“I was 10 pounds [R$ 72] on my behalf when I left the abuser, ”said Ava, whose name has been changed to protect her identity. “Getting a train ticket was what kept me safe. I didn’t know where I was going, but soon I started to feel a sense of confidence. The kids liked the speed of the train. It was the first time they had been part of it. Now I feel like my life has started all over again. “
Ava is one of hundreds of domestic violence survivors in the UK who have won train tickets to escape their abusive partners and seek refuge in a shelter. The program, called ‘Train to Refuge’, was launched nationwide in March last year and was widely used as domestic violence skyrocketed after restrictive measures adopted to curb Covid-19.
Data shows that 1,348 people have used the program, which equates to four survivors of domestic violence per day. The program has helped 362 children over 5 and was due to end in March this year, but has been extended. Ava, who worked for the National Health Service, said she suffered physical, emotional, financial and sexual abuse from her former partner.
Since then, he has been charged by the police with coercive control and rape.
“He wanted sex every day,” the 37-year-old said. “If I didn’t want to, he would go and not come back for a few days, and I ran out of food for the kids. He wanted me to start having sex. So even though I was asleep, I had to wake up upstairs. “
Ava escaped from the assailant in March last year, before the coronavirus lockdown, with her two children from a former partner. She said her ex-partner expected her to do all the housework and banned her from working. He also said he didn’t have wi-fi because he wanted to isolate him from his friends. He even had surveillance cameras in front of the house and interrogated her every time she went out to a store.
“I still have nightmares about it,” Ava added. “When I see a car like his, I feel a fear in the pit of my stomach. The kids are always scared. They remember the situation as a nightmare. I knew I would. Don’t stay put. life if I continue. there. “
UK statistics show women are most at risk of being murdered upon separation or after leaving an abusive partner: around 55% of women murdered by their ex-partner in 2017 were killed in the first month separation, and 87% in the First year.
Every four days a woman is killed by a partner or ex-partner in England and Wales. A woman tries to leave an abusive partner an average of seven times before she manages to escape, with victims of abuse often having to move to another part of the country to escape and find safety.
Meanwhile, domestic violence skyrocketed during the pandemic, and a report released by lawmakers in April last year found murders doubled in 21 days.
Charlotte Kneer, managing director of Reigate and Banstead Women’s Refuge in the county of Surrey, an hour from London, where Ava fled after escaping from her abusive former partner, said the program to provide free train tickets save lives.
“The program may have saved the lives of hundreds of women. Of those in our shelter, 90% were at risk of being killed by their partners if they stayed at home,” said Kneer, a domestic violence survivor whose partner had been imprisoned for seven years previously since 2011.
“It all feels completely overwhelming when you are being abused. You are terrified. Another element is financial abuse, which is often present in domestic violence. The program sends the message to people leaving an abusive relationship that society in general, and in particular the railway company, is important to them. about you and want to help you. “
Kneer said another benefit of the program is that it gives refugee staff a guarantee that they don’t have to “go around” to try and raise money to finance the transportation of the victims, which can take time. “The program has made it easier for victims to leave an abusive relationship. It eases the pressure on refugees who have struggled in recent years to fight austerity programs.
Kneer said the program was created by a railroad worker who watched a documentary about his shelter – the film marked the first time a TV crew was allowed into a shelter in the UK. “He works at [companhia de trens] South East and I thought it was terrible that women couldn’t get to a shelter, ”Kneer said. “He thought, can we do something? What struck me the most was that it shows that a person can make a difference, and it did. He’s a normal guy doing his job, not a business manager. “
The initiative is a joint program between train companies and the leading domestic violence charity, Women’s Aid, which requires train operators to pay the cost of tickets for women, men and children to travel to at the refuge. Almost two-thirds of people who used the program said they would not have been able to make the trip if the cost had not been covered.
One in three domestic violence victims who try to run away from their partner has been the target of financial abuse, which includes stealing money, trying to control spending or accumulating debt on behalf of the family. victim, rendering the victim unable to escape danger.
This report is published as part of the “Towards Equality” project, an international and collaborative initiative that brings together 15 media to present the challenges and solutions to achieve gender equality.
Translated by Luiz Roberto M. Gonçalves