Four of her exclusive look into domestic abuse, RACHEL LOXTON talks to the women
who offer sanctuary to the battered victims
TO locals it is known as the "posh hoose" but the imposing white building in the west of Glasgow is a place where women can begin to rebuild their lives after months or years of abuse.
Scottish Women's Aid offers support and an escape for women who have often been beaten, raped or mentally abused in their home. But crucially SWA gives these women – and their children – something extra; a place to stay if the only option for them is to flee their house.
Drumchapel has been home to the group for just over three years. Previously the unit was based in a tenement in Ledmore, offering refuge in the area since 1988.
Louise McAleese, 45, is one of nine refuge workers. She said: "It's better for us to be away from the houses and tenements.
"A lot of the women who come here are from Drum- chapel so they feel safer if they're away from people they might know.
"They need to feel safe after what they've been through."
The refuge offers security 24 hours a day, with CCTV cameras and a secure entry door.
This week there are eight women living there with 15 children between them.
Sandra Welch, 51, has been working with victims of domestic abuse for 19 years and lived in the old refuge centre with her two children before that. She said: "We're almost always full. Some weeks we'll have more calls than others but it's always busy."
Each woman has a different story and their ages vary.
Another of the workers, Louise's sister Kate McAleese, 48, said: "When violence or abuse happens in the home every story is different.
"The hardest one to get out of is the mental abuse. Women can usually bounce back from physical abuse.
Louise explains: "There's usually controlling behaviour. It could have been going for 30 years. Some women say: 'he used to hit me years ago but he doesn't hit me now,' but he's still making her life hell."
The building has eight two-bedroom flats, with two suitable for people with disabilities.
Two counselling rooms, a shower room, a kitchen and living area and the play area, complete the apartment block.
Kate said: "It doesn't have many personal touches. We've done that on purpose so women don't want to live here forever. Women are usually here for a few months but it all depends on their situation."
Women who stay at the hostel are given electronic passes to get in and out.
Some women work, most have to arrange where to live while some organise appointments, such as with their lawyer. For this reason the centre now offers a playroom for youngsters which operates six days a week, with the help of three children's workers and two volunteers.
Refuge worker Pat McQuire, 51, said: "It gives a bit of respite away from their mums, it gives them an environment so we can see if there's any issues we could support.
"Again it's peer support, it's giving them an environment where no one will judge them."
The staff say having other women around to talk to and share experiences with is the key to getting control back.
The workers all have experience of domestic abuse in some form and a handful have stayed in refuge.
Louise said: "It's where women can all come together and talk about things in general.
"We have a house meeting once a week – that's where the decisions are made about how to run the refuge – and the women are encouraged to make these decisions because they live here at the moment.
"We start giving a woman back control of her life."
Kate added: "We've got women who are ready to move into their own house three months down the line and they pass down advice to women just coming in."
Some women return to their abusive partners even after taking shelter in the refuge.
This can be down to financial reasons, although the staff said they are noticing new trends.
Pat said: "There's no work for the men out there so women are doing the part time jobs and he's doing the childcare.
"If you're relying on him to pick the wean up then it's harder to walk away." Kate added: "That's why we're developing our childcare."
The refuge workers are passionate about women's rights and see the key to stamping out abuse in education.
Louise said: "See to eliminate domestic abuse from our society? There needs to be money put into nurseries to give young people rights and teach them to respect each other."
To speak to someone from Drumchapel Women's Aid call 0141 944 0201. The 24 hour Domestic Abuse Helpline for Scottish Women's Aid is 0800 027 1234.