Today at Hestia we’ve been celebrating International Women’s Day and the resilience and strength of the 6,000 women we work with each year, not to mention our wonderful staff and volunteers.  It’s been a busy and exciting day.

As London’s main provider of domestic abuse refuges, we welcome today’s announcement from the Home Office on the forthcoming Domestic Abuse Bill. The next three months will be an important opportunity for not only cross-party, but also cross-sector conversations about how we as a society respond to domestic abuse. It is also critical that we ensure that the voices of adults and children who have survived domestic abuse are heard as part of this consultation.

Hestia has long called for more to be done to support children affected by domestic abuse who are often the hidden victims. Despite the huge trauma these children experience, little currently exists to support them and enable their recovery. It is heartening to see this recognised today with the commitment to a new ring-fenced fund for children. This is an important step in the right direction of meeting the needs of children and we hope to continue these conversations in the coming months.

The Bill is wide ranging in responding to the challenges that victims of domestic abuse at the moment of crisis. However, we hope that the next few months will enable a wider conversation to develop that also supports long-term recovery.  For example, many of the women we support are also coping with a range of mental health problems.  Our report “Victim to Survivor” highlighted that 68% of women had no access to counselling, but that if it was available, 70% of women would take it up. A joined-up approach to supporting the mental health recovery of victims of domestic abuse is critical.

We know that we can only make a real and lasting change in the lives of survivors of domestic abuse and their children by working together. Our prevention initiative UK says NO MORE brings over 150 organisations from different sectors together – all the while focusing on awareness raising, sharing knowledge, expertise, good practice. We therefore welcome the Bill’s focus on prevention and look forward to joining the conversation over the next few months.

Hestia has announced a new innovative partnership with Transport for London (TfL) to create safe spaces for Londoners to access specialist support as part of their daily journey. The new pilot project will see trained specialists offer support to those experiencing domestic abuse without raising suspicion from their abusive partner.

Our national campaign UK says NO MORE hosted ‘Celebrating You: Strength, Beauty & Survival’, a day specially designed for women living in our domestic abuse refuges. Working in partnership with worldwide hair brand Dafni, over 60 women joined in the celebration to receive hair and beauty treatments. The day offered a space for peer support and created an opportunity for conversation and healing.

Hestia is extremely proud to have volunteers who support our organisation on a daily basis. Today, one brave volunteer shared her story of domestic abuse with Stylist to inspire other women to seek help.

Finally, we are pleased to release ‘Underground Lives: Pregnancy & Modern Slavery’. The new report shines a new light on the experiences of pregnant victims of modern slavery. The report found 2 in 3 women received no antenatal care until their third trimester before coming to Hestia. These harrowing stories and shocking statistics reveal that even after pregnant women have escaped the hands of their abusers, they continue to endure unimaginable horrors. Yet it is also a story of endurance and resilience of the women who have survived. It also shows the power of women helping women, with many accounts of strangers helping other women to escape their traffickers. Special thank you to Hogan Lovells for hosting our launch.

On behalf of Hestia we wish you all a wonderful International Women’s Day.