Domestic abuse remains a hidden problem in our society. It is characterised by silence – silence from those who suffer, silence from those around them and silence from those who perpetrate abuse. This silence is corrosive: it leaves women, children – and men - carrying the burden of shame, it prevents them from speaking out about their abuse and it prevents them from getting help. And at its worst, it can be fatal
Now in January this year, I was fortunate enough to spend time with some of the bravest women I have been privileged to meet. Some of you are here today and I am delighted to be able to welcome you. Their experiences touched not only their lives but also the lives of those around them, in the most tragic ways.
I spoke to courageous women who had survived abuse as well as to mothers, sisters, daughters, and friends of those who had been killed. Their silence was broken - but only after a tragedy. I hope very much that today might mark a moment when we start to pull back that shroud of silence. I hope we can talk about what is happening behind closed doors across the country and I hope that these brave people have the courage to speak out and to be, in the words of one of our guests, ‘victors not victims’.
Of course a new conversation has been starting in a place where many might not have expected it. Thanks to the Archers, millions of people now have some understanding of what living with relentless coercive behaviour is really like and I'm delighted that Louiza Patikas, who plays the unfortunate Helen is here today.
Now some of you in this room know, only too well, that coercive control nearly always is the beginning of domestic abuse. Some of you are already working tirelessly to try to eradicate it from our society. I hope very much that all of you will find a chance to make significant connections today and find new ways to bring this problem out into the open – so that together we can make sure that the voices of those who are living with abuse today are not silenced, but clearly heard.
Thank you all very much.