Like many in the world of interiors we at H|M are fortunate to be thriving at what is an exceptionally busy time. However, this is not the case for everyone and over the last year and a half we have observed how the pandemic has disproportionately affected many people. In particular, those who were already struggling in very difficult circumstances have found themselves even worse off.
The devastating impact of the pandemic on those at risk of domestic abuse has been widely reported and for some people living with abusive partners, staying at home during the pandemic has cut off their escape and put lives at risk. It has been referred to as a ‘pandemic within the covid-19 pandemic’ and tragically for many people home is not the safe place it should be.
We were therefore delighted to partner with Lucy Clark of Studio Clark + Co to create a Day Room for a very special women’s refuge in Surrey. The R.B.W.A (Reigate and Banstead Women’s Aid) is a refuge based in Surrey, for women and children fleeing severe domestic abuse. Founded in 1984, RBWA have provided safety and freedom for around 2000 women and 3000 children.
Previously a run down, dilapidated room with a falling-apart kitchen space and damaged interiors, Lucy set about pulling together a team who could help her renovate this room (to see the ‘before’ images you can visit Lucy’s instagram story highlight here).
Re-designing the room and working with companies from the world of interiors, Lucy has completely transformed this run down space into a tranquil oasis of calm and Louisa Eggleston, Creative Director at Humphrey Munson, worked with Lucy to create a new kitchen space with handmade cabinetry and quartz worktops.
By designing, manufacturing and installing the kitchen free of charge and working with our trusted partners at Miele, Quooker, Caesarstone and Cawdor Stone Gallery, we were delighted to be in a position to provide a kitchen in this sanctuary for women and children most in need.
The H|M kitchen is finished in Brolly Blue with bespoke Hexham knobs and brass hinges. The worktops are 20mm Empira White by Caesarstone and were templated, fabricated and installed by Cawdor Stone Gallery.
The tap and sink were also donated by H|M, while Quooker supplied a Classic boiling water tap with a combi-tank so that this could provide normal hot water as well to the main tap. With no boiler in this building, this was an essential part of the design.
Lastly, Miele kindly provided an under-counter fridge for the kitchen to keep milk and basic supplies cool and ensure this is a self contained and fully functioning space.
Huge thanks goes to our generous spirited partners at Miele, Quooker, Caesarstone and Cawdor Stone Gallery who helped us bring this project to fruition so that the women and children seeking refuge with the RBWA have a lovely room to use as they transition to a new life away from the horror of domestic abuse.
Many victims of domestic abuse have been victims for years and they have suffered in silence. On average high-risk victims live with domestic abuse for 2.3 years and medium risk for 3 years before getting help. The reason for staying in a domestic abuse situation varies, and it may not even be apparent to the victim that the relationship is abusive. They may be afraid of their abuser and fear the consequences for others including children and pets, if they disclose the abuse. The victim may not know where to turn for help.
The work the RBWA does to help support women and children fleeing domestic abuse is life-changing, and there are some incredibly moving case studies about some of the survivors of domestic abuse who have shared their stories including this one by Lilly:
‘My name is Lilly and I came to the Refuge at Reigate and Banstead Women’s Aid because I had to flee my home with my two lovely daughters. My husband was very controlling and he treated me like I was a dog, he used to make me sleep on the floor next to his bed, he made me feel like a second-class citizen. The tenancy we had was all in his name and he would constantly threaten to throw me out on the streets and make me homeless.
He used to physically push me around and I was so scared of him I just lost all my confidence, my self-esteem was on the floor and I was so depressed I was taking anti-depressants. He controlled all my money and took all my benefit money. I worked part time and he took that money too and I had to access the local food bank. I felt so ashamed and guilty of what was going on in my home. I went to church but no-one knew, I kept it a secret and from the outside it looked like we were very happily married but I was dying inside.
He would emotionally abuse me by telling me that I was ugly and no other man would want me and that I was lucky to have him. Then one day I was in the bathroom and he would not let me clean my teeth so I flicked water at him, he then promptly called the Police and told them I had assaulted him by scalding him with hot water. The police came to our home and in front of my children they took me away, my children were crying and pleading with them not to take me. I was kept in a cell all night I just could not take any more so I told the police everything that was going on. They supported me to leave and I came to refuge
I arrived at the refuge thinking that I was to blame for everything and thought as a good wife and Catholic I should go home to my husband. It took me a few weeks to settle and I have never looked back since. I have had Counselling once a week and I went on to the Freedom Programme which was amazing, it was life changing for me as I realised that none of this was my fault, it was his fault. I have had great support from the whole team not just my support worker. They helped me find my confidence and self-esteem, they helped me learn to budget my money. With my new-found confidence, I am now employed and work in a local school and I also work at the refuge as I have set up my own cleaning business and am now self-employed. I never thought I could do any of this but I have.
I am so happy and my girls are thriving at school, we are living a life where we do not need to worry about looking over our shoulders. I am self-sufficient and it makes me feels so proud of myself. I found my voice. My life has totally changed thanks to the refuge staff believing me and believing in me.’
If you’d like to help, the best way to support the RBWA is to donate money via this website using the donate button. The RBWA is a small, independent charity and is always struggling to provide the standard of service that they know their women and children deserve.
For more information about the RBWA please click here.