A major grant of nearly half a million pounds has this week been awarded to Choices Domestic Abuse Service – a charity which was founded in 1996 with refuge accommodation for 3 families in one property but today delivers a wide range of refuge and community services to those affected by domestic abuse.

There were 28,213 reported domestic abuse incidents in Kent alone last year. This is known to be the tip of the iceberg as most domestic abuse is not reported yet there is still a gap in support for those who are not seen as being high risk.

The £498,710 Big Lottery Fund grant will be used to set up a Community Prevention and Support Project from Spring 2016 which will enable the charity to reach those who are living with abusive behaviour (predominantly in Maidstone, Dartford and Gravesham) via a dedicated helpline, specialist outreach support and more community programmes.

The new service will mean that anyone who is worried that they – or someone close to them – are in an abusive relationship will have access to confidential advice and support and the opportunity to understand the common tactics that are used in abusive relationships.

DCI Andy Pritchard, Kent Police stated “The level of support afforded to standard risk victims is considerably less than those in the high risk category, and we are now seeing that subsequent serious incidents are often amongst the medium risk category … Between us we have to try and plug some of that gap.”

Sylvia Murray, Joint CEO of Choices Domestic Abuse Service said, “The gap in support for those who are not assessed as being at high risk has been recognised by our clients and professionals who work with them. We are delighted that this grant will enable us to respond to this need and raise awareness of this issue which causes untold misery to so many people”.

With the personal cost to those who suffer the results of domestic abuse and with the cost to the Kent economy standing at £382 million (Kent Select Committee 2012), this is an issue that can’t be ignored.

Endorsement for the project was received by many professionals including the Police, Social Services, Health Visitors – but also importantly from those whom Choices work with who have themselves suffered domestic abuse.

In an ex-client, Annie’s*, words: “Where am I today? I am so much happier, I no longer blame myself for wearing that pair of shoes that maybe I shouldn’t have or for expressing this or that view or seeing a friend. There are no excuses for the abuse that I suffered and I wasn’t to blame. If I could say one thing to anyone going through what I went through, it would be, ‘Please, go and speak to someone, please seek help.’ I will never ever forget what Choices did for me.”

*The name of the client has been changed to protect her identity.