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A MUM who endured horrific domestic abuse has praised The Sun on Sunday after our campaign forced the Government to guarantee the funding of refuges.
Mandy Thomas, who was nearly killed when her partner tortured her with a blowtorch, said: “This will save many lives. Thank you for being the voice of vulnerable women and children. Alone, we cannot shout to the masses — but you did it for us.”
Mum Mandy Thomas, who was nearly killed when her partner tortured her with a blowtorch, tells how she was ‘losing faith in the system before this victory’
The changes would have meant women and children fleeing violence could no longer pay for refuge accommodation with housing benefit — which makes up 53 per cent of refuges’ funding.
This would have meant the last guaranteed income for refuges, run by charities in the Women’s Aid membership, was lost.
Women’s Aid said the reforms would have led to 39 per cent of the 270 refuges in England closing.
Mandy, 52, fled to refuges several times during 18 years of hell at the hands of partner Eustace Douglas. He was eventually jailed for nine years in 2003 for grievous bodily harm with intent and false imprisonment. He also received a concurrent six-year term for rapes.
She said: “The Sun on Sunday believed in us. You are the voice of many and you spoke for us in the right way.”
Mandy Thomas, 52, fled to refuges several times during 18 years of hell at the hands of partner Eustace Douglas
Jamelia left an abusive relationship thanks to EastEnders plot
After pressure from The Sun on Sunday, Women’s Aid and other campaigners, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government said on Thursday all supported housing funding would be retained in the welfare system.
The statement added: “Ministers recognise supported housing is a vital service for some of the most vulnerable people (in society).”
Mandy said of the worrying original plan: “Just thinking about it gives me goosebumps.
“If the Government’s original proposals had gone through there would have been a serious rupture in the safety net.
“Without the right support, people fall, and when you fall in a violent relationship you risk death. Two women a week die in the UK at the hands of violent partners.
“I was losing faith in the system before this happened. This week I’ve felt a wave of happiness. It’s really something to celebrate. It will save lives and send a message to women that it is OK to leave a violent relationship because there is still a net to catch you.”
I was losing my faith in the system before this victory
Mandy Thomas has written an autobiography and advised Radio 4’s The Archers’ writers on a controversial domestic violence storyline
Mandy has endured unthinkable physical and emotional hardships as a domestic violence survivor.
In the first of many escape bids, she scooped up her children and ran to a refuge in 1994.
But Douglas tracked them to a safe house and later held Mandy’s head over an open coal fire.
Things peaked in 2002, after Mandy got a job at the Post Office. She said: “He told me I’d never get a job but I did — and I was promoted to manager. That pushed him over the edge.”
He imprisoned Mandy in her bedroom in Bath, Somerset, for four days, branded her with a blowtorch, slashed her with knives, dragged her around naked by her hair and threatened to kill her in front of their children.
Just five years after sentencing, her ex was released on a ten-year licence — and shortly afterwards, Mandy’s eldest son Daniel, 22, took his own life. Now she is a Women’s Aid ambassador, with son Jahmene, 27, the soul singer who wowed The X Factor in 2012 and is currently on tour with Gabrielle.
Fantastic news! Refuges should worry about people, not money
Mandy has written an autobiography, You Can’t Run, and advised writers of Radio 4’s The Archers on a controversial domestic violence storyline in 2016. She added: “We have to keep sending the message to women that they can leave violent relationships with somewhere to go. I went with 4p in my jacket and didn’t think about the consequences. But a lot of women worry about ‘What if’s?’
“When things such as refuge provision are in place, it allows them to just run. Ultimately, it’s often about staying alive.”
This is truly fantastic news… the decision will save lives
‘More refuge doors will be able to stay open to help women and children living with domestic abuse’, says Dame Julie Walters
Women’s Aid patron Dame Julie Walters called The Sun on Sunday victory “fantastic news”, adding: “More refuge doors will be able to stay open to help women and children living with domestic abuse.
“I am proud to have supported the Save Our Shelter campaign with The Sun on Sunday, as this decision will save lives.”
Other campaign backers also welcomed the victory. Luke and Ryan Hart are the sons of Lance Hart, who shot dead their mum Claire and their sister Charlotte, 19, in Spalding, Lincs, in 2016 before killing himself.
