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Issue of domestic abuse highlighted in Balham event

Issue of domestic abuse highlighted in Balham event

Left-Right: Anna Jane, Victim Support / Maisha Sumah, She Walls In Value / Aneta Mularczyk, Hestia / Cllr Claire Gilbert / Cllr Leonie Cooper / Cllr Fleur Anderson

The issue of domestic abuse in the borough of Wandsworth was highlighted in an event on Friday evening at Balham Community Church.

Hosted by Claire Gilbert, Labour Councillor for Roehampton and Putney, those attending the event (which included local residents, activists and specialists working in domestic abuse) called for the needs of people affected by domestic abuse to be met. A survivor of domestic abuse, Maisha, also shared her story.

Leonie Cooper, Labour Councillor and London Assembly Member, said, “Figures from June 2017 show there were nearly 150,000 incidences of domestic abuse in London, and in Wandsworth there were 4,270 incidences. I really hope that primary legislation will happen on DA Bill and we will push for a DA perpetrators’ register.”

Aneta Mularczyk, Domestic Abuse Area Manager for Hestia, a leading provider of refuges and support services in London, said, “A refuge is a place of safety and security for women and children, and places where they can recover from trauma and abuse and regain their sense of self and confidence. They have been told they are useless, so we do a lot of work in trying to rebuild the women’s self-confidence. Part of this work is working with children, through Children & Family Workers. Children are equal victims of domestic abuse.”

Hestia provides multiple services in Wandsworth, including refuges that are tailored to the needs of the women and children who need a safe space, and support following the trauma of abuse. Aneta Mularczyk added, “It’s incredible to see the journey of a woman who arrives in one of our refuges, completely traumatised, to then see her blossom, with confidence to go out and live her life. We are there to help the process of recovery and then are ready to move on. We are on this journey with them.”

Councillor Fleur Anderson, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Putney, said “It could happen to me or anyone. I feel full solidarity with anyone who has been a victim of domestic abuse. Domestic violence accounts for 16% of all violent crime in UK but it is the violent crime least likely to be reported to the police. It is the single highest reason for becoming homeless and in Wandsworth domestic abuse is the main cause of child protection interventions.”

Also speaking at the event was Anna Jane, an Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA) from Victim Support who works in the borough. The One Stop Shop runs every Monday, 10.00AM-12.30PM at St Marks Church, Battersea, and is a safe space where Wandsworth residents experiencing domestic violence and abuse can access information, legal advice and support.

Domestic abuse is an issue that affects 1 in 4 women, and 1 in 6 men, so it is likely that we all come into contact with someone who may be a victim. If you are worried that a friend or loved one is affected by domestic abuse, you can download Hestia’s free Bright Sky app for information and support about domestic abuse, sexual consent, stalking and harassment. Find out more here.

A Survivor’s Story

As mentioned above, a survivor of domestic abuse, Maisha Sumah, shared her story at the event.

Maisha experienced domestic violence as a child, escaped an abusive relationship as a teenager and is now an advocate for others affected.

“I grew up in a domestic abusive household - my father would tie my mum up, lock her in the basement.”

Domestic abuse had a devastating impact on Maisha’s mental health, education and led her to joining gangs.

“There was no peace. At school I was failing because I had to call my mum to make sure she was OK. It was a toxic space. My depression started to get really bad, I became suicidal, my life was getting worse. It’s like a cycle - I started to have bad relationships.”

When Maisha was in sixth form she was in a relationship with a man who abused her physically, sexually and controlled her money and movements. It came to a head one night when neighbours called the police after hearing her screams. Following his arrest, Maisha joined Victory Youth Group in Wandsworth which helped her rebuild her self-esteem.

“I learnt that I was valuable. I had to find my peace, and even though I had gone through all this I’m now responsible for how I want my life to be today and I invest in myself. This was my experience but not part of me. I finally took charge and now my life is totally transformed. I’m now happy.”

Today, Maisha’s mother is now single and growing in self-love and confidence. Maisha is a public advocate for others affected by domestic abuse, gives motivational talks and mentors others. Follow her on Instagram to find out more.

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