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Last Updated: Monday, 15 December, 2003, 14:00 GMT
National abuse helpline launched
Domestic violence victim (posed)
More than 80% of abuse victims are women
A national domestic violence helpline, costing 2 million, has been launched.

The helpline combines two existing numbers run by the charities Refuge and Women's Aid.

It will provide access to 24-hour emergency refuge accommodation and an information service, including safety planning and translation facilities.

The freephone - 0808 2000 247 - was funded by the single biggest UK grant from Comic Relief and 1 million from the government.

Homelessness link

Comedienne Dawn French and director Richard Curtis helped launched the helpline with Jeff Rooker, Minister for Homelessness in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, and survivors of domestic abuse.

The launch venue - a central London homeless families centre - was chosen because nearly 40% of homeless women are victims of domestic violence.

The helpline will be run by a partnership of the two leading domestic violence agencies, Women's Aid and Refuge.

Women at risk will be able to get the help they need, when they need it, quickly, safely, and as the new number says, 24/7
Jeff Rooker
Minister for Homelessness

Lord Rooker said: "The Government is committed to tackling domestic violence, an abhorrent crime which kills two women a week.

"Women at risk will be able to get the help they need, when they need it, quickly, safely, and as the new number says, 24/7."

There were an estimated 635,000 incidents of domestic violence in England and Wales between 2001 and 2002, according to the British Crime Survey, with 81% of victims being women.

A domestic violence survivor called Abbi, 36, said the freephone was great news for women and children.

First step

"I lived with an abusive partner for three years and know how difficult it can be to get information and support.

"A helpline can be the first step to safety for many women."

Her views were echoed by Ms French, who said "No-one should live in fear of violence in their home.

"Calling for help takes courage and we hope this new freephone helpline will help women take that vital first step to a safer life. "

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