Their book about the horror, Operation Lighthouse: Reflections On Our Family’s Devastating Story Of Coercive Control & Domestic Homicide, was published last month. The brothers said: “It is crucial our society chooses the side of innocent victims, rather than perpetrators. This is an important step in that direction.”
We have paid close attention to The Sun on Sunday’s excellent campaign
Esther McVeyWork And Pensions Secretary
Vital step for victims
By Esther McVey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.“It’s vital that the most vulnerable people in society have access to safe, secure and independent housing.”People who are fleeing domestic abuse or who are homeless should know there are places they can go to for help.“We have paid close attention to the Sun on Sunday’s excellent campaign, to Sun readers, to the range of voices across the sector and, most importantly, to victims of domestic abuse, and made the decision to protect funding for supported housing.”From the overwhelmingly positive response, it’s clear we’ve made the right choice.”And by working alongside organisations like Women’s Aid, Crisis and Refuge, we’re helping to safeguard access to secure accommodation for those who need it most.“We are listening carefully to people, and when it’s clear something needs to change, we are making it happen.”My approach is to listen and to continuously make improvements to the benefit system, to ensure fairness for the taxpayer but one that creates a safety net that truly works for people in need.”
Devoted parents John and Penny Clough MBE also backed our campaign. Their nurse daughter Jane, 26, was stabbed to death by her ex Jonathan Vass, 30, as she arrived for work at Blackpool Victoria Hospital in 2010. Vass was on bail accused of raping her. The couple, both 57, from Barrowford, Lancs, has since set up specialist refuge Jane’s Place, in Burnley. They warned the fight for secure funding isn’t over.
They said: “We still need a central core funding model which will allow refuges to deliver their lifesaving work. We are aware of people returning to their abuser because there was no refuge place available. Refuges save lives.”
We are very pleased but we still need central core funding. Refuges save lives
Apprentice winner and telly host Michelle Dewberry, 38, witnessed 18 years of domestic abuse by her father, who once threatened to kill the whole family by burning down their house.
She said: “Refuges should only have to worry about helping people, not worry whether they can afford to operate.”
‘Survivors exist in the shadows’
Too many survivors of domestic violence exist in the shadows, writes James Brokenshire, Communities Secretary. Alienated and vulnerable, it takes a huge amount of courage to leave their partners. I want every survivor of domestic violence to know they are not alone when they take that brave decision, and that there is support out there. This Government is making sure they get it. That’s why we recently announced nearly £19million for refuges and other domestic abuse services to help provide more beds and other vital support. In total, this Government has committed £100million to tackle violence against women and girls, up to 2020. And we have now announced that those living in supported housing – such as women’s refuges – will be supported through housing benefit. We must make sure we get the funding for this accommodation right. The stakes are too high not to. That is why we took an in-depth look at how best to do this. I am grateful to everyone who has worked with us over the last few months. And for the Sun on Sunday’s tireless campaigning, highlighting moving stories of women abandoning their homes, desperate for safe accommodation. The Government has listened. But we want to go even further and make sure these people receive the very best. I can assure Sun on Sunday readers that this Government will make sure good and safe homes are provided for those who need it most.
Work & Pensions Secretary Esther McVey said yesterday: “We paid close attention to The Sun on Sunday’s excellent campaign, to voices across the sector and to victims of domestic abuse. By working alongside organisations like Women’s Aid, Crisis and Refuge, we’re helping to safeguard access to secure accommodation for those who need it.”
Funds still at risk
DOMESTIC abuse refuges save lives. When we found out last year that the Government planned to remove Refuge’s last secure form of funding from 2020, we teamed up with The Sun on Sunday to make sure no refuges would be forced to close their doors forever.A refuge is so much more than a bed for the night. It is a lifeline for thousands of women and children fleeing domestic abuse. Two women a week are killed by their partner or ex-partner in England and Wales. Survivors and their kids need to be able to escape unsafe homes to the safety of a refuge, where they can rebuild their lives. The threatened changes would have forced four in ten refuges to close – leaving 4,000 extra women and children with nowhere to go. And refuges will continue to worry about how they are going to make ends meet and cope with the demand. One in five of all referrals to refuges are turned down due to lack of space. We know demand for places far outstrips supply. While the concessions we have secured this week represent a massive achievement, the campaign carries on until there is sustainable refuge funding so every survivor and child can flee an unsafe home. Thank you to the thousands of Sun on Sunday’s readers for your support to save refuges.This important decision will help save the lives of women and children escaping domestic abuse.
