18 years of sharing survivors’ stories
Our director of communications and external relations Lisa King has been recognised in the Queens Birthday Honours List 2021, with an OBE, for her work at Refuge. Lisa has been at Refuge for 18 years and in that time has been part of many of our key achievements. Lisa tells us what this honour means to her:
A woman called Julia Pemberton. lit my passion for raising awareness of the impact of domestic abuse. I never knew Julia because she tragically died before I joined Refuge. But I had the pleasure of meeting her brother, Frank Mullane who told me her story – the story of a woman who knew she was going to be killed by her ex husband, but to whom no one would listen. That story changed me; it shocked me to my core. Why wasn’t Julia listened to, why wasn’t she believed, why did the authorities fail to protect her? Julia’s story, and the hundreds I’ve heard since, keeps the fire alight in me that will continue to burn until all women and children are safe from abuse and can live free from fear.
I joined Refuge when I was 30. I’d had a good education, a great career, working for well respected PR agencies. I thought I was informed, educated, worldly-wise. Yet somehow I’d been unaware of the pervasive crime that is domestic abuse. When I first heard the statistic that one in four women would experience domestic abuse at some time in their lives I thought the figure must be an over-exaggeration – surely that couldn’t be correct. Who were, and where were, all these women? But I was wrong. And that figure was correct. I quickly learnt to be less excited about my new job when sharing the news with my friends and loved ones – nearly all of them had stories about abuse they or women they knew had experienced. When I share that statistic now I know there are real women up and down the country behind those statistics. I know how important it is to say, and remember, their names. I also know that these stats are sadly tip of a gigantic iceberg; domestic abuse is the biggest social issue affecting women and children in the UK. A so called ‘civilised’ country.
Over the 18 years I’ve worked at Refuge I’ve met countless women who’ve bravely told their stories through our press, campaigning and policy work simply to show other women that there is a way to escape their abusive partners. I’ve been honoured to work with these women and support them to tell their stories. Women who so easily could also have lost their lives as Julia so tragically did. Women who have humbled me and given me the vital education I lacked. Women who replaced my judgment with humility and for whom I have deep respect, for their bravery and courage. Shelia Pound, Marie Hall, Fiona Bowman, Euleen Hope, Wendy Turner Webster, Hollie Woolford, Melanie Clarke, Natasha Saunders, Amy Aldworth – to name but just a few. I salute you all and carry you with me always.
My work at Refuge, along with my two amazing sons, has been my rock and rudder through many personal challenges over the years. It has given me purpose and passion and has helped to get me through some of the toughest times of my life. The people I’ve worked with and alongside deserve much recognition too – everything Refuge achieves is a team effort. Refuge really does stand on the shoulders of around 400 giants. Many of those giants work across our frontline services – supporting women every day, giving them a place of safety, helping them to start their lives again, free from abuse and fear.
I am so very grateful and honoured to receive this recognition. It has been, and continues to be, the biggest privilege of my life to raise awareness, generate support for and champion change of an issue that still claims the lives of two women every week in England and Wales and to know that the work I’ve been part of has saved and changed lives. This recognition is not just for me – it’s for every woman Refuge has supported. You are an inspiration and I stand with you today, tomorrow and into the future. Thank you for trusting me with your stories and experiences.