'We thought the refuge would be full of nasty people; that it would be like a hostel with bunk beds and communal bathrooms. It couldn’t have been more different. The other girls were friendly and supportive and the house was lovely with big rooms.’
Tilly, 25, and Bella, who is 23, are Fixers with an important message for women in abusive relationships. Having both escaped violent partners, they want to let other women know life in a refuge can be a positive experience and a step towards a safer life for themselves and their children.
The pair made a film with this aim in mind, which draws on their experiences of life in a Welsh refuge to try and change the negative perception of them.
They told their story on ITV News Wales in Oct '18.
‘Our message is – don’t live in fear,’ says Tilly. ‘Get out of a bad relationship as soon as you can. There is plenty of support available for you and a refuge can give you freedom and safety.’
‘It’s your life at the end of the day and you’ve got to make sure you are happy and making the right choices,’ says Bella. ‘Refuge was my choice and it is the best choice I ever made.
‘I am happy and I am free and I’m safe and my little boy is safe and that’s all I can ask for. And the people who do struggle to make these choices – the only thing I can say is that it does work out in the end and it does make a change in your life and that’s the most important thing.’
One in four women in the UK will experience domestic violence and in Wales, over three months last year, nearly 2000 women were referred to services who deal with violence against women.
Gwendolyn Sterk, from Welsh Woman’s Aid, highlights the importance of these shelters in escaping violent situations.
'For women out there who are experiencing abuse in their relationship we would advise them to contact the Live Fear Free helpline and they can link them into services, be that refuge or community support on the ground in their communities; that can enable them to escape the abusive relationship and to live a future free from violence and abuse.’
We have changed Tilly and Bella’s names to protect their identities.
To find other resources on this topic, and watch Fixers films, click on the image below.