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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 March 2006, 13:59 GMT
'I don't want to be hurt'
A new family justice centre is aiming to bring under one roof the services needed by victims of domestic violence, such as legal and welfare care. The BBC's Julia Botfield reports.

Domestic violence (generic)
The centre provides legal and medical help for domestic violence victims

The ad campaigns are shocking - but so are the statistics. One in four women in the UK will suffer domestic violence at some point in their lives, and every week two of them will die.

'Sarah' (not her real name) said: "My ex-partner...we had a row. He sort of grabbed me, threw me on the couch, he got a cushion and punched me in the face, quite a few times.

"For someone to do that to you..it's devastating."

Thousands of women and men are too afraid or too ashamed to tell anyone what is going on at home. They go about their daily lives as though nothing untoward is happening, and the abuse continues.

Issmat Aziz, an advocate at the family justice centre in Croydon, said: "In some cultures it's said domestic violence is acceptable - hitting and slapping of the face, swearing and insulting.

"But I believe that it's not. I don't think any woman should experience any sort of violence whether she's black, white, Asian, whatever, because it's a crime, it's a crime. "

We've had cases here where people have reported to hospital 70 or 80 times with injuries and then they were murdered
Cllr Mark Watson
Croydon Council

Deciding to come forward is not the end of the story. Previously someone like Sarah would have faced another ordeal.

A bewildering series of appointments as she tried to work out where to stay, what to do with her children, how to get money and whether to press charges.

Victims were getting lost in the system, with terrible consequences.

One building

Councillor Mark Watson of Croydon Council, said: "We've had cases here where people have reported to hospital 70 or 80 times with injuries and then they were murdered.

"By putting everybody in one building they can share information straight away and tackle these issues as they come up."

Sarah was one of the first people to come to the family justice centre. She has had legal advice, they helped her keep her home, and she is also having counselling.

"All I've done is cry - but I'm happy as well because there's someone out there for you," she said.

"All I can say is I'm really grateful for what they've done, I really am, I don't know what I would have done without them, and I mean that, they've done a lot for me. "

Many people return to abusive partners, it's one of the reasons the death toll is so high, Sarah insists she will not be one of them.

"I just want to live my normal life - and I don't need no-one dictating to me and telling me what to do...I don't want to be hurt no more, and I certainly don't want my children getting hurt," she added.


SEE ALSO:
New centre for violence victims
14 Mar 06 |  London


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