Sutton Women's Centre supporters hold up banner saying "Reclaim Sutton's streets"

Sponsored walk in Sutton aims to tackle gender based violence

A sponsored walk is taking place on 29 November to raise money and awareness for a Sutton based women’s charity.

The 104-mile combined walk, representing the 104 women killed each year by a partner or ex-partner in England and Wales – two women per week – will pass through different women’s support services in Sutton, picking up fellow walkers as they go before ending at the advisory drop-in service One Stop Shop.

The walk coincides with the global campaign ‘16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence’, running between 25 November and 10 December, and raises funds for Sutton Women’s Centre.

Counselling and outreach lead at the centre, Heather Smiles, said: “Domestic abuse is not really a subject people talk about, which helps the perpetrator to carry on doing it.

“​​The sponsored walk is great as it raises awareness, it gets people talking, which prevents domestic abuse happening behind closed doors and that can take the shame away.”

Smiles went on to emphasise the importance of a wider understanding of domestic abuse, noting the misconceptions she held before her role at the centre.

Smiles said: “If me and my friends were talking about domestic abuse – ‘did you just see on telly?’, or ‘have you read this or heard about that?’ – my response would have been ‘I wouldn’t be putting up with that’.  

“If one of my friends was experiencing abuse, that would have shut her down and made it even more difficult to say, ‘actually, that’s happening to me'”.

Sutton Women’s Centre specialises in supporting survivors of domestic and sexual abuse through running training aimed at recognising abuse, a food bank, well-being workshops and long-term counselling.

Sutton Housing Partnership (SHP), who manage over 7000 homes for Sutton Council, arranged the walk as part of a long term commitment to survivors of domestic abuse.

SHP’s managing director, Steve Tucker, said: “Support services responding to domestic abuse need to work in a coordinated effort otherwise victims and perpetrators can slip through the net.

“Whatever your ambition in life – whether it be getting a qualification or getting a good job or employment – your home should be safe, comfortable, secure and part of a thriving community.”

Demi Barham, business transformation manager and overseer of the SHP workplace domestic abuse champions group, is organising the walk and was inspired after she undertook training with Sutton Women’s Centre.

Barham said: “The centre has really supported me in my journey with doing this project, and they do such great things.

“They make it so accessible for women to get themselves back on track and get the support they need, and they’re such a lovely group of women.”

Barham noted that the prevalence of domestic abuse is often downplayed and underestimated, making community-lead fundraising initiatives like this all the more vital.

As well as the walk, SHP has organised two events during the 16 Days campaign; a warm coat event aiming to donate coats to survivors struggling this winter, and a toy amnesty that facilitates donations of toys to child survivors.

The walk has already raised over £400, with the money going towards toiletries, abuse workshops or computer lessons for survivors.

If you want to sponsor the walk, you can donate to the fundraiser here.

Featured image credit: Sutton Women’s Centre

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