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The nation’s favourite actress and Loose Women star, Lynda Bellingham, has taken on the role of Patron at West Mercia Women’s Aid.

The organisation – which covers Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire – provides practical and emotional assistance to women and their families affected by domestic abuse.  It employs 44 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, recovery group programmes and links to education and employment opportunities.

Lynda BellinghamLynda was married for 16 years to an Italian restaurateur and suffered abuse during her marriage.  Since leaving him and starting a new life for herself and her family she has been a champion of raising awareness about the issue.

Jan Frances, Chief Executive of West Mercia Women’s Aid said: “We are absolutely delighted to have Lynda as our Patron.  She will bring a great deal to our cause with her enthusiasm, interest and drive.  Her profile and status, coupled with the fact that she is a survivor of domestic abuse, can only benefit our organisation, programmes and initiatives.  Most importantly, we hope the new role will raise awareness of the issue and encourage more victims to seek help and support.”

Lynda said: “Domestic abuse is a real hidden issue and as a person in the public eye I am more than aware of this.  Nobody would ever have guessed that I was so severely affected by it which just proves that it transcends all social norms.  It’s vitally important that those who are in abusive relationships realise that they can break free from its constraints and that there is a great deal of help out there.  I hope that as Patron of West Mercia Women’s Aid I can support the excellent work they do to raise awareness of the issue.”

She concluded : “Nobody should ever have to be afraid in their own homes.”

Figures regarding domestic abuse 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.

Lynda will join the writer, comedian and actress Jo Brand as joint Patrons of the organisation.