Rachael Bews founded ALICAS to help domestic abuse survivors (
Rachael Bews founded ALICAS to help domestic abuse survivors (

Rachael Bews uses capsule wardrobes to empower domestic abuse survivors

‘Many survivors of domestic abuse are forced to flee with only the clothes they are wearing’

Olivia Petter
Thursday 25 October 2018 11:41
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A new social enterprise is helping domestic abuse survivors by providing them with good quality clothing to help them rebuild their lives.

Rachael Bews, 25, was inspired to found ALICAS after she identified a need for women fleeing abusive partners to have clothing that could help them regain confidence, given that many are forced to leave with only the clothes they are wearing.

The organisation provides women in need with a capsule wardrobe containing 30 essential items, chosen specifically to suit the sizing, cultural and religious needs of the recipient.

“Many survivors of domestic abuse experience control and manipulation which prevents them from being able to choose what they can wear,” Bews tells The Independent.

“Some perpetrators even destroy their partner’s clothing.”

Bews, who is a domestic abuse survivor herself, launched ALICAS in February with the initial aim of gathering 10,000 items of clothing to go into individual clothing packs that could be distributed to survivors.

“I saw there was a big gap between the thousands of women we have in clothing crisis and the enormous quantity of surplus fashion stock being sent to landfill and incineration,” Bews continues.

“It is my ultimate desire to bridge this gap and empower women to retain their dignity, identity and confidence in the process.

(ALICAS

“Not only does providing a capsule wardrobe give a woman the ability to choose to wear what she feels most comfortable in, it boosts her self esteem.”

Now, after months of sourcing garments from friends, retailers and members of the public, ALICAS has created 300 clothing packs; six of them have already been distributed.

The charity takes its name from a domestic abuse survivor named Alison Grant, who Bews met when she was 18.

Grant had fled her hometown of Inverness with her three children, leaving all of her belongings behind so as not to get caught by her partner.

Speaking to the BBC, the nursing sister recalled how the clothes she had helped her to maintain a sense of identity at the time, describing a red coat as her “suit of armour”.

“I left with my final shred of dignity and I held onto it with my coat and my shoes,” she said.

“The damage to your self-esteem is the greatest cost to women who are living in emotionally abusive relationships.”

(ALICAS

Bews was in an abusive relationship when she was a teenager.

Having gone to Italy for the summer to study when she was 18, she was forced to flee the country and return to her parent’s home in Ross-shire after a romantic relationship turned abusive,.

After seeking support from a local Woman’s Aid group, Bews was given bin bags full of old clothes to wear, and was reminded of Grant.

Now, Bews hopes ALICAS will help empower women like her and Grant, who have fled from abusive partners, by giving them the confidence they need to start again.

Anyone can donate tags-on clothing to ALICAS at alicas.co.uk/donate.

You can call the Domestic Violence Helpline for free on 0808 2000 247.

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