Specialist mental health support is one of the community based services that victims urgently need

Unless you have lived experience of domestic abuse it can be hard to comprehend the extreme impact it has on your mental health.

It’s perhaps hard to imagine that the person you love; you sleep with; confide in and may have children with can go from being your best friend to the person you are most frightened of, sometimes in the blink of an eye. But this is the reality of living with domestic abuse. It’s domestic terrorism in your own house, in your own bed.

Victim’s experiences of domestic violence and other forms of abuse are linked to physical and sexual health problems as well as mental illness, including anxiety and panic attacks, depression, post-traumatic stress, self-harm and suicide.

Even when the relationship has ended, their worlds have turned upside down; their self-esteem is in tatters and very many are struggling to cope with the smallest of daily tasks.

All of these are survivors that need specialist support to help them recover and rebuild their lives and those of their children. And this is why I am supporting the Women’s Aid Deserve To Be Heard campaign.

Most of the support that victims and survivors need is outside of a refuge – around 70% of those people who seek help get support through services based in the community such as counselling for mental health issues, specialist support workers and helplines.

These services are truly lifesaving and can help victims and their children to get out, stay safe and rebuild their lives.

Survivors tell me every day how hard it is to get counselling and mental health support and most can’t recover from the trauma and move on without it.

The Government has an opportunity and a responsibility to ensure sufficient funds are made available in the Spending Review so domestic abuse victims can access specialist support through vital community-based services. The statutory duty to provide refuge accommodation – and the funding that accompanies it – is hugely welcome, but this is just one part of the picture. I urge ministers to seize this moment to go further.

These services save lives as well as money in the long-term and I would like to see the Government put a legal responsibility on local authorities to fund community-based services in the forthcoming Victims Bill.

All survivors need and deserve this support so they can have a fresh start free from the shackles of domestic abuse.