Candle display outside the Senedd. (Image by Angharad Thomas)

Survivor of domestic abuse shares her story at Senedd vigil

Women’s Institute campaigns for action to end all violence against women and girls

A CANDLELIGHT vigil was organised by the Women’s Institute and held on the Senedd steps to show solidarity with victims and survivors of abuse. 

The event last night was part of the WI’s annual Not in my Name campaign, to mark the start of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and White Ribbon Day, which begins on Thursday, November 25.

“It was an opportunity for us to come together to show solidarity with victims and survivors of violence against women across the world,” said Jill Rundle, vice-chair of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes Wales.

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women aims to create awareness of violence against women; whereas White Ribbon Day is a movement of men and boys working to end male violence against women and girls.

Candle display about domestic violence outside the Senedd. (Image by Angharad Thomas)

A survivor shared her journey with the crowd.

After suffering years of abuse from her partner, she saw a sticker for Women’s Aid on the back of a public toilet door while out food shopping with her children.

Three months later she finally called them for help. The day she did was the last day with her abuser, but that wasn’t the end of her story. 

She said: “I had a new life, and he didn’t like it. He spent the next 18 months stalking and harassing us.

“Everywhere we went, he was there. He would text me letting me know he was watching.

“I had to change my work hours because he knew my routine. I had friends come food shopping with me, they even made a rota so that I wasn’t alone.

“As evidence and cases built up, he was given a 12-month suspended sentence. Afterwards, he broke into my flat and called the police telling them he had killed me and our children.”

Her ex-partner was sent to Crown Court for sentencing after magistrates said he deserved to be given a longer sentence that the 12 months they could impose.

However, the judge at crown court gave him 10 months in prison and he was out in five,.

She added: “I was gutted, it wasn’t the justice I hoped for.”

Women marching at the Candlelight Vigil outside the Senedd. (Image by Natasha Hirst)

Tragic events this year, such as the murders of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa, have reinforced how far society and the justice system still has to go before women feel safe in their homes and out in public.  

The Office of National Statistics highlight that almost one in three women aged 16-59 will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime.

Speakers at the vigil included Jane Hutt MS, the Minister for Social Justice; Zaira Munsif, a Cardiff locality manager for BAWSO; Glyn Roberts, the president of the Farmers’ Union of Wales, and members from the White Ribbon Day movement. 

Supporters also shared the importance of why they attended the vigil. 

“I think it’s really important to highlight violence against women and just come together in solidarity. It’s nice to be here with other people and to see that other people care. I feel that it’s an issue that should get more publicity and it just show how important stuff like this is,” said Sophie Harries, 30, from Barry.   

Joanne Galazka, 31, Women’s Officer for Unite said: “It’s about showing solidarity. As a trade union, it is a priority to us to tackle domestic violence, not only in the workplace but the wider community.”

Helen Burton from Unison Cwm Taf and Caroline Neudegg from the Women’s Institute. (Image by Angharad Thomas)

Caroline Neudegg, 62, secretary of her WI, said: “I think we do need to stand together and make sure that we protect and help one another and educate all of society to make sure that we have safety and freedom to achieve our potential in whatever area we are in.  The WI is a movement that has been around a long time with its aim to do that, to support one another.”

To commence the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in Cardiff, BAWSO, a charity providing services for BME communities, has its annual light a candle event on Thursday, November 25. 

It will start with a march from the Llamau Office on Cathedral Road, at 10.15am, followed by a candle service, special speakers, and a fundraising lunch at Llandaff RFC on Western Ave.