A domestic abuse charity offering support and refuge to victims in Boston says it has seen a surge in demand for its services in recent years.
Boston Women’s Aid is a charity that rarely gets recognition for the work it does – with its small team of staff working behind-the-scenes to ensure those affected are safe and getting the help they need.
At any one time it can be dealing with up to 50 cases, occasionally involving some unexpected victims.
“In the last few years there has been an increase in the number of people needing help from the migrant community where domestic abuse is a huge problem,” said manager Lynn Mitchell.
“Just prior to Christmas there is a quiet period as victims tend to stay at home hoping things will improve - plus they don’t want to take the children away from home at that time. But it sometimes doesn’t work out that way. In the first week after the New Year we often see a surge in demand that peaks again in the summer period.”
Domestic violence can be fuelled by a variety of things including drink, drugs and financial strains. But it is not always physical.
“Mental abuse can be worse than physical abuse in some respects,” said Lynn. “It can be like a dripping tap in terms of the affects on a person over time. What we also see in rural areas is isolation. The perpertrator will bring their family to the rural area to live, and then not allow them to use a mobile phone or computer. The victim is absolutely trapped – with the perpertrator gaining total control.”
BWA recognises not all victims are female – being one of the first in the UK to set up a special helpline dedicated to male victims.
“There are not enough male refuges and that’s something we are going to be addressing in the near future,” said Lynn. “Men don’t talk about abuse for a number of reasons. We have seen an increase in the number of men needing help but the numbers are still far less than cases involving women.
“It’s still a taboo subject for many and the difficulty is getting the message across to men, and those in the gay community, that the help is there.”
While BWA wants people to be aware of the services it provides, the locations of the two safe houses must remain ‘top secret’ to protect those seeking refuge there.
On average 35-40 families stay at the safe houses each year with four families of women and their children staying at each at any one time.
Lynn added: “Nine out of 10 times, families come in with absolutely nothing but what they are stood up in.”
“In terms of the locations of the safe houses - if we suspect a woman staying there has spoken to the perpetrator about the location of the refuges - we would have to find her another refuge elsewhere in the UK. We have women staying in our refuge that are from other parts of the UK - likewise, we can refer women in Boston to other refuges in the Uk - it’s like a huge network.”