In November 2013, 19-year-old Amelia Arnold, the mother of an 11-month-old baby, was murdered by her partner. Her father Laurence Arnold, who is a Sussex Freemason, said: 'I lost my daughter seven years ago. She was 19 years old, had a small child and was in a troubled relationship. I wish she’d had the support that a women's refuge can provide. If she had, she might be alive today.'
After this tragic incident local Freemasons provided an annual financial contribution to The Sussex Refuge in memory of Amelia. They also stepped in to donate almost 100 police approved panic alarms to another refuge, RISE, (Refuge, Information, Support and Education) after it requested help for women in need.
These are only two of thousands of stories about women at risk across the UK, which have prompted Freemasons to offer their continued support across England and Wales.
In the first four weeks of lockdown in the UK, 16 women and girls were killed in suspected domestic homicides — more than triple the number from the same period in 2019. After that, 10 more have died in the two following months. The oldest was 82 years old and the youngest, killed with her mother and 4-year-old sister was only two.
In Nottinghamshire, childhood sexual abuse has quadrupled over the last four years. To try and bring these numbers down, Freemasons are also helping S.H.E. (Supporting, Healing Educating) with business costs from home such as telephone bills and providing apps to enable online meetings.
According to their projections, the institution looks after more than 1,000 exploited girls, women and men; and now, during the pandemic they have 50% more cases than normal. Freemasons also helped Nottinghamshire Independent Domestic Abuse Services (NIDAS) as well, with donations of 11 laptops, 10 smart phones and telephone bills.
Cases have also increased substantially in Devon during the Coronavirus pandemic. The services of SAFE (Stop Abuse For Everyone) have come under incredible pressure and financial strain, so the Freemasons, hearing of their plight, funded a grant of more than £3,000 to enable them to continue their essential work.
Lucy Skye, SAFE Fundraising Manager said: 'We are very grateful to the Devonshire Freemasons. SAFE is a grassroots local charity and this money will help us to continue to deliver vital recovery services. It is only by working together that we will succeed in achieving our aim of ending domestic abuse.'
More than 600 care packages with items being sourced locally are being donate to women and their children in Women’s Refuges in Bedfordshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Huntingdonshire and Nottinghamshire.
Elsewhere in London, Hestia Refuge and Solace Women’s Aid are receiving more than 430 care packages. The packages contain basic items and also school supplies for children and Teddy bear for babies.
Women’s refuges are also a topical subject for Somerset. There, the plight of the women came to the Freemasons’ attention and they pledged to help the Taunton Women’s Refuge – with Father Julian Lawrence – the Priest in Charge of the Holy Trinity Church, by donating £3,000 in support.
Dr David Staples, the chief executive of the United Grand Lodge of England, said: 'No individual should be subjected to violence, or be in fear for their life, within their own home. Calls to the National Domestic Abuse helpline run by Refuge was 25% above average in the second week of lockdown and 49% higher than normal after three weeks. This is a national crisis that needs to be addressed.
'As the United Grand Lodge of England, Freemasons are doing everything possible to support, protect and help women, children and men who are victims of these crimes and in extremely vulnerable situations. We should not forget that men also suffer from domestic abuse with the Men’s Advice Line reporting a 35% increase in calls in the first week of the lockdown.
'By providing this much needed support to refuges across the country we are assisting vital charities who are struggling under the additional cases due to Covid-19. Freemasons have supported their work before and during the pandemic and this vital aid will continue as the country returns to normal.'
They are helping all over the country, in Herefordshire for example, Freemasons are supporting West Mercia Women’s Aid. They are providing temporary housing for women with children, or elderly domestic abuse victims who – due to their age – cannot be housed with other women and need to be in isolation. In Bedfordshire, Freemasons have donated £ 5,000 for the five safe houses, who are currently caring for 75 families in the county.
While the Swindon Women's Refuge (SWA) receives constant help from the Freemasons in Wiltshire. In addition to creating and running a charity shop for survivors, they donate an Easter egg collection and a Christmas checkbox each year to the SWA.
These are only few of many initiatives supported by Freemasons to aid vulnerable women and children. In West Wales, for example, Freemasons are supporting four women’s refuges. The West Wales Domestic Abuse Service, the Carmarthenshire Domestic Abuse Services, and Hafan Cymru domestic abuse charity with TV/DVD combos and furniture for the family rooms in the refuge.
Meanwhile, in Yorkshire North and East Ridings, Freemasons are supporting Hull Women's Aid, Evas Women's Aid, and Hull Refuge, providing safe refuge accommodation, free from abuse and offering time and space to recover from their experiences and start to take control of their lives. Elsewhere in Staffordshire Freemasons have donated £10,000 to the Black Country Women’s Aid Women’s Refuges, Savana Women's Refuge, Staffordshire Women’s Aid and The Haven Refuge.
St Leonards Y&C Centre, The Crossing Point, the Swan Centre, and SWACA (Sephton Women’s and Children’s Aid) received £8,000 from West Lancashire Freemasons to provide free practical and emotional support to help them to survive the impact of domestic violence and abuse.
The funding is being used to support a young women’s counselling service aimed at the 14-18 age group to support women who have had children removed from their care following trauma and relationship breakdown. They are also offering therapeutic support and open access service to women in the community so that they can come to a safe space and receive advice, guidance and support.
In Leicestershire & Rutland, for example, they are supporting ‘Quetzal’ to continue helping thousands of women over 16 years. They provide long-term counselling, crisis counselling and a telephone helpline to support women, who are recovering from the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. While in Gloucestershire, Freemasons have donated £5,000 to Stroud Women’s Refuge.
More than £9,000 had been donated by Warwickshire Freemasons. They are supporting Birmingham Crisis Centre, Birmingham Rape and Sexual Violence Project, Coventry Haven Women’s Aid, Nuneaton Domestic Abuse Counselling Service, St Chad’s refuge, Roshni – South Asian Women’s support following domestic abuse, Warwickshire Refuge, and Women Acting in Today’s Society.
Elsewhere, in North Wales, Freemasons are helping DASU (Domestic Abuse Safety Unit). They usually arrive with very few personal belongings and are in need of items such as clothing, toiletries and toys. When moving into their own accommodation items such as bedding sets, home appliances and other items, are very much needed for victims to be able to start afresh in their own properties.
In East Lancashire, Freemasons are supporting two existing properties of the Salford Women’s Aid, and they are also funding the new one exclusively for use by women and children who are the victims of domestic abuse and who need help and guidance to set themselves on the pathway to a life where they are free from fear, violence and abuse.
The United Grand Lodge of England’s Covid-19 Response group, which has been coordinating the relief programme, will continue to support women’s refuges in the second phase of its donation initiatives.