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New guide for victims of domestic violence launched

Smith: "There is no excuse for domestic violence in any situation” 12th February 2009: Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has launched a new guide aimed at helping victims of domestic violence.

The purse-sized guide shows how friends and family-members can recognise if someone is suffering from domestic violence and sets out what practical support is available.

In order that victims don’t feel trapped by an abuser’s control over family finances, the Home Office has been working closely with the British Bankers’ Association to agree additional banking support for victims.

This means, for example, that victims can open new independent accounts with a letter from a refuge manager confirming their circumstances, as opposed to the usual multiple proofs of identification which may be in the possession of, or access- controlled by the abuser.

Victims can also open a new bank account giving just a PO Box as their new address – thus protecting them and their independence.

All this information and the guide will be available on a new Home Office webpage, at branches of Jobcentre Plus, GP surgeries and local crime fighting agencies.

It is estimated that domestic abuse affects an estimated 4.8 million women and 3.2 million men. Ms. Smith said: "There is no excuse for domestic violence, in any situation, and I am pleased that more abusers than ever are being punished in our courts.

"I know from talking to domestic violence professionals that money worries may exacerbate domestic tensions. I also know that one of the reasons why many women remain in abusive situations is concerns about financial independence – I do not want any woman to feel trapped.

"I hope that new information about how the banks can support victims, even if it’s just by offering to discuss personal and sensitive financial matters privately or explaining that they will accept non-traditional forms of ID when you need to open a new account, will enable more women to feel they can take their first step towards breaking away from their abusers."

Sara Payne, Victim’s Champion, said: "Domestic violence is often a hidden crime which is why it’s really important that we do all we can to raise awareness that help is out there. This new leaflet will give people some pointers to help friends and relatives look out for the signs and provide information about how they can help.

"Domestic violence can make you feel trapped and by making information available we can support people who want to help someone at risk as well as individuals who want to take the brave step of leaving a violent relationship themselves.

"I want people to know that if they have to leave the house in a hurry, there is support – through helplines, charities like Refuge and even at the bank."

Paul Ross, Director at the British Bankers’ Association said: "The banking industry is committed to providing real and immediate help to victims of domestic abuse who are urgently in need of access to banking. This initiative will provide essential information for people in this vulnerable situation and reassurance that help is available."

Sandra Horley OBE, CEO of Refuge, said: "One woman in four will experience domestic violence at some point in her lifetime. Her friends and family are likely to be the first source of support she seeks. We hope that the Home Office’s new leaflet will equip friends and families with the tools they need to reach out to these women and break their isolation.”

You can see the new dedicated section of the Home Office website by visiting http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/domesticviolence

Refuge is the largest single specialist service provider of domestic violence services in the country. On any given day Refuge is supporting over 1,000 women and children. It also runs the Freephone 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline in partnership with Women’s Aid. For more information please visit their website: http://www.refuge.org.uk

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