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Refuge

Sir Patrick Stewart, star of Star Trek and Macbeth, appeals on behalf of Refuge, a charity that works to help women and children experiencing domestic violence.


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My father had been a regimental Sergeant Major.

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To his men, he'd appeared ordered and disciplined.

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But at home, it was very different.

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Behind our closed door, my father was an angry and frustrated man

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who couldn't control his temper.

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As a child, I witnessed his repeated violence against my mother.

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Domestic violence is still a huge issue today,

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and the statistics are truly shocking.

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Two women a week are killed by a current or former partner.

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'In 2008, following years of abuse

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'and domestic violence from her estranged husband,

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'Cassie began to petition for sole custody of their two children.

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'As the legal proceedings went on, he became increasingly threatening.

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'I've come to meet her mother, Sharon, to ask her about the morning

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'she was taking Cassie and her children to the safety of a refuge.'

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What was it that happened?

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She said to me, "Mum, drive! Quickly - drive!"

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And I said, "I'm trying to get the car started."

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And she said, "It's him."

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And then I could see him coming towards the car.

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But the way he was coming towards the car, I just remember thinking,

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"Oh, my God", you know, "he's not coming here to talk".

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'He pulled Cassie out of the car and killed her.'

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-And both children had seen all of this happen?

-Yes.

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Yep - they did. And, er...

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..I thought, how do you tell them Mummy's never coming back?

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'Domestic violence does not always grab the headlines.

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'At an unseen level, it is sadly very common.'

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One in four women will experience some form of domestic violence in their lives.

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I'm now a patron of Refuge,

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the national charity that helps women and children experiencing domestic violence

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find safety and support and rebuild their lives.

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'This woman didn't want to be identified. We'll call her Jane.

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'An actress will tell her story and other features have been changed.

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'Jane met her husband in 1983.

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'They had three children,

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'but the relationship was marked with violence for over ten years.'

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His aggression would be more outbursts -

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it was like throwing things at us, or grabbing.

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'As well as violence,

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'her husband inflicted mental cruelty on Jane and her children.'

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If you want to go out the door, he'd block the door,

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and say, "You're not going out of this house".

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He'd control me. It was like treading on eggshells.

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'Jane felt scared in her own home, with no opportunity to get away.'

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For many women,

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the only way to escape the violence is to leave home,

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often at very short notice.

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It comes as no surprise to me that domestic violence

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is the leading cause of homelessness among women.

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But Refuge is there to try to change that.

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The charity operates a growing national network

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of 45 refuges around the country,

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giving these vulnerable women a safe place to stay.

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'Anna has run a refuge for the last year.'

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I'm calling to let you know that I've spoken to my colleagues

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and it's going to be OK for you to come into the refuge today.

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'During Anna's time with the charity,

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'108 women and children have stayed at her refuge.'

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I think the refuge means safety,

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a place where they can start to process what's happened to them.

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If you're feeling worried about anything,

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don't be afraid to ask them for help.

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For the time that they're in the refuge,

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as far as possible for that woman, it's going to be a home.

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She can start rebuilding her own life

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and getting back in touch with the person she really is.

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All too often, domestic violence occurs in families with children.

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As a child, I became expert at knowing the exact moment

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when the yelling would stop and the violence begin.

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The exact moment when I should time my move to put myself

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between my father's fists and my mother's body.

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A skill no child should learn to acquire.

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Yet today, there are thousands of children across the country

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who are living with that daily fear.

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'Jane had experienced many years of abuse from her husband.

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'The final straw was when she came home

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'and heard one of her children crying.'

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When I came through the door, she was saying, "Mummy, Mummy!"

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And then I saw my husband with my eldest daughter,

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bashing her head against the wall.

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'The police put Jane in touch with Refuge,

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'who referred her to a specialist support worker.

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'This advocate, who also needs to remain anonymous,

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'offered support and guidance to Jane as she went through

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'the legal system to protect herself and her children.'

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When you give evidence, we can arrange for a screen to be put

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round you, so that when you go into court, you won't actually see him.

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The advocate would be on the phone to me regularly, to tell me

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and advise me on what would be happening.

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It put my mind at rest.

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'With the support of her Refuge advocate,

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'Jane saw her husband convicted, and a restraining order taken out

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'to prevent him coming near her and her children.'

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Refuge have changed my life, because they're making it more...

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There's more positivity.

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I think no matter what age you are,

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it's never too late to come out of it.

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'The demand for Refuge's services is huge.

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'On any given day, the charity helps 1,600 women and children.'

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I'll talk you through how to get here.

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You do start to see the change from when they were visibly scared,

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scared of what they'd come from, but also of what they were going into,

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and that changes. They're more able to focus on the future.

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To be able to see the difference it's making in their lives

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is a great feeling to have.

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'For around 100 women a year, there is no happy ending.

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'Cassie's estranged husband was sentenced to life imprisonment.

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'Refuge works to support those affected by murder,

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'like Cassie's mother, Sharon.'

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Why did you agree to talk to me on behalf of Refuge?

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Because I think it's important that people realise,

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it can happen to anyone.

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But there is help out there. You're not alone.

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And I think it's important to, um...to share that.

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Sharon, thank you.

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On behalf of all those women.

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Thank you.

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I find it hard to express

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how sad and angry it makes me to think that we still cannot ensure

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the safety of women and children in their own homes.

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Refuge is working hard towards that goal,

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but the demand on their services goes beyond what they can provide.

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To be able to support the hundreds of women

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and children who turn to them every day,

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Refuge needs your help.

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Please, donate by going to the website...

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Or if you don't have access to the internet, call 0800 011 011.

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If the lines are busy, please, PLEASE, keep trying.

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Calls are free from most landlines.

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Some networks and mobile operators will charge for these calls.

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Or if you'd like to post a donation,

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please make your cheque payable to Refuge and send it to...

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Remember, if you're a UK taxpayer,

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the charity can collect Gift Aid on your donation, worth another 25%.

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Just send in a note to say you want your donation to be subject

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to Gift Aid and include the date, your full name and address.

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Thank you.

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Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

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Throughout his childhood, Sir Patrick Stewart, star of Star Trek and Macbeth, witnessed his father using violence against his mother. He is now a patron of Refuge, a charity that works to help women and children experiencing domestic violence. In this emotional appeal for the charity Patrick meets Sharon De Souza, whose daughter Cassie was murdered by Cassie's estranged husband, in front of not only Sharon but also Cassie's two young children.