By Katie Ghose, Chief executive of Women’s Aid.
Amber Heard tells women suffering domestic violence to tell someone about it
IF you are a victim of domestic violence, call the 24-hour National Domestic Violence freephone helpline run by Women’s Aid and Refuge on 0808 2000 247.
Donate to vital services at womensaid.org.uk/donate.
Currently exhibiting in the co-op cafe in Old Town Swindon
16 paintings in all
28th October 2015 LIVE RADIO interview with Selina MacKenzie 1-2PM slot on Demand
FEEDBACK EMAIL : ARTISTMANDY@OUTLOOK.COM
Mandy has been a keen photographer for most of her life. Having been able to travel globally for the last ten years, she has captured many different cultures and scenery.
She started out in Greece following the trail of white clad buildings with sapphire doors, blue seas and boat trips, capturing photos of the odd turtle, as it was season when they came ashore to lay eggs in protected zones during the night.
She found Spain to be a place not so different to England, just with more sun. So there were lots of sea waves and rocks to capture in pictures, with the odd orange or blue crab and a vast variety of marine life.
Mexico’s back streets were filled with vibrant life and colour, with their free roaming lizards, palm trees, unusual flowers, unique seaweed and sea life.
Off-road, there was a multitude of houses and buildings with interesting architecture, local marine life and churches, market streets and by chance catching the annual street parade of car buggies, dressed up in all manor of guises on the Isla Mujeres !
Barbados, the home of white sands, blue seas, stunning unusual flowers and their easy-going happy culture. There were turtles to swim with, ‘invisible’ noisy, transparent frogs and stunning greenery for miles with all kinds of floral creations.
Boat trips far and wide explored the underwater world and see dolphins .
Egypt was one of Mandys favourite places on earth, due to being an avid historian. She found this era particularly fascinating, from its pyramids to museums with royal mummys in transparent glass tombs. Stunning architecture , camels, poverty and prosperity live side by side with the vastness of the Sinai Desert. Their underwater world was full of amazing life from sharks to lion fish. With the help of a super powered telescope set up in the middle of the Sinai, Mandy got some real close-ups of the moon out on a night desert trip with the Bedouin people, where the stars are the most vivid ever seen. Breaking bread with the locals was an experience of a lifetime. Ancient Egypt was an era of such great powerful leaders, medicine, culture and art. There was a stark realisation of the sheer size of the pyramids and what it must’ve took to build; slavery, death, blood, sweat and tears. Emotions pour out of every tomb, corner and boulder.
Antigua had coves of heavenly calm blue sea and white sands. There was bird life of immense numbers of species, from white storks to tiny yellow bellied beauties. Greenery spread across acres of land. From barracudas to sting rays, the seas were full of exciting new underwater adventures. How important the coral is, to prevent the islands being flooded out. Their strict policies on Green Peace and saving the planet were clearly adhered to throughout the island.
The Dominican Republic was a mixture of Spanish and Caribbean cultures. Their unusual God idols were on every corner: The Sun God being the most friendly looking.
On adventures out to cotton plantations and local family-run cocoa bean factories culture was at its finest.
Banana trees to fig trees adorned most roadsides en route to the mountains. Lizards lived alongside man and bird life was much like Antigua.
There were Boat trips to see and swim with sting rays, sea lions, sharks and adorable dolphins.
Coming back to the UK
Having spent her youth by the black mountains in the valleys of South Wales, she has streams of photos of wild horses, roaming sheep and miles of land as far as the eye can see. Devon, Cornwall and Bournemouth are her favourites In England.
Mandy likes to live on the edge and catch that all important unusual shot from a very trying angle. She has completed a few wedding portfolios to add to her huge collection.