Social housing – a lifeline for domestic abuse victims

2 June 2014

I have worked with individuals experiencing domestic abuse for over 8 years and in working in this field have come to realise that social housing is a lifeline to individuals and children experiencing domestic abuse. Statistics show that on average 2 women a week are killed by a current or former partner and 90% of the time children are in the same or next room whilst the domestic abuse is occurring.

One family I worked with will stay with me forever. She was one of the bravest women I have ever had the pleasure of working with. She had 4 children, one with special needs and she was fleeing her husband of 27 years who had attempted to kill her and their eldest daughter. She was a joint owner occupier with her husband but had no idea of what her financial situation was. She was so controlled by her abusive husband she did not have access to information on their financial situation or a bank account and was refused the opportunity to learn to read and write English. Furthermore the extended family were making threats as they were unhappy the Police were now involved. Her only option was to flee. She literally left with her children, a few clothes, precious belongings and some identification.

When I first met her she had fled to the area and was trying to find somewhere for her and her children to stay. Fortunately the family could access social housing. It is no exaggeration to say that without this her family would have been destitute or would have had to remain with a man who had attempted to kill them. The local authority was able to place the family in accommodation where they could feel safe for the first time in 27 years.

Another family I supported were a mother and her 3 year old son. She had been physically assaulted by her ex-partner who was the father of her child whilst her son was in her arms. The process of obtaining alternative housing was lengthy and meant a one year stay in a Refuge in order to keep safe. However eventually a suitable property became available and we all went to view it. The look on her face when she was handed the keys was priceless. I have never seen anyone so grateful and overwhelmed with emotion. Her son who was four at the time grabbed her hand and promptly started telling her which room was his.

Anyone who questions the value of social housing and the fact that people scrounge or use their circumstances in order to obtain it should walk a day in the life of those that need it most before they pass judgement.

It is a fact that social housing is a lifeline for individual’s experiencing domestic abuse.

Gudrun Burnet
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