Chris Allen, Karen Marsh, Joyce Milford, Jane Mills, Sally Stevens, Emily Tilling (members of the original steering group of Island Womens Refuge and some of the workers)

We write to express sadness and dismay at the news that Wight Dash charity, formerly Island Womens Refuge (IWR), will cease operations permanently this September after almost exactly 38 years of service (first registered as a charity in October 1985) to women and their children suffering domestic abuse.

The basic funding stream that enabled the service was housing benefit claimed for the families who had been rendered homeless.

Other generous support came from grants, legacies and donations.

We represent members of the original steering group of the IWR organisation, trustees and workers.

One of the reasons the Charity Commission quotes for closure of a charity is that “the original purpose has been met or is no longer relevant”.

Tragically for many, that is absolutely not the case. The figures often quoted - one in four women will suffer domestic abuse in their lifetimes (Home Office 2019) – and two women are domestic violence homicide victims every month in the UK (Femicide census 2020) persist.

Added to this in recent times is social media misogyny that was not even envisaged when the service was originally set up and the constant threat experienced by many through the Covid lockdown periods.

The Crime Survey for England and Wales, conducted for the Office of National Statistics, was suspended in its work for more than 18 months in this period. What is so often a hidden crime was further buried in a national emergency.

Despite welcome legislative changes, sadly, abusers are not deterred and nationally we are seeing an increase in the numbers of young women under the age of 24 being victims of intimate partner violence.

New legislation sees domestic abuse against women and girls as a national threat akin to terrorism or organised crime and abusers should be held to account by new measures.

We know You Trust runs a service, through Paragon, on the Island to offer support and refuge and, as assets are usually transferred from a charity that is closing, we trust that the Refuge building, secured through a Housing Corporation grant sought by IWR staff and realised through partnership with a housing association, is either still in use or can serve some useful purpose as a legacy.

We understand that services, perceptions and campaigns are always subject to change and development but it is tragic for a charity to close with so much work still to be done and deeply upsetting for its founder members.

We note sadly the Women on Wight centre is also closing and so it seems the future has become altogether bleaker for women on the Island.

This was not the future that the founders of IWR set out to achieve and we hope and trust the Island community remembers its responsibility of protection to all its residents.

The undersigned wish to acknowledge all the women who played a significant part in setting up IWR and in making what was a distant hope into a reality. 

The undersigned also apologise to all the women whom we have not been able to contact and hope this non exhaustive list of names will prompt others to express their views.