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‘Christmas is our worst time’ - Domestic violence charity struggles to cope with seasonal spike

PUBLISHED: 08:05 08 October 2018 | UPDATED: 11:39 09 October 2018

Lorraine Saunders, founder of Dawn's New Horizon on Cannerby Lane, Sprowston which offers support and advice to victims of domestic abuse.  Picture: Neil Didsbury

Lorraine Saunders, founder of Dawn's New Horizon on Cannerby Lane, Sprowston which offers support and advice to victims of domestic abuse. Picture: Neil Didsbury

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A support group for victims of domestic violence fears they will not be able to cope with the influx of calls for help over the Christmas period.

Dawn’s New Horizon was founded in 2012 by former-abuse victim Lorraine Saunders to provide others with a support network and practical assistance.

The shop, on Cannerby Lane in Sprowston, is a refuge for people trapped in abusive relationships.

As well as selling donated items to pay for its upkeep, the shop provides drop in wellbeing support, a 24-hour phone line and links with police and social services.

But with Christmas round the corner Mrs Saunders said the group is gearing up for a sharp spike in people needing their help, as financial pressure and increased alcohol consumption fuel an annual surge in domestic violence.

Funding to offer support, the charity have outgrown their charity shop and consultation room.
Picture: Neil DidsburyFunding to offer support, the charity have outgrown their charity shop and consultation room. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Ms Saunders, who lives in Sprowston, said: “Christmas is our worst period. The build up from now until then we get people on social media, email and dropping in looking for someone to speak to and looking for information about safe-houses available.

“They really want to know if we’re going to be here over Christmas to support them.

“At the moment our shop is so small and we have so much donated stock we really need bigger premises.

“The consultant room at the moment is just full of stuff that needs to go on the shop floor but we don’t have space for it.”

Founder of Dawn's New Horizon, Lorraine Saunders, says the charity need help to find bigger premises
Picture: Neil DidsburyFounder of Dawn's New Horizon, Lorraine Saunders, says the charity need help to find bigger premises Picture: Neil Didsbury

One former abuse-victim, who did not want to be identified, said Dawn’s New Horizon provided essential support to those in desperate situations.

“A shop like Lorraine’s is fantastic. It gives you somewhere to go and know there’s someone you can talk to that will understand. Its so important to speak about things. She’s there to really support people, not just give them telephone numbers but actually be there.”

Although she left the relationship years ago, the Norwich woman said the feelings associated with being abused by her partner remained.

“The stress affects your whole body. There’s always a certain amount of fear and anger. You can hate them, which is not a nice feeling to have but you do.

“The feeling that you can’t get out of the situation, the whole thing is just horrible.”

In March 2018 Norfolk Police made a vow to attend all reports of domestic abuse within one hour, in an effort to increase the 50.2% of cases in which a prosecution was not supported by the victim.

Despite the national effort by police, Ms Saunders said often victims are too afraid to report incidents due to factors such as financial dependence and fear of not being believed.

The support group founder said the charity’s role as a stepping stone between victims and police was vital in keeping people out of abusive relationships.

She added: “Speaking from personal experience its very important that people can just come in, speak to someone and know they’re going to be believed.”

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