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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 November, 2003, 13:53 GMT
Masked women protest domestic violence
Dozens of women wearing white masks have protested outside Southampton Crown court over the way the legal system treats domestic violence victims.

The demonstrators, who want to remain anonymous, claim their lives and their children's lives are put at risk when family courts grant contact orders allowing violent ex-partners to visit their offspring.

The protest, held on Tuesday, was organised to coincide with this year's International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women or "White Ribbon Day".

More than 100 people, including police, health visitors, housing officers, magistrates, and solicitors are to attend a conference at Southampton City Community College.

Raising awareness

The conference is aimed at raising awareness about the suffering domestic violence victims experience in the city.

Michelle Barry, chair of Southampton Domestic Violence forum, said: "Wearing a white ribbon signals that you will not condone or remain silent about violence against women.

"Domestic violence has a devastating impact on thousands of adults and children."

Figures collated by Southampton Women's Aid from April 2002 to April 2003 show almost 600 women suffering domestic violence turned to the organisation's outreach and refuge services for support.

A women's aid refuge worker said: "Domestic violence is still stigmatised and the more awareness is raised, the more women will pick up the phone knowing there is help out there."

If you need support, contact Southampton Women's Aid on 02380 710068.



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