Cllr Bilqees Mauthoor, Leggatts ward councillor at Watford Borough Council, argues that it is important to keep women's centres open.

According to the Labour councillor, the Watford women's centre is only just surviving with the lack of funding.

As someone who has experienced domestic abuse herself, Cllr Mauthoor tells us why it is such a lifeline for victims:

Have you wondered what life could be like, if you were freely able to make your own decisions in life.

To earn and spend as you please? To have your partner hold your hand and kiss it? To pay you a dozen compliments, out of love?

Instead, victims are living in fear, the hand that kisses you, beats and hurts. Being called all names under the sun, followed by the emotional blackmail and you living in a spiral of good and bad days.

Have you found yourself asking you the question “I wonder what mood he will be in today.”

You should not suffer in silence!

Now, there is hope.

If only 20 years ago, I had seen a silver lining, the dark thick clouds could have disappeared.

I am grateful that when you go for a check up, a nurse will ask you a simple question in confidence - if you are living in fear of someone. With the good work and the constant battle of raising awareness of domestic abuse, we can say that in Hertfordshire, we are taking action.

But is it enough?

With more cuts hitting people who are most vulnerable, with services like the Watford Women's Centre Plus only just surviving, with uncertainty, due to lack of funding, where do these victims flee too?

Similar centres in Stevenage and Harrow have already closed.

Last week, guests from different professional backgrounds came together at an event hosted by the WWCP at the Watford Palace theatre and facilitated a training program for appointing community champions for domestic abuse. This was entitled J9. It is an initiative that was established with the primary aim to raise awareness of domestic abuse, among local business and services, in order to provide increased opportunity for those affected, to gain timely help, support and access to services in a safe way.

J9 was developed in memory of Janine Mundy, a mother of two, killed by her estranged husband in 2003, while he was on the watch list of the local police where she lived in Camborne, Cornwall.

So, for you, the public, wherever you see the J9 logo displayed in premises, it provides victims and survivors with the assurance that they can get help to access a safe place where they can seek information and the use of a telephone.

One in four women are affected and likewise, one in six men. It costs the government millions of pounds as a result. If only this could be prevented, with better access to services, education and an understanding of cultural boundaries.

Take matters in your own hands if you are frightened of your partner, then you have the right to be protected under the law. Domestic abuse is dealt with under the criminal law and civil law.

With experienced champions within our county, we hope the J9 project will reach out to victims.

Theresa’s May government introduced a Domestic Abuse Bill in January 2019 which aimed to give abuse victims automatic rights to access housing, firstly in refuge and then in longer-term accommodation. This has stalled due to the Brexit discussions and we will have to wait to see if, the current prime minister Boris Johnson will bring back the legislation in the next parliamentary session.

The Labour party agrees that the level of violence against women and girls is unacceptable. Labour will emphasise the safety of victims, by appointing a commissioner to set new standards for tackling domestic abuse. There is also a great need of education around healthy relationship building.

Being a victim myself, I hope we can do whatever is necessary to help others get through this toxic experience. I survived and started my life all over again. The point is I survived and so could you.