Exclusive research from Llamau, whose mission is to end homelessness for young people and women in Wales, shows a shocking rate of violence against women among young people who are at risk of homelessness.

Around 33% of young homeless women surveyed reported having been pressured into or being forced into having sex. This is more than double the rate reported by a group of young women surveyed by the charity who were not accessing Llamau’s services.

The results from the survey, which are being released on International Women’s Day, show 45% of young homeless women surveyed at Llamau reported “feeling unsafe” in a relationship, compared to their peer group, reporting around 7%. Young women experiencing homelessness were also more likely to report physical violence in their relationships and to experience controlling behaviour.

On International Women’s Day, people across Wales are being encouraged to #BeBold for Llamau and dress up in their brightest and boldest clothes to raise money to support the work Llamau does to end violence against women.

Already signed up are teams from Bellway Homes, Ysgol Bro Ederyn in Cardiff, Connect 2 Cardiff, Keep Moat Homes, Cardiff High School and St. Martin’s School, Caerphilly, while there will be a special business networking event taking place at the Bierkeller in Cardiff City Centre.

Llamau Chief Executive, Frances Beecher said, “We must do so much more as a society to end the epidemic of sexual violence which is affecting the most vulnerable young people in Wales.

We know that sexual assaults and rape are an all too common experience of many young vulnerable women in Wales who we should be empowering to achieve their potential and to live without fear of sexual violence.

Llamau believes that no one should ever have to experience homelessness but abusive relationships are the biggest cause of homelessness among women. Tackling violence against women is critical in order to end homelessness for women in Wales.”

Llamau has been able to help young people like Arianne, who came to Llamau after experiencing sexual abuse as a child.

My problems started when I was still just a child. My father abused me when I was young, and when he disappeared, my mother’s new boyfriends would do the same. At the time I thought it was normal, that it happened to everyone.

A woman from social services had been around, and I lived with another family for a little while, but I came back to my mother when they said it was okay for me to live there again.

When I was 15, I started seeing Mick. He was quite a bit older than me but he was nice to me, and bought me things. That’s when I dropped out of school.

My mother and I argued so much and when I was 17, she threw me out. Mick didn’t want anything to do with me by then, and social services placed me with Llamau.

It was a really nice house, just with other women. It was warm, cosy and my room had everything that I needed. But all I could do was cry – the staff at Llamau, Angie in particular, listened for hours as I told them everything that had happened to me.

Not long after I had moved in my mother died of an overdose. It really set me back. I started to cut myself and was punching walls. One night, I felt so bad, that I just trashed my room. I completely destroyed it. Once I realised what I had done, I thought they were going to chuck me out, just like my mother had. But they didn’t.

The staff made sure that I had the help I needed from the doctors and psychiatrists, and I actually began to trust people for the first time. I always used to think I was a bad person. I thought I had made the abuse happen but the staff at Llamau helped me realise that it wasn’t my fault. I hadn’t done anything wrong.

By the time I came to Llamau I hadn’t done any learning for two or three years. I hadn’t seen the point. But they got me started with Learning 4 Life, and I really enjoyed it. I got a qualification in IT and got my Maths and English up to scratch and now I’m just about to start a college course. When I was younger, I just thought I was stupid. Now I know that’s not true either.

Right now, I’m living in my own flat. Llamau have been with me for the past three years and their support has been brilliant. Some days, I still feel really fragile, but they are just a phone call away and continue to help me.