in March. I was part of a panel of researchers (myself providing a personal approach to the issue) with amazing people like the Refuge and Avon CEOs, and MP Jess Phillip.
Back in June, I shared my domestic abuse story on my blog and it went viral. By viral, I mean it was shared/read around 14,000 times. Following the thousands of read the blog post attracted, I was emailed by hundreds of women all over the world. Reaching me from places as far as Australia, women were telling me their own stories of domestic abuse, sexual assault and other horrific attacks they’d experienced from their own partners. This response gave the opportunity to help others, and I kept friendships with many of the women who got in touch, offering help where I could and referring them to resources where they could find support. Following this response, Refuge (the charity for women) reached out to me just to chat to me about my story and offer their help where it was needed. They kept in contact with me regularly, recommended certain approaches to moving forward, and they asked me if I’d ever like to work with them. I volunteered to help with any media work (I’m a journalism student) they may need and didn’t expect much to come from it. I thought, at the most, I’d write a couple of articles here and there on their behalf. I was so very wrong. On Monday the 6th March, I partnered with Refuge and Avon to do a huge press event for International Women’s Day and it was the most inspiring and empowering day of my life.
Refuge are a charity that support women and children who are in violent situations and help to turn their lives around. Their mission is to empower women and children to rebuild their lives, and be free from violence. They provide a range of life-changing (or even saving) services, and act as a voice for those who are voiceless. Avon Cosmetics have been a partner of Refuge for a very long time (around 10 years I think) but have always been the company for women, striving to do their part towards causes that women care about. Together, Refuge and Avon conducted new research about cohersive control (controlling behaviour in relationships) in young adults and found some horrific results! Here’s the basics of what they found in Avon’s handy infographic:
These findings are just awful, and we all need to be taking action to do something about it! On Monday, Avon decided to do that bit extra towards helping domestic violence, and they donated £2 million towards tackling domestic abuse, with £250,000 going directly to Refuge. The event I attended on Monday, was essentially an Avon event about the money they are donating, the findings from the research, what we’ve accomplished so far in tackling domestic abuse in the UK, and what’s left to do. They gathered masses of supportive people into Somerset House in London, where Avon set up a whole exhibition about their findings, domestic violence, and raising awareness of just that.
Also during the event, we had talks from the home sec, MPs, and the CEOs of Avon and Refuge, who were incredibly inspiring. A panel was also planned, ran by journalist Emma Barnett, talking to inspirational women from around the world about domestic abuse, what the situation is like in their own countries, and what we can do as individuals to help combat these horrible statistics. I was also interviewed on the panel by Emma, about my own experience with domestic abuse, how I left my abusive partner, and what I’d recommend to those who may be in similar situations to the one I was unfortunately in. Emma also conducted my interview and she is an incredibly welcoming and lovely person who made sure I always felt comfortable and guided the interview in a positive way. Myself and Lisa King from Refuge also went on Channel Five Live to do the same thing! As well as many radio & web-based outlets. It was an extremely productive day spreading awareness about controlling behaviour and doing all that we could to spread our message; ‘Seek Help’.
Thank you to Avon and Refuge for granting me the opportunity to take an unfortunate event and be able to use it for something positive. These companies provided me with a platform to share my story, raise awareness of domestic abuse, inspire others and feel empowered once again. I’ll never be able to thank them enough for Monday. Although it seems like I was nervous and upset at some points, I was just overwhelmed by all the positivity and the opportunities being offered. I was granted the power to inspire on Monday, and I hope I did a good job. In many of the interviews I took part in, I spoke directly to those who may be in a similar situation to the one I was in. I hope that I helped to change someone’s life positively.
If you believe you may be in an abusive relationship & need support, visit the refuge website.