Bromley church launches fund to support women fleeing domestic abuse

A new church-backed project, has been launched to bring comfort and hope to women fleeing domestic abuse.

It comes at the start of 16-Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, an international campaign that takes place each year between 25 November – the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women – to 10 December – Human Rights Day.

Called, Journey to Freedom, the project aims to give practical help and assistance to women being rehoused by refuges.

The project is formed as a partnership between Bromley Relief in Need (BRiN)  - a church-founded charity which has been helping those in need in Bromley since 1631 - and Bromley and Croydon Women’s Aid, which has nine women’s refuges across the two boroughs.

The Rev James Harratt, Vicar of St Peter and St Paul’s Church in Bromley and Chair of Bromley Relief in Need, says the Fund will provide immediate assistance at a crucial point in a woman’s escape from abuse:

“Often the accommodation being offered to those being rehoused comes with no home comforts and without even the barest of essentials – no fridge, no flooring, sometimes even no lightbulbs.

"While council welfare funds will provide some key items like beds, it can sometimes take up to 14 to 20 days for the support to arrive. Meanwhile a woman may just have 24 to 48 hours in which to accept the accommodation, and move in."

James says that it creates a dispiriting and difficult situation:

“One would hope that the challenges facing these women would end once they leave their abuser, but unfortunately they don’t. This is why we want to bring some hope, and help women rebuild their lives by giving them a comfortable and safe place to start from.”

The initiative has been welcomed by Kathy Bance MBE, Councillor for Penge and Cator and a former Mayor for Bromley. She is also a survivor or domestic abuse herself:

“It takes a courageous person to make the decision to change their life, but it's not just about taking the first step of walking out in the clothes you are wearing. It's about developing the determined mindset to complete the journey to a new you.”

As part of a live webinar to launch the Fund, Kathy shared her experience of escaping a violent and controlling relationship, and explained why the initiative is so vital:

“I've travelled the same path as other victims and survivors, and I know that with the Journey to Freedom project, Bromley and Croydon Women's Aid will be able to provide an easier transition for survivors to move from a refuge into a home and so on to the next part of their journey”

Domestic abuse comes in many forms, from physical and psychology, to financial. Statistics show that one in three women aged 16 to 59 will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime, while two women a week are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales.

Lucy Pleass, Director of Operations for Bromley and Croydon Women’s Aid, says they’ve seen a huge increase during lockdown in the number of women needing their help:

“We’ve seen an 120% increase in referrals to us and during lockdown alone, we have rehoused 47 women.”

She says that Journey to Freedom will be vital in helping Bromley and Croydon Women’s Aid support women who come to them, stripped of their confidence and self-esteem:

“This is going to be life-saving because when a woman moves into refuge that's a very dangerous time, but moving out of a refuge can be just as dangerous.

This is because, if a woman doesn't have the items she needs to get her on her journey to independence and freedom, items we all take for granted, then there is a strong risk she will return to her perpetrator.”

Rev Harratt says that the cost of providing a woman with a basic starter pack, which would include items such as a table-top hot plate and inflatable beds, will cost around £89. Based on current referrals, that will mean a total cost of £9,000 a year.

“We would like to encourage people to spread the word about the Fund and that it needs to be built up, so that we can support as many women and their children as possible.”

Anyone wishing to donate can do so through the website here:

In the future, Journey to Freedom hopes to be able to provide longer term support by supplying larger domestic goods that will really help create a comfortable home.

Caroline Clarke is the Community Engagement and Social Action Team Lead for the Diocese of Rochester. She says, Journey to Freedom is a welcome addition to the variety of ways churches are engaging with the issue of domestic abuse:

“We are committed to helping our churches shine a spotlight on the issue of domestic abuse.

“Whether that is through working with partners like The White Ribbon Campaign to raise awareness of the issue, training to help people spot the signs, to signposting victims and survivors to where to get help and support, or provide practical help.”

Copyright 2015 © The Diocese of Rochester. Registered Office: St Nicholas’ Church, Boley Hill, Rochester, Kent, ME1 1SL. Registered Charity No. 249339 The Rochester Diocesan Society and Board of Finance is a company limited by guarantee. Registered in England No. 140656