'Extremely dangerous time' - women fleeing domestic violence left 'feeling powerless' by fear of poverty
PUBLISHED: 06:12 04 January 2020 | UPDATED: 21:54 08 January 2020
Women subjected to domestic violence may stay with their tormentors despite their plight - because they fear leaving could plunge them into poverty, a housing association has warned.
Alison Thorpe, head of service for temporary supported housing at Ipswich-based Orwell Housing Association, made the stark comments as the organisation backed the recent White Ribbon Campaign to end violence by men towards women.
While just walking away might sound simple, Ms Thorpe said: "Many of the women we support within our domestic abuse services express real barriers to leaving their abusive relationship when it comes to finding safe, affordable and suitable housing."
The reasons, she said, are many and complex - ranging from not wanting to disrupt their children's lives, to already being in debt due to financial abuse by their partners - where they are denied access to money or left to pay hefty household bills.
She also said that a lack of longer-term housing means many women and children are placed in temporary accommodation "for some significant time" - which she said "can place an unimaginable amount of pressure on a family and can lead to poor mental health (which may have already been present) and financial difficulties".
Ms Thorpe added: "It is difficult to get a private rented flat when you have a record of high rent arrears and it is almost impossible to find a deposit when you have had to give up work to move away to safety.
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"Private renting is expensive and austerity measures and benefit changes have meant it is harder to secure long-term private rented accommodation.
"Leaving a perpetrator is considered an extremely dangerous time and places the woman at a higher risk of violence.
"For some of our women that we support, they have tried many times to leave but have felt too unsafe to do so or worried and concerned about what they are walking in to that they have stayed.
"Being unsettled within temporary accommodation and worrying about how their children will cope with the changes has often left women staying with the perpetrator and feeling powerless to make the change.
"Poverty and debt linked up with low self-esteem and mental health issues can leave a women to believe staying with the perpetrator is her only choice."
Orwell's temporary supported housing service already helps people experiencing or at risk of domestic abuse. The organisation also has two refuges in Suffolk for women and children violence.
Orwell has pledged to continue working with other bodies such as the police, Women's Aid and social services to further tackle the problem.