ABGC Campaign 8: Safer Places, Harlow

As you may have read in our last post, we’re working with four organisations as part of our eighth campaign and over the next two weeks, we want to give each of these organisations the chance to tell their stories.

We hope you’ll find it interesting to learn more about the charities we’re supporting, the women they help and the kinds of issues these women are facing. This post is an insight into Safer Places in Harlow from their CEO, Jan Dalrymple.

Safer Places is a charity started over 40 years ago to provide refuge to women fleeing domestic abuse. Today we provide support to victims and their children in our refuges or living in the community across Hertfordshire and Essex. Last year we supported over 7,000 victims and their children.

We work with women and girls of every age. Most of our clients are between 16 and 40 [and] a sixth of the children in refuge are adolescent girls.

Whilst those moving into refuge may have been in work [previously], they may have had to leave their job or may have been receiving benefits linked to their abuser. Eventually their income is sorted out and they may  receive benefits but this can take a while. They have often left almost everything behind and may have to start again – ultimately, [they] will have to save to buy all of the necessities for their next home.

Sometimes [the] women [who] come [to us] have no recourse to public funds – often women come into refuge with substantial debts built up in joint names or as a result of not having had access to money from the family income.

Those with children will typically put their children first and single women receive so little in benefits that affording sanitary products once a month is a big [issue]. It is interesting that benefit payments are the same for men and women and meant to cover essentials, but no provision is made for sanitary products for women, even though having enough and being able to change frequently is an important health and hygiene concern.

When women come into refuge they are frightened, exhausted, very often depressed, lacking in self confidence and have low self esteem. They have most often suffered multiple forms of abuse over a long period and are at a high risk of imminent serious harm [at] the point of entry to refuge. Whilst few disclose sexual abuse at first, once they begin to trust staff it is our experience that about two thirds will tell us about being sexually abused.

They are stepping into the unknown, leaving their lives and most of their possessions behind, starting again with little or no money in the first instance. The last thing they need to deal with is periods, let alone having to find the money or ask for the money for sanitary products. 

Interestingly, whilst I have heard most things discussed in refuge, in ten years I cannot recall periods being discussed. Believe  me, I have heard all sorts of personal matters discussed but never menstruation. I wonder whether it is linked to the debasement many have suffered and an enduring perception of periods as being something that makes women dirty.

We do not receive support from any other source to enable us to make sanitary products freely available. Having a donation of sanitary products for our refuge clients will make a big difference to the 114 women who live in our accommodation at any one time. Not having to buy these products will mean putting a good meal on the table, being able to treat their child or put a little away towards their expenses when they leave.

If you would like to donate sanitary products to Safer Places through our campaign, you can find out how to do so on our donations page.

Thanks for reading,

~ Sanya

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