Sisters Uncut has used sofas to blockade London’s Waterloo Bridge, in protest of the rising number of homelessness among survivors of domestic abuse as a result of the refuge cuts.
Yesterday (December 8), 50 activists from the group blockaded Waterloo Bridge with three sofas to represent the three people murdered each week at the hands of an abusive partner, ex-partner, or family member. Each sofa was covered in stats highlighting the effects of austerity.
Sisters Uncut, who previously stormed the BAFTAs in 2018 to protest Theresa May’s domestic violence bill, are urging voters to bring an end to austerity on election day (December 12), arguing that a decade of Conservative and Liberal Democrat governments has decreased safety and increased violence for victims of domestic and sexual violence.
Since 2010, spending on domestic and sexual violence support services have been cut by nearly a quarter, resulting in 44 per cent of survivors being forced to sofa surf while waiting for a refuge space. The introduction of Universal Credit has resulted in benefits often being paid straight to the hands of the abusers and the hostile environment has resulted in migrant women being threatened with deportation if they report abuse.
“The last decade has decimated the service I work for, and yet funding keeps going into things that do not work. Survivors do not need perpetrators to go to jail, they need to be provided with routes to safety. They need shelters because quite simply: sofas are not safety nets. One more death is too many,” said Rosabelle De Silva, a sexual violence support worker who took part in the protest.
Sara Costa from Sisters Uncut, who also took part in the protest, said: “As the general election looms, we want to remind everyone that austerity is a choice. Austerity is a regime of devastating deliberate cuts to public services, resources and welfare programmes that has systematically ruined the lives of survivors and lessened their ability to escape the violence they experience. Austerity makes lives unlivable”.
The Tory government has consistenty claimed to care about ending violence against women, but the stats prove otherwise. Currently, nearly 20 per cent of survivors have experienced further abuse while homeless and waiting for refuge space. In 2018, deaths from domestic violence hit a five-year high last year, with 173 people killed compared to 32 in 2017.
Whether it’s housing horror stories for generation rent, or bleak stories of British life under austerity, this week’s election has the opportunity to change the lives of the most vulnerable for the better. Get voting, people.