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Actor Patrick Stewart, a patron of Refuge women’s shelter since 2007, is worried about the consequences of government cuts to public spending.

Women’s vital services in the UK are turning away over two hundred women per day on average, leaving them to fend for themselves on the street or returning to the domestic violence they’ve just escaped.

“Refuge – along with other women’s charities – is facing its toughest year to date,” Stewart wrote in an op-ed in The Guardian last week. “The gradual erosion of statutory funding has made Refuge even more reliant on voluntary income, but fundraising is an uphill battle… Women and children experiencing domestic violence today are being left to deal with fear and abuse on their own – just as my mother was, more than 60 years ago. The government says that its ambition is nothing less than ending violence against women and girls, but there is nothing ambitious about its relentless demolition of a sector that protects the most vulnerable members of our society.”

Stewart has his own painful memories of his father’s weekend attacks on his mother, their fear, anger and helplessness. Those were the days when authorities such as police and priests dealt with abused women by suggesting they try to be better wives. Tremendous progress has been made since then, but current statistics are still disturbing: In England and Wales, two women per week are killed by current or former partners, half of reported incidents of domestic violence include violence also against children, ten women per week commit suicide to escape a violent partner. This too bares a financial cost to society, an irony not lost on Stewart.

“Let me be quite clear about what is at stake here,” he writes. “Without services such as refuges, more women and children will be trapped in violent relationships. The impact of these cuts will be devastating. The financial footing of women’s charities has been shaky for many years; now it is in real danger of slipping into the abyss.”

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