A VISIT to a women’s refuge in Finchley prompted Marina Yannakoudakis MEP to raise the issue of domestic violence at a meeting of the European Parliament’s Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality.
She spoke out in Strasbourg after visiting the Elevate refuge, which can house up to 16 women and children. It is one of two centres run by the government funded project, which operates across two London boroughs.
Conservative Mrs Yannakoudakis, who represents London, told fellow MEPs: “The victims of domestic violence are from all social economic groups – there is no such thing as a stereotype. Violence affects the victim, their families and their children. It affects both the insular and the outgoing, and destroys their lives. The road to re-building these lives is long.
“Elevate offers victims a safe haven and supports them in re-building their confidence and ability to function in society. Projects like this need financial support.”
Mrs Yannakoudakis told the committee that while recognising violence as an offence in law should be a matter for individual nation states, the EU could help spread awareness about the issue.
She added: “The EU can act be pro-active by breaking down some of the taboos around violence against women and men. It is an area which we as a society can no longer afford to ignore.”
She said it should not be forgotten that men can also be the victims of domestic violence. While the council of Europe has said one in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, the UK Home Office estimates one in six men will also be victims.
After the meeting Mrs Yannakoudakis described her visit to the Elevate centre. She said: “The women I met felt isolated and desperate. Many of them had children. They had lost their friends and family during the time they were abused, as their former partner or husband had taken control of their lives. They had lost their jobs and some had been forced by their abuser into a life of drugs, crime and even prostitution.

“The atmosphere in room was one of acceptance, as if this was their lot in life.

“Often victims make excuses for the man, and may leave him only to go back again. Their children see the violence and learn to live with it.
“Elevate’s staff showed unity and understanding for the victims.
“One way of tackling domestic violence would be for hospitals to be required to report cases of patients with unusual injuries – just as they have to report signs of abuse in children. There needs to be more information about where victims can go and the options open to them.”