Eva Women’s Project

Posted by editor 18/09/2012 0 Comment 3732 views


A refuge in the north east of England is keeping mums and kids together.

Where to turn when the ones you love, the one you trust to look after you becomes abusive? It may be the ultimate personal betrayal but the more practical question of where you go to to escape harm is for the time being more important. In Redcar, a small, informal organisation offers a friendly welcome in difficult times.

Janet manages the Eva Refuge but introduces us as if it were her home, and the tenants her family. She draws from a wealth of experience, optimism and tenacity to support women fleeing domestic abuse in Redcar, Durham.

The refuge is so un-institutional and un-clinical that we walk straight past it until jolly Janet runs out to beckon us in. She offers us a round of coffees, which are cold by the time we return from our tour. No-one minds – Janet’s colourful enthusiasm, which matches the refuge’s eclectically decorated corridors, is more refreshing.

Janet’s northern accent is homely and she’s always ready to belly laugh, but she also bluntly confronts my questions and ‘the real world’ to which she frequently makes reference. She recognises that women still love their partners, that kids miss their fathers, that there will be paperwork, council budgets are being cut, and that social services don’t always deliver. It riles her, but she deals with it.
As I leave, Janet hands me a wodge of A4, bullet-pointing the legal, logistical and emotional support Eva offers. Its ethos is summed up by the concluding statement: ‘This is just a snapshot of the work undertaken here.’Gemma is a mother of two, to whom, since June, the Eva Refuge has given self-esteem, safety, a retreat and practical help in finding a home to move on to ‘whenever I’m ready’.

Gemma is in labour with her second child, but Janet has asked her not to give birth until we’ve left, she jokes. How she juggles her thoughts, her tired one-year-old son, Charlie, and an interview, but can still make light of it all is, to me, extraordinary. But dealing with difficult situations like today is, to her, typical.

Her bid for a house was one such challenge. ‘I get why they didn’t want me to live in Redcar because my partner’s family are there, but I was heartbroken. My life’s here, with my mam and nan around the corner,’ she trails off. ‘It’s a waiting game now.’

Eva provide her with a care worker, incredibly empathetic staff and housemates, a flat, practical advice and courses, but it takes strength of character on her part, too, which is rarely acknowledged. She hesitates when I ask if there’s anything she’d improve. ‘Just bits and bobs’, she admits, ‘but it’s my home. It has to be.’

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