Escape hatched

Women fleeing abuse tell Claire Hawthorn how a north east safe-house threw them a lifeline

Harbour copy

Illustration by Duncan Lloyd

When I finally locate it, the building is large but easily overlooked, until I notice the presence of the very large, visible security cameras pointing down from the roof. The plain, windowless front door has been customised with two peepholes: one at eye- level, the other at waist/hand/weapon height.

Domestic abuse affects one in four women, with one incident reported every minute to the police, and tragically, two women are killed each week in England and Wales as a consequence, according to Home Office figures.

The women and children who live at this north east safe house I’m visiting have managed to escape domestic abuse. This refuge has recently been taken over by local charity Harbour, which receives funding from its local authority and works in partnership with the police. The charity was conceived by chief executive Lesley Gibson, a survivor of childhood abuse herself who admits to stabbing her father with a fork in an attempt to stop him beating her mother. Despite the building’s bright and cheerful appearance, Gibson is keen to point out that the refuge is not yet “up to our standards” and will be renovated soon.


Read the full version in The Northern Correspondent #4

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