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A leading charity in the fight against domestic abuse will be taking part in a series of Freshers’ Fairs in Herefordshire and Worcestershire next month.

West Mercia Women’s Aid will be exhibiting at the following events:

  • The University of Worcester, Monday 16 September 10am till 4pm • Worcester Sixth Form College, Wednesday 18 September 11am till 2.30pm
  • Hereford Sixth Form College, Hereford College of Technology, Holme Lacy College and Hereford Art College, Thursday 26 September 10am till 2.30pm This is the second time West Mercia Women’s Aid has attended Freshers’ Fairs in the two counties and, according to its Chief Executive, Jan Frances, such a presence is vital in its aim to offer guidance and information on healthy relationships to young people.

She said: “Ensuring young people are aware of what constitutes healthy and unhealthy relationships is crucial in laying the foundations for their future well-being.  Our presence at such events provides an excellent platform for us to get this message across as well as further promoting the benefits of our CRUSH initiative and the positive and enduring impact it has on those who have taken part.

“The statistics surrounding sexual abuse, intimidation and violence in teenage intimate relationships are frightening.  Nationally, research shows that teenage girls between 16 and 19 are now the group most at risk of domestic abuse, closely followed by women aged 20-24.  That is why it is imperative that all teenagers and particularly young women have the tools to recognise, deal with and successfully move on from abusive relationships.”

At the Fairs, representatives from West Mercia Women’s Aid will talk to students about the organisation, the services it provides and how those affected can access help and advice.  Information will also be available on the nationally recognised CRUSH Project, which was launched in October 2011 and is now being rolled out nationally across the UK.

Funded by the Big Lottery’s Young People’s Fund, The CRUSH Project helps teenagers, aged 13 to 19 years, to avoid abusive relationships, end an abusive relationship safely or better manage their exposure to domestic abuse in the household in which they live.

Since its launch, CRUSH has gone from strength to strength. Since June 2012 it has been running throughout West Mercia and has offered places to more than 250 young people.  In addition, organisations ran ‘closed’ groups throughout the area for 130 further young people.  CRUSH presentations have been delivered to a variety of professional bodies which work with young people, including West Mercia Police – these presentations have reached more than 3000 children and young people.

West Mercia Women’s Aid – which covers Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire – provides practical assistance to women and their families affected by domestic abuse.  It employs 45 staff and 12 volunteers, runs a 24 hour helpline, 3 refuges and a well-developed and expanding outreach service in each county, including the provision of community support, group programmes and links to education and employment opportunities.

Figures surrounding domestic abuse affecting women in the UK make for sobering reading:

  • 45 per cent of women have experienced some form of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking;
  • Around 21 per cent of girls experience some form of child sex abuse;
  • At least 80,000 women suffer rape every year;
  • In a survey for Amnesty International, over 1 in 4 respondents thought a woman was partially or totally responsible for being raped if she was wearing revealing clothing and more than 1 in 5 held the same view if a woman had had many sexual partners;
  • On average, two women a week in England and Wales are killed by a violent partner or ex-partner.  This constitutes nearly 40 per cent of all female homicide victims;
  • 70 per cent of incidents of domestic abuse result in injury – compared with 50 per cent of incidents of acquaintance violence, 48 per cent of stranger violence and 29 per cent of mugging;
  • Around 85 per cent of forced marriage victims are women;
  • Domestic abuse is estimated to cost victims, services and the state a total of around £23 billion a year.