I’m doing the London Classics for Refuge in 2019. I know some of you will already have sponsored me to run the marathon or cycle RideLondon, and I am hugely grateful. However, as I’m now on the home strait, Refuge have asked me to increase my sponsorship target as they desperately need more funding to support women fleeing domestic abuse.
I would love it if we could reach £20,000 by the end of this year as the domestic abuse sector is not awash with cash and women are dying because there isn’t enough support available for them.
This charity is very close to my heart and I have seen first hand both the need for its work and the impact that it can have on women who are escaping domestic abuse.
We have an epidemic of abuse in our country: 1 in 4 women will experience it in one form or another in their lives. Two women are killed each week by their current or former partners. Yet we treat victims and survivors with a terrible lack of compassion, often asking 'why doesn't she just leave him?' rather than 'why doesn't he stop committing this crime?'
When a woman leaves abuse, she is most at risk of being killed. She often has to run away with only the clothes on her back, taking her children with her, hoping that she can find somewhere safe. Once again, we are failing domestic abuse victims because on just one night, 90 women and the same number of children can be turned away from refuges because there are no more spaces. What happens then? The Labour MP Jess Phillips recently told Parliament about one woman who couldn't get a refuge space. 'She went back. She is dead now.'
Abuse isn't just physical violence: it's emotional, financial and sexual too. You can be a victim of abuse without your partner ever having touched you, and Refuge's work to change the way we understand abuse as being about power and control is so important too. It takes many years for a woman to recover from abuse as the mental scars last much longer than the physical ones. Many end up dying by suicide as they struggle to learn to love themselves again and live without fear.
I am not an impressive or natural sportswoman, but I am doing these events so that I can raise as much money as I possibly can to help women who deserve so much better than our society is currently giving them. So I'm sorry to spend a whole year nagging for sponsorship, but I hope that the above at least explains why I'm bothering at all.
28 April: London Marathon. DONE!
4 August: RideLondon (100 mile cycle through London and Surrey) DONE!
21 September: Swim Serpentine. This two mile swim in a place I know and love very well will complete the London Classics Trio of the Marathon, Ride London and Swim Serpentine.