Every year, Progress and in particular, the refuge, have been in a campaign - the White Ribbon Campaign.

From the 25 November to the 10 December every year, refuges up and down the country put on activities to raise the awareness of the White Ribbon Campaign – which is to ask men to make a promise not to commit, excuse, or remain silent about male violence to women. 

The dates have significance. The 25 November is International Day for the Elimination of Violence against women, and 10 December is Human Rights Day; it is a human right to live a life free of violence. The White Ribbon Campaign is a campaign targeted directly at male violence towards females.  I understand, though, there are men out there who have been in abusive relationships, and our helpline and outreach services are open to them. We are part of a consortium of refuges across Lancashire, and today, we now have refuges for men. 

In previous years, we have held a stall on Leyland market to raise awareness of domestic abuse. We try and get members of the public to talk to us and sign up to the white ribbon promises. In the past, we have also had colleagues from the Property Services Teams wearing t-shirts declaring "I am a real man." With the message 'Real men don't abuse women' printed on the back and details of organisations that can help. Some amazing men wore these t-shirts for us when they were out and about in tenants' houses, in what was quite cold weather. I will always be grateful to them for doing that for us. The message is so much more powerful when it comes from man.

This year is different. There is no way we could do our usual market stall and engage with people in the same way. I have mixed feelings about this – on the one hand, it was a great way of raising awareness of the campaign, but I won't miss hopping from one foot to the other in an attempt to keep warm. That market stall was always freezing! However, this year more than ever, there is a need to raise awareness of the campaign. 

I am so conscious that women are trapped in lockdown with violent men, and they don't know what services are still out there to help them. So, Progress is joining forces with the Police and Crime Commissioners office to project a giant white ribbon onto the side of Sumner House. We hope it will send out a clear message that the Group is backing the campaign and support is available. We are also tweeting and sending messages out on Facebook and taking part in radio interviews where we can. I have just recorded one with Leyland FM, and coincidentally, the interviewer, Debbie, is the lovely woman who runs the flower stall on Leyland market, opposite to where we usually hold our stall.

By the way, if you are wondering how things have been at the refuge, this has probably been the busiest time on our helpline that I have ever known! We have had more helpline calls and longer calls than ever. To help, we have set up a live chat for people to talk to us virtually and a text line and website too, as we are so conscious that some people have entered lockdown with a violent person, and they might be too frightened to literally speak to someone. We have also launched our virtual Wish Tree Appeal to collect presents for our families during this period. People have been incredibly generous this year, so it looks like we will be able to give the families we support a lovely Christmas, which is what I hope you have too, surrounded by love and not abuse.

 

Liz, the Group's women's refuges manager