Sad end to cash-strapped Stevenage rape and domestic abuse charity

Vanessa Bednarz, director of Herts Women's Centre.

Vanessa Bednarz, director of Herts Women's Centre. - Credit: Archant

A charity which supports women who have been raped or suffered domestic abuse will permanently close tomorrow, leaving its vulnerable clients facing an uncertain future.

The Herts Women’s Centre was first established in Stevenage in 1996 and has been based at The Hyde on Hydean Way since 2004, offering domestic abuse and rape crisis support, as well as face-to-face counselling and family law appointments.

Through offering self-development courses and social groups, and supporting women into employment through its Career Investment Project, the charity has helped rebuild the lives of extremely vulnerable women escaping desperate and often dangerous situations.

As an approved provider with the NHS, the centre has taken GP referrals for counselling and, as the Rape Crisis Centre for Stevenage and the surrounding area, has specialist trained workers in domestic violence and rape crisis.

However, areas of counselling dealt with by the charity have been wide-ranging and also include addiction, eating disorders, infertility and suicidal thoughts.

For some time the charity has struggled to raise the money needed to continue its services and it is now no longer able to afford to keep going.

Director Vanessa Bednarz told the Comet this week: “I have no idea what’s going to happen to the women we are supporting. We have had to signpost them to other services.

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“It’s a very sad time. We have been here a long time.

“We’re closing partly due to a lack of funding, but I can’t really talk about it.”

When Vanessa announced the intended closure of the centre back in May, she said: “The centre has struggled many times in previous years to raise the funds to continue our services and our whole existence has been reliant on a small core staff team who have worked tirelessly to keep our doors open.

“Unfortunately in the current climate of reduced funds, increased building maintenance and service charges, and utlity bills, we now feel the occupation of our current premises is no longer viable.”

If you are being abused or know somebody who is being abused, you can call the Herts Domestic Abuse Helpline on 08 088 088 088 between 9am and 9pm Monday to Friday and between 9am and 4pm at weekends.