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Local authorities, who have on average had their budgets cut by 40 percent since 2010, often choose to divert domestic violence funding elsewhere. Anya's local borough, Tower Hamlets, saw 6,222 incidents of domestic violence between 2015 and 2016. However, there are only 34 beds between two refuges—which may go some way in explaining why she was turned away when she sought help.As it stands, you're far more likely to get a space in Bromley, which has 59 beds—the highest number of any borough—than you are in Redbridge, which has just ten. But that isn't because Bromley is home to a significantly larger number of residents. At the last census, there were over 309,000 residents in Bromley—only about 30,000 more than Redbridge.
Fleeing from my husband took years.
After a Women's Aid campaign, the government announced that refuges must take women from outside of their local authority. "If women cannot flee across local authority boundaries, their lives can be at risk," Neate said.This ostensibly means that women like Anya will no longer be turned away from refuges if they do not live in the borough. However, Neate warns, "it will take time to feel the effects of this and unpick the 'postcode lottery' that has been putting women's lives at risk due to poor commissioning practices and budget cuts." It also doesn't solve the problem of huge funding discrepancies, and is of little help to victims who are unable—whether physically or financially—to travel to another borough to seek support."Now, we need a long-term funding solution for refuges, which Women's Aid will keep campaigning for," Neate adds. "Until this happens, we will continue to see inconsistencies in funding."Your neighborhood doesn't just go a long way in determining your chances of escaping an abusive relationship—so does your ethnic background. In 2015, Women's Aid found that refuges were forced to turn away two-thirds of all referrals, most often because of a lack of available space. For women of color, the number of refusals rises to four in five.
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Angelica also pointed out that immigration status is another significant barrier to people's safety. Refuge spaces are funded through housing benefit, which means that migrants with no recourse to public funds (NRPF)—meaning they have no access to support from the state—are unable to access refuges. In 2015, 662 women were turned away from English domestic violence refuges because they had no recourse to public funds, up from 389 the year before. As a result, Sisters Uncut is campaigning for longer term, secure funding for services to support all survivors, including POC victims and those whose immigration status leaves them out in the cold.Ultimately, these statistics point to one harrowing truth: Women's safety is either a privilege or an accident of fate, and not a fundamental right. They show that British nationals, and white women, are far more likely to be able to turn to a refuge in order to leave an abusive partner. It shows that the street you happen to live on could literally determine whether you live or die.Anya's husband eventually received a court order which prevents him from contacting her. After six years, she's in a new flat, in a different borough, and is beginning to move on with her life. "I had to look for a place on the private market. Fleeing from my husband took years. Eventually I found somewhere, but it was very hard, and it cost me a lot of money to get where I am now. It drained me financially but at least I got somewhere very far away."With no refuge to go to, Anya had to seek out a safe place on the private rental market. For so many other women, though, particularly those who aren't financially stable or independent, this simply isn't an option.
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