Domestic abuse in the spotlight at Bowood event

By Ben Carey on 12 March, 2024

160 guests were welcomed to Bowood Hotel, Spa & Golf Resort for an afternoon tea event to mark International Women’s Day.

Bringing together business leaders, charity representatives, youth workers and many more, the event discussed the issues around tackling violence against women and girls across Wiltshire and Swindon, and how to ‘Inspire Inclusion’ across our region.

Most women and girls living and working in Wiltshire enjoy a safe, fulfilled life. For others, harassment, gender-based violence, discrimination and stereotyping are still commonplace.

Attendees heard from a range of speakers about their courageous and sometimes harrowing experiences, which highlighted some of the real challenges women and girls face.

Opening the event, the Marchioness of Lansdowne pledged to continue to fight against domestic abuse in all its forms. The Marchioness said,“I was so delighted to host such an extraordinary event at Bowood, bringing together so many people who worry about domestic abuse, with those who work tirelessly to improve the lives of those who are affected by it. There was such a positive charge in the room and a real feeling that we can improve things in Wiltshire by all working together. All the speakers were so inspiring and gave us all hope for a future of positive change to make domestic abuse in Wiltshire unacceptable.”  

Chief Constable Catherine Roper from Wiltshire Police spoke about her passion for regaining public trust and confidence in Wiltshire Police, and highlighted the measures Wiltshire Police are putting in place to improve the outcomes in domestic abuse matters.

Partner and Team Leader in Wansbroughs’ Family team, Naomi Owen, gave an honest account of her workload and the sobering admission that more than two thirds of her cases now have an element of domestic abuse attached to them.

Kate Rowland from the Swindon Domestic Abuse Support Service and Simon Cowley from the White Horse Federation spoke of the ‘Domestic Abuse Aware Schools Award’ – a pilot programme designed to increase early intervention and support for families to prevent future victims.

Hetti Barkworth-Nanton CBE, Chair of Refuge and Founder of The Joanna Simpson Foundation spoke of the current challenges in ensuring those experiencing domestic abuse get the help they need. Since losing her best friend Jo Simpson who was brutally murdered by her estranged ex-husband Robert Brown, Hetti has campaigned tirelessly to support women and children experiencing domestic abuse.

Closing the event, Fiona Oliver, Joint CEO at the Wiltshire Community Foundation (WCF) spoke of the vital charities already working tirelessly across Wiltshire and Swindon to support vulnerable women and girls.

WCF has recently launched a dedicated fund to support local projects that challenge the inequality, abuse and discrimination experienced by women and girls and to advocate for change. Ticket sales from the event along with a charity raffle and subsequent donations has helped to raise over £5,000 for the fund.

Joint WCF Chief Executive, Fiona Oliver, said, “We have been overwhelmed by the response to both the event and to our Women and Girls Fund. We are so grateful to everyone who attended and to our speakers who spoke so honestly and passionately about their experiences, fears, hopes and vision of how we can work together to bring about real change.

“We are now more determined than ever to make our county a fairer and safer place for all women and girls and we know that by working together we can make a real and lasting difference. We would like to say a huge thanks to Wansbroughs for becoming our first corporate partner for the fund and for sponsoring the event. Their support has made a huge difference.”

Naomi Owen, Partner and Team Leader at Wansbroughs, added, “We feel privileged to have organised such an important event in Wiltshire, and proud to see and hear so many people pledging to do more for victims of domestic abuse. Alongside the work we do day to day for those who have suffered domestic abuse, we are committed to raising awareness and supporting our industry partners to improve the outcomes for victims.”