Staffordshire Women’s Aid – Herstory
Staffordshire Women’s Aid was borne out of the women’s movement of the 1970s. At this time, women across the world were beginning to come
together as movement, campaigning about gender inequality, women’s rights, domestic violence and sexual violence and exploitation. At this time,
there were a few refugees setting up across the UK. A small group of women in Stafford came together because they felt that there should be a safe
place for local women and their children who were living with violence in their homes and needed to escape. They approached the local council and
argued that such a place should be provided by the local authority. The Council, however, said that there was no evidence that refuge was needed in
Stafford. So, being a determined and passionate group of women, they put together a questionnaire and sent it to GPs, social workers, health
visitors and police officers, asking whether there was a need. The response was resounding Stafford did need a refuge. The women’s group were able
to go back to the Council with this result, and this led to them agreeing to provide a property for women and children fleeing domestic violence. Our
first refuge was opened in 1976.
The first refuge was actually a small flat that had fire damage, was on top of a butchers shop and had no garden but a yard full of offal. But it
was a safe place, a refuge. And within a week we were accommodating 3 families there, and our work as a charity began. It was sometimes really
tough for women and children because the refuge was so small and overcrowded. But they felt safer there. We began to make ourselves available 24
hours a day, every day of the year via Stafford Samaritans who would transfer calls to those of us on the referral rota. This is where our 24 Hour
Help Line began and it continues to operate today as our own referral line.
We have grown a great deal since 1976. We provide a range of services in the communities of Staffordshire, including our Survive Sexual Assault
and Abuse Service, Women’ Community Services, and Group Work. We also participate in local, national and international research on violence
against women, and deliver training and awareness raising. While we have grown and changed with the times, we remain a grass-roots local charity,
embedded in our local communities. We place the experiences and views of the women and children we exist to support at the heart of our work.
And we will continue to provide support, to campaign and to speak out for change until women and children are safe.