VICTIMS of domestic abuse, particularly in rural areas, are being urged to come forward by staff and supporters at a North Yorkshire refuge centre where 394 women have been helped in the past decade.

The vast majority of those women, 359, have been helped to move on creating new lives for themselves, and often their children, away from violence, abuse, intimidation and control.

Steve O’Brien who heads the centre, one of four across the county, but the only one to be run with Broadacres Housing Association, says there is a growing issue over domestic abuse in rural areas. The centre, whose location is not being revealed for security reasons, has helped women aged from 16 to over 80 in a wide range of circumstances.

Mr O'Brien said the concern is in rural areas abuse is hidden.

He said: “Everybody can be helped if they get the right help. In rural areas, there can be a stigma attached to it, there are reasons why people don’t access it but we would urge them to do that if they are afraid and in fear of domestic violence and coercive control.

"The perpetrator can control the car, the money, it can be difficult, there can be all sorts of things that stop people leaving, but we can help. There is an idea that it doesn’t really happen in country areas but we know differently.”

Michaela Thomas, team leader at the Refuge said: “People can be very scared, they come because we can offer them security, safety and support. Some will be in fear of their lives, we have had to go to hospital to collect people who have been injured in the past.

"This can be the last chance saloon for some. People can also be in danger of losing their children if they do not get out of dangerous and violent relationships.”

Mr O'Brien added: “Working with Broadacres is brilliant, it means we have that relationship which helps enormously. We also work in partnership with the Independent Domestic Abuse Service, North Yorkshire county council, and the Police and Crime Commissioner.

"This refuge is really for the short term, we encourage independent living, people tend to stay here on average between six to 12 months.”

One resident fleeing domestic violence who has been in the refuge for several weeks said: “I am so grateful, I was really frightened, it has given me the confidence to feel safe and I can try to get myself together. I don’t have to be looking behind every time I go to the shop now. The staff are brilliant, it has made such a difference.”

Another resident who has alcohol problems and was escaping domestic violence has been in the centre for nearly six months.

She said: “I have been through a lot in my life, I lost myself, I lost children, the staff have been really really supportive and have helped me so much. Coming here has made me into a better person, it’s a great place and is helping me to look forward